How to Deploy RStudio Server Using an NGINX Reverse Proxy

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What is RStudio Server?

RStudio is an integrated development environment (IDE) for R, an open source statistical computing language. It includes debugging and plotting tools that make it easy to write, debug, and run R scripts. The IDE is available in both desktop and server configurations. By hosting the server configuration (RStudio Server) on a Linode, you can access the IDE from any computer with internet access. Since data analysis often uses large datasets and can be computationally expensive, keeping your data and running R scripts from a remote server can be more efficient than working from your personal computer. In addition, a professional edition is available that allows project sharing and simultaneous code editing for multiple users.

Before You Begin

This guide assumes an R installation version of R 3.0.1+ and will show how to install RStudio Server 1.1. See our guide on installing R on Ubuntu and Debian for steps on installing the latest version of R.

The steps in this guide are for Ubuntu 16.04 and should be adapted to your specific distribution installation.

Install RStudio Server

  1. Download RStudio 1.1:

  2. Install and use the GDebi package installer for the downloaded Debian package file:

    sudo apt install gdebi
    sudo gdebi rstudio-server-1.1.414-amd64.deb

    If successful, the output should show rstudio-server.service as active.

    Created symlink from /etc/systemd/system/ to /etc/systemd/system/rstudio-server.service.
    ● rstudio-server.service - RStudio Server
       Loaded: loaded (/etc/systemd/system/rstudio-server.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
       Active: active (running) since Tue 2018-01-23 21:18:44 UTC; 1s ago
      Process: 13676 ExecStart=/usr/lib/rstudio-server/bin/rserver (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS)
     Main PID: 13677 (rserver)
       CGroup: /system.slice/rstudio-server.service
               └─13677 /usr/lib/rstudio-server/bin/rserver
    Jan 23 21:18:44 localhost systemd[1]: Starting RStudio Server...
    Jan 23 21:18:44 localhost systemd[1]: Started RStudio Server.
  3. In a browser, navigate to your Linode’s public IP address on port 8787 (i.e. public-ip:8787). Use your Unix user’s username and password to log in when prompted:

    RStudio Server Login

  4. Because you will be accessing RStudio through a reverse proxy, set RStudio Server to listen on localhost instead of a public IP. Open rserver.conf in a text editor and add the following content:

    File: /etc/rstudio/rserver.conf
    # Server Configuration File
  5. You can also set the configuration for each individual session. For example, the default session timeout is two hours. Change this to 30 minutes to conserve server resources:

    File: /etc/rstudio/rsession.conf
    # R Session Configuration File
  6. Check your configuration:

    sudo rstudio-server verify-installation
  7. If there are no issues, restart RStudio server to apply the changes:

    sudo rstudio-server restart

Set Up the Reverse Proxy

Running Rstudio server behind a reverse proxy offers benefits such as being able to pick the URL endpoints and load balancing.

  1. Install NGINX:

    sudo apt install nginx
  2. Open nginx.conf in a text editor and add the following configuration:

    File: /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
    http {
            # Basic Settings
            # ...
            map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
                default upgrade;
                ''      close;
  3. Create an NGINX configuration in /etc/nginx/conf.d/ called rstudio.conf with the following configuration. Replace with the public IP address or FDQN of your Linode:

    File: /etc/nginx/conf.d/rstudio.conf
    server {
            listen 80;
            listen [::]:80;
            location / {
                 proxy_pass http://localhost:8787/;
                 proxy_redirect http://localhost:8787/ $scheme://$host/;
                 proxy_http_version 1.1;
                 proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
                 proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;
                 proxy_read_timeout 20d;
  4. Check the NGINX configuration:

    sudo nginx -t
  5. If there are no errors, restart NGINX to apply the changes:

    sudo systemctl restart nginx
  6. In a browser, navigate to the public IP or FDQN of your Linode. After logging in, the RStudio IDE should be available from your browser:

    If Rstudio does not load in the browser, you may need to clear your browser cache.

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