Setup SSH Tunnel for SytemD

The what:

There are several cases when you just need some SSH tunnel to another system with some port redirections.
If the tunnel fails for whatever reason, it should reset itself. Setting up a SSH tunnel with port redirection as a service is the answer!

The How:

Creating SystemD config

The setup is a “user defined” config. When the user is logged on to the system, the service will become active.
You need to setup SSH password less login setup (with keys) to be able to use this.

First you need to created some directories (if not present)

mkdir -p ~/.config/systemd/user

Then create a SystemD service definition file inside this location
Name the file:


The content….:

# Author: VDV-IT Consultancy
# URL:
Description=Setup a secure tunnel to %I

ExecStart=/usr/bin/ssh -NT -o ServerAliveInterval=60 -o ExitOnForwardFailure=yes %i

# Restart every >2 seconds to avoid StartLimitInterval failure


After creating the file, SystemD needs to know that this file is present. You need to do a reload of SystemD

systemctl --user daemon-reload

Almost done…..

Define the tunnels

To define a tunnel, add the following lines to your ~/.ssh/config file. If not present, create the file.

Host [Your tunnel name]
    HostName [ip or url to remote computer]
    Port     [ssh port, usually 22]
    User     [username for login]
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/[the private key to be used].key
    LocalForward [local port to listen] localhost:[remote port to connect to]
    RemoteForward [remote port to listen] localhost:[local port to connect to]

More tunnels? just duplicate the block with other params.
If you need more option for SSH, take a look at man ssh_config

Running the tunnels

Lets get your hard work up and running!
Use the systemctl command to start/stop/status you’re tunnel

systemctl --user start ssh_tunnel@[your tunnel name]

To set-up autostart, use the same command but replace start with enable
This will start the tunnel when you log-on to your system.

systemctl --user enable ssh_tunnel@[your tunnel name]

Thats it! you’re up and running!

Checking / Stopping the tunnel

For status checking, use the systemctl command

systemctl --user status ssh_tunnel@[Your tunnel name]

To stop the tunnel

systemctl --user stop ssh_tunnel@[Your tunnel name]



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *