Best practice for installing & autostarting OpenVPN client/server configurations on Ubuntu

This post details my systemd-based setup for installing and activating OpenVPN client or server configs on Ubuntu. It might also work for other Linux distributions that are based on systemd..

First, place the OpenVPN config (usually a .ovpn file, but it can also be a .conf file) in /etc/openvpnYou need to change the filename extension to .conf.ovpn won’t work. Furthermore, ensure that there are no spaces in the filename.

In this example, our original OpenVPN config will be called techoverflow.ovpn, hence it needs to be copied to /etc/openvpn/techoverflow.conf!

Now we can enable (i.e. autostart on boot – but not start immediately) the config using

sudo systemctl enable openvpn@techoverflow

For techoverflow.conf you need to systemctl enableopenvpn@techoverflow whereas for a hypothetical foo.conf you would need to systemctl enable openvpn@foo.

Now we can start the VPN config – i.e. run it immediately using

sudo systemctl start openvpn@techoverflow

Now your VPN client or server is running – or is it? We shall check the logs using

journalctl -xfu openvpn@techoverflow

In order to manually restart the VPN client or server use

sudo systemctl restart openvpn@techoverflow

and similarly run this to stop the VPN client or server:

sudo systemctl stop openvpn@techoverflow

In order to show if the instance is running – i.e. show its status, use

sudo systemctl status openvpn@techoverflow

Example output for an OpenVPN client:

● openvpn@techoverflow.service - OpenVPN connection to techoverflow
     Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/openvpn@.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
     Active: active (running) since Sun 2020-11-29 03:37:52 CET; 953ms ago
       Docs: man:openvpn(8)
             https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/Openvpn24ManPage
             https://community.openvpn.net/openvpn/wiki/HOWTO
   Main PID: 4123809 (openvpn)
     Status: "Pre-connection initialization successful"
      Tasks: 1 (limit: 18689)
     Memory: 1.3M
     CGroup: /system.slice/system-openvpn.slice/openvpn@techoverflow.service
             └─4123809 /usr/sbin/openvpn --daemon ovpn-techoverflow --status /run/openvpn/techoverflow.status 10 --cd /etc/openvpn --script-security 2 --config /etc/ope>

Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid systemd[1]: Starting OpenVPN connection to techoverflow...
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: OpenVPN 2.4.7 x86_64-pc-linux-gnu [SSL (OpenSSL)] [LZO] [LZ4] [EPOLL] [PKCS11] [MH/PKTINFO] [AEAD] built on Sep >
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: library versions: OpenSSL 1.1.1f  31 Mar 2020, LZO 2.10
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid systemd[1]: Started OpenVPN connection to techoverflow.
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: TCP/UDP: Preserving recently used remote address: [AF_INET]83.135.163.227:19011
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: UDPv4 link local (bound): [AF_INET][undef]:1194
Nov 29 03:37:52 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: UDPv4 link remote: [AF_INET]83.135.163.22:19011
Nov 29 03:37:53 localgrid ovpn-techoverflow[4123809]: [nas-vpn.haar.techoverflow.net] Peer Connection Initiated with [AF_INET]83.135.163.227:19011