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How to connect to an SQL database on a remote server

October 08, 2020


I started using PostgreSQL for a project recently. For deployment of that project, as usual, I am using dokku in a VPS. This quick guide will explain how to create a PostgreSQL database in dokku and how to connect to it from your PC using pgAdmin.


Creating a database in dokku

In order to use Postgres in dokku, a separate postgres plugin is needed. To install it, run the following command:

sudo dokku plugin:install postgres

Creating postgreSQL service for dokku

There is an official dokku plugin for MongoDB. We can install it by running: dokku plugin:install mongo

When the installation of the service has been completed, we can proceed to creating the database itself.

dokku postgres:create my-postgres

my-postgres being the name of the service.

The output of the command should be something like this:

user@my-server:~# dokku postgres:create my-postgres
       Waiting for container to be ready
       Creating container database
       Securing connection to database
=====> Postgres container created: my-postgres
=====> my-postgres postgres service information
       Config dir:          /var/lib/dokku/services/postgres/my-postgres/data
       Data dir:            /var/lib/dokku/services/postgres/my-postgres/data
       Dsn:                 postgres://postgres:9686c61f6a30562ac3c1ae1e6cd43d6b@dokku-postgres-my-postgres:5432/my_postgres
       Exposed ports:       -
       Id:                  3503897d4d50e7be6801ff900cfbc6ae919050d89043d4d2c1e927a0a9a83080
       Internal ip:
       Links:               -
       Service root:        /var/lib/dokku/services/postgres/my-postgres
       Status:              running
       Version:             postgres:11.6

The service is now successfully created.

By default the postgres service is using the port 5432 internally. If you take a look at the info output from the command above that you used for creating the database, you can see that Exposed ports entry is empty. To be able to connect to the database externally, we need to expose a port. We do this by running the following command:

dokku postgres:expose my-postgres

The command outputs the newly exposed port:

user@my-server:~# dokku postgres:expose my-postgres
-----> Service my-postgres exposed on port(s) [container->host]: 5432->20265

The port is random, but you can define it also yourself by adding it at the end of the expose command. For example:

dokku postgres:expose my-postgres 29999

Now our database is accessible from outside.

Connecting to the remote postgreSQL database from pgAdmin

Let’s first open up pgAdmin. I am using version 4.24 when writing this.

Select from the top tool bar Select - Create - Server…. Create server image

In the server creation popup in the General tab we need to define the name of the database. This can be whatever you want. For clarity, I am using my-postgres, which is the name of the service we created before.

Server creation - General tab

Then switch to Connection tab and fill in the following fields:

  • Host name/address - Your servers host name or IP address
  • Port - The port we exposed earlier
  • Username - postgres (default)
  • Password - The password part from the DNS

Server creation - Connection tab

If you missed the info output when creating the database, you can request it by running the following command:

dokku postgres:info my-postgres

The password part of DSN is highlighted in the image below.

DSN password string

After filling up the information, we can just click Save and pgAdmin connects to the database. It can be found in the server browser on the left.

Server browser


That’s all. Now you can easily access your postgreSQL database from your computer and do whatever you need to do with it.

Now that you have exposed a port in your server for the database, you can access it from other software as well. A common use case could be that you need to run a sript that populates the database when it’s first created or run some other one-off maintenance stuff. It could be anything. You will know it when you need it.

Thanks for reading!