Configure Nginx as a web server and reverse proxy for Nodejs application on AWS Ubuntu 16.04 server

Utkarsh Verma
Feb 1, 2017 · 3 min read


Nginx was created in response to C10k challenge for handling at least 10,000 simultaneous client connections on a single server. Nginx uses asynchronous, event-driven architecture to handle these massive amount of connections. This architecture makes handling high and fluctuating loads much more predictable in terms of RAM usage, CPU usage, and latency.

Nginx can be used as web server, reverse proxy, load balancer and HTTP cache.

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Installing Nginx on AWS ec2 instance with Ubuntu 16.04

$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade -y
$ sudo apt-get install nginx -y

Setup Nginx

Check status of Nginx and start it using the following commands:-

$ sudo systemctl status nginx    # To check the status of nginx
$ sudo systemctl start nginx # To start nginx

Make sure that Nginx will run on system startup by using command below:-

$ sudo systemctl enable nginx

Nginx should be up and running, now we need to setup Nodejs on server.

Setup Nodejs

Check if Nodejs and npm are already installed on server by using

$ node --version  # For checking nodejs version
$ npm --version # For checking npm version

If you get the Nodejs and npm versions as output then it’s already installed, otherwise follow the instructions below to install Nodejs on ec2.

Install Nodejs using the following commands:-

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install nodejs

Now install npm using the following command:-

$ sudo apt-get install npm

Verify Nodejs and npm installations using below commands

$ node --version
$ npm --version

It should return the Nodejs and npm versions installed .

Setting up Nginx as a reverse proxy for Nodejs application

Get the private ip address of your instance by using the command below, do make sure you are logged into your instance using ssh:-

$ wget -q -O - ''

Remove and add default file to sites-available by using following commands:-

$ sudo rm /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
$ sudo vi /etc/nginx/sites-available/default

Now start the server block and start adding code. It should look something like this:-

server {
listen 80;
server_name; location / {
proxy_pass http://private_ip_address:8080;
proxy_http_version 1.1;
proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
proxy_set_header Connection 'upgrade';
proxy_set_header Host $host;
proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;

Replace with your ec2 domain name and private_ip_address with the private ip address associated ( which you obtained previously)

Save and quit file using wq vim command.

Test the configuration of Nginx using the command below:-

$ sudo nginx -t

Then reload Nginx if OK is displayed.

$ sudo /etc/init.d/nginx reload

Create your first Nodejs application using Expressjs

Create your project directory and install Expressjs

$ mkdir myapp
$ cd myapp
$ npm install express

Create a simple express application

$ vi app.js

and make it listen at port 8080 and private_ip_address. It should look something like this:-

var express = require('express');
var app = express();
app.get('/', function(req, res){
res.send("Hello World!");
app.listen(8080, 'private_ip_address');

Replace private_ip_address with your private ip address.

Run your app by using the command below:-

$ node app.js

Now open your browser and browse your domain. It should display Hello World!.

Install PM2 Advanced, production process manager for Nodejs

$ sudo npm install pm2 -g

Run your application using pm2 to make sure your application runs automatically when the server restarts.

$ pm2 start app.js


Nginx is now setup as a reverse proxy for your application.

Good luck with building your application.
Do let me know if you face any issues during the configuration :)
I am available at Utkarsh Verma

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