Building a Web Site on Google Compute Engine
Here's how I deployed a web site to the Google Cloud Platform. I used FreeBSD for good performance, stability, and minimal complexity. I set up HTTPS with free Let's Encrypt TLS certificates for both RSA and ECC. Then I adjusted the Apache configuration for a good score from the authoritative Qualys server analysis.
cromwell-intl.com had been hosted
on OpenBSD since the early 2000s.
I needed to move it out of the data center
where it had been running.
Google Compute Engine
looked like a great platform, and it is.
It provides high performance, and the
is certainly right!
Google Cloud Platform Free Tier
This move of
cromwell-intl.com to Google
was the first step, to be a template for putting
other sites in the Google Cloud.
The Google Cloud Platform Free Tier has several products that are always free up to some usage limits, with low cost beyond that.Try Google Cloud Platform and receive $50
The free tier includes one VM with plenty of horsepower
for a web site.
f1-micro instance has
a single-core Intel Xeon 2.20 GHz CPU with 614 MB RAM.
It's a shared-core machine, you get 20% of a virtual CPU
all the time with bursts up to 100%.
(That was initially, now it's 100% for at least 15 minutes,
with initial bursts of a few seconds at 200%)
After your first server, each additional
machine costs just US$ 3.88 per month.
The free tier
f1-micro VM comes with
30 GB of persistent disk storage based on
locally attached solid-state drives.
Additional storage is US$ 0.04 per GB per month,
although 30 GB was more than enough for me.
You get one static external IPv4 address (IPv6 is only available when you are also using load balancers). Ingress traffic is unlimited, and the first 1 GB egress traffic per month is free. Beyond that first gigabyte of outbound traffic, the pricing is kind of complicated but quite cheap.
That first free gigabyte is to all destinations other than Australia and China other than Hong Kong. It's US$ 0.12 per GB to most of the world after that first free gigabyte. All traffic to Australia is US$ 0.19/GB, and traffic to China other than Hong Kong is US$ 0.23/GB.
You could run multiple web sites on the one VM. Then you could bill the individual sites for egress traffic based on data collected in the web server logs.
Reserve an IP Address
Follow Google's instructions to specify your region. I put my server in Oregon.
Now follow their instructions to reserve an external IP address. Below is the view after the VM was running and using the reserved IP address.
Set Up DNS
Google Domains provides excellent DNS service. Very high performance, mirrored around the world. US$ 12 transfers a domain from your current registrar to them and adds an additional 1 year of registration. Then it's US$ 12 per year.
Here I have registered cromwell-intl.com by IP address, and set up A and CNAME records.
The A record for "@", meaning the domain itself, defines the IPv4 address.
The CNAME record specifies that www.cromwell-intl.com is really an alias, and the canonical name is simply cromwell-intl.com.
So, regardless of the user's assumption about whether the name has the "www." or not, it resolves to the same IP address. In a later step I will configure Apache to redirect all requests for the "www." version to the simpler name. The search engines will clearly see the site as a single site, not a collection duplicated across two hostnames.
Deploying the VM
When I first did this, there wasn't a simple point-and-click method to choose a FreeBSD VM image. However, FreeBSD images was available through the freebsd-org-cloud-dev project. Now things are even simpler.Download and install Google Cloud SDK Try Google Cloud Platform and receive $50
First, install the Google Cloud SDK package
on your local system.
This gives you the
It modifies your
If you routinely use
tcsh, go ahead and
set this up and remember to run
do any required
Once the server is deployed, I do everything on
the server by connecting in over SSH,
and tasks about the server through the
gcloud much easier to set up
and use than the corresponding AWS command-line toolkit.
Once the server is deployed, you can connect with SSH
and you seldom need
Start by using
gcloud to see the list of
images currently available from the FreeBSD project:
$ gcloud compute images list --project freebsd-org-cloud-dev --no-standard-images
The -CURRENT series is bleeding-edge development with weekly updates. If you use -CURRENT, you will have to rebuild libraries from time to time when installed software mysteriously quits working.
The -STABLE series hopes to be what its name implies, but there will be bugs, fixes, and improvements along the way. If you want bleeding-edge features of the development series with a minimum of maintenance and instability, use -STABLE. But for a web server, use -RELEASE.
$ gcloud compute images list --project freebsd-org-cloud-dev --no-standard-images | grep release
Now deploy your FreeBSD server!
Change the version as needed,
web to your desired hostname.
The 30 GB disk size is the maximum size for the free
tier, it was much more than enough to hold my site.
$ gcloud compute instances create web \ --image-project=freebsd-org-cloud-dev \ --image=freebsd-13-0-release-amd64 \ --boot-disk-size=30GB \ --boot-disk-type=pd-standard \ --machine-type=f1-micro
Now you can start the VM through the web dashboard. It's running!
Set Up SSH
Verify that the virtualized firewall will pass SSH. Let's go ahead and add HTTP and HTTPS, and remove the unneeded rule allowing RDP. We'll also make sure that ICMP is allowed through, so we can do simple tests with ping,
Follow Google's instructions to
add SSH keys.
You need to paste at least one public key into place.
Once it's there and you can connect in over SSH,
you can use
scp to copy your existing
~/.ssh/authorized_keys files into place.
Or, you can do this.
The first command is on your local machine,
the second is on your cloud server:
$ gcloud compute ssh web $ vim .ssh/authorized_keys [... now copy and paste in your content ...]
This is so much easier and more logical than the maze of menus on GoDaddy!
Testing The Server
Once it's running you can view an overview from the dashboard. That's "Home" in the 3-line menu at upper left in the GCP pages. Here's the view after the site is up. The network traffic graph shows that some clients are downloading pages:
You can connect in over SSH and see what's going on.
Proceed to the next step to see how to check out and set up the FreeBSD system.