How To Setup NodeJS With Dokku on Digital Ocean

1 min read

This is a walkthrough of setting up a NodeJS website on digital ocean droplet by Dokku 0.4.2. If you know the tricks, its an easy way to deploye NodeJS sites to the cheapest, fastest hosting – Digital Ocean.

In my case, Im running a website on a subdomain (not www, not the apex) and I only want to run one site per droplet.

Helpful Resources

Creating the Image

  • Sign Up at Digital Ocean and click to create a droplet
  • Enter a host name – I recommend the full domain name (ie
  • Choose a droplet of at least 1GB
  • Under “Image” choose “Applications” and choose “Dokku” (for me its 0.4.2 on 14.04)
  • Dont check any “Available Settings” boxes – IPv6 appears to be incompatible currently
  • Add your ssh key or there will be pain (run pbcopy < ~/.ssh/ from the mac terminal to copy it to your clipboard)

Setting Up DNS

  • In this example, I just want to deploye to a specific subdomain like mysubdomain.
  • Go to your registrar (ie Godaddy) and create an A-Record with the host=mysubdomain and point it to your IP address listed a the top of the droplets page (ie
  • It may take a bit of time to propagate, but for me its nearly instant

Setting Up Dokku

  • Now you should be able to go to your website in your browser (ie
  • If it hasnt propagated yet, you can go to the IP address (ie
  • You should see your public ssh key and your host name listed
  • This is critical: Change your host name to just the domain (ie and check “Use virtualhost”. If you want to map a website to port 80, you basically have to use virtualhost.
  • Press “Finish Setup”

Setting Up Your App

  • At this point, Dokku docs leave you hanging a bit…
  • Now ssh into the server by running this from your terminal: ssh [email protected]
  • It may ask “Are you sure you want to continue connecting…”. Type “yes” and press return.
  • Now setup your app on your server by running dokku apps:create mysubdomain
  • Now type “exit” to get out of your server

Deploying Your Code

  • At this point, you need to have a working NodeJS project stored in a local git repository
  • If you need a quick sample project, use git clone <a href=""></a> to load a sample project on your computer
  • Move into that directory cd node-js-sample
  • Add the server location to your git repo: git remote add RemoteNameHere [email protected]:mysubdomain
  • upload your code git push RemoteNameHere master

Viewing Your Site

  • Now go to in your web browser

Environment Variables

  • If your app needs some env variables set (like NODE_ENV) then you can run something like dokku config:set worker1 NODE_ENV=production

Memory Allocation

  • So I created a 1GB RAM droplet expecting to run a 1GB RAM server. Ends up that dokku created my container at 512MB. I think this is because the daemon needs some ram and the zero-downtime deploy needs the same amount (this is a guess).
  • So I enabled swap ram by following this guide

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