For those who don’t know, SSH stands for Secure Socket Host. It’s typically the predominant method of how users interact with their virtual private server. It’s how users issue commands, install or remove programs, update versions; and edit files. SSH is entirely text based (so don’t expect to be clicking icons like Windows may have trained you to do for years). Instead think more like MS-DOS (that operating system that existed before Windows). Like mentioned in the quick tips for first-time VPS users article though SSH is very specific and doesn’t deal well with misspelling.
Before you can dive in and do anything though you’ll need a good SSH client. Picking a good SSH client will largely come down to your individual needs and desires. That said here are a few choices that maybe of interest to help you decide. Bare in mind that these are not the only SSH clients out there. There are others which have not been mentioned. (There are a number of commercial ones which may boast greater features or advantages than the ones listed here. Though none of those versions are featured here simply to avoid extra costs and extra complications thanks to extra features.)
A solid choice is PuTTY because it’s lightweight and doesn’t have to be installed (at least on Windows versions). This means it won’t have any appreciable impact on your computer’s performance. A fact which makes it great for use on lower end systems (such as older computers or even cheaper current models). You can run it from any Windows or Unix machine too. The downside is though that it’s fairly barebones. Unlike others it has no sessions/tabs options to allow you to run multiple different commands at one time. It’s available here.
Another option is SmarTTY. It’s a bit more feature rich (coming with tabbed sessions and upload manager) plus there is an optional portable version. But the caveat is that it’s Windows only and the UI may not be as intuitive. Though because it does have more features you can expect it to use more resources. (It’s unlike to be that much more than PuTTY but on older or weaker hardware this may be worth considering.) It’s available here.
A good third option is MobaXterm. It’s feature rich like SmarTTY (multiple sessions, ftp uploader, etc…). But like SmarTTY it’s also windows only. It is also likely a bit heavier on resources than options like PuTTY. It also has the downsides that it’s only free for individual users and there are limits on it. (Like only allowed up to 12 sessions. Though for new VPS users 12 sessions may very well be more than enough so how much of a downside this is will be up to the individual.)
It’s available here.
If you’re unsure which to pick, try PuTTY first as it’s very straightforward and doesn’t require you to install it. So there really is no risk to trying it out. (If you don’t like it then you can always delete it and it won’t hurt or affect your computer at all.) You can always try others later once you’re more familiar with your VPS and discover that having extra features (like tabbed sessions) would benefit you. Though you may find that after you install a control panel (more on that later) that you very rarely ever need to use SSH so a more advanced client serves little practical purpose to you.
Note that some VPS management panels (like SolusVM) may have a root enabled SSH client built into them. Although this may be an option for occasional use… it is really only meant to be used for emergencies like if someone gains access that shouldn’t have it and you need to secure your server. Though don’t rely on a host having it as some hosts may not.