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DigitalOcean Droplets

This is a step-by-step guide for deploying a Strapi project to DigitalOcean Droplet. If you want to deploy your Strapi project from GitHub, you can deploy to DigitalOcean's Platform as a Service (PaaS) called App Platform.

Databases can be on a DigitalOcean Droplet or hosted externally as a service using DigitalOcean Managed Databases.

Prior to starting this guide, you should have created a Strapi project. And have read through the configuration section.

DigitalOcean Install Requirements

  • If you don't have a DigitalOcean account you will need to create one, you can use this referral link.

Create a "Droplet"

DigitalOcean calls a virtual private server, a Droplet. You need to create a new Droplet to host your Strapi project.

1. Log in to your DigitalOcean account

2. Create a Droplet by clicking on New Droplet

Choose these options:

  • Ubuntu 18.04 x64
  • STARTER Standard
  • Choose an appropriate pricing plan. For example, pricing: $12/mo (Scroll to the left)
    💡 Tip

    The \$6/mo plan is currently unsupported as Strapi will not build with 1G of RAM. At the moment, deploying the Strapi Admin interface requires more than 1g of RAM. Therefore, a minimum standard Droplet of \$12/mo or larger instance is needed.

  • Choose a datacenter region nearest your audience, for example, New York.
  • OPTIONAL: Select additional options, for example, [x] IPv6.
  • Add your SSH key
    💡 Tip

    We recommend you add your SSH key for better security.

    • In your terminal, use pbcopy < ~/.ssh/ to copy your existing SSH public key, on your development computer, to the clipboard.
    • Click on New SSH Key and paste in your SSH Key. Name this SSH key and then Save. (Additional instructions on creating and using SSH Keys can be found here.)
  • OPTIONAL: Choose a hostname or leave as-is.
  • Click the green Create button.

DigitalOcean will create your Droplet and indicate the progress with a percentage bar. Once this is complete, you may continue to the next steps.

Setup production server and install Node.js

These next steps will help you to set up a production server and set up a non-root user for managing your server.

Follow the official DigitalOcean docs for initial server set-up using Ubuntu 18.04. These docs will have you complete the following actions:

1. Logging and set up root user access to your server with SSH.

2. Creating a new user.

3. Granting Administrative Privileges to the new user.

4. Setting up a basic firewall.

5. Giving your regular user access to the server with SSH key authentication.

6. You will install Node.js.

Use the instructions in section Install Node using a PPA from the official DigitalOcean docs for installing a production ready Node.js server.

After completing the steps to install Node.js, NPM and the "build-essential package", you will manually change npm's default directory. The following steps are based on how to resolve access permissions from

  • Create a .npm-global directory and set the path to this directory for node_modules
cd ~
mkdir ~/.npm-global
npm config set prefix '~/.npm-global'
  • Create (or modify) a ~/.profile file and add this line:
sudo nano ~/.profile

Add these lines.

# set PATH so global node modules install without permission issues
export PATH=~/.npm-global/bin:$PATH
  • Lastly, update your system variables:
source ~/.profile

You are now ready to continue to the next section.

Install and Configure Git versioning on your server

A convenient way to maintain your Strapi application and update it during and after initial development is to use Git. In order to use Git, you will need to have it installed on your Droplet. Droplets should have Git installed by default, so you will first check if it is installed and if it is not installed, you will need to install it.

The next step is to configure Git on your server.

1. Check to see if Git is installed

If you see a git version 2.x.x then you do have Git installed. Check with the following command:

git --version

2. OPTIONAL: Install Git

✏️ Note

Only do this step if not installed, as above. Please follow these directions on how to install Git on Ubuntu 18.04.

3. Complete the global username and email settings: Setting up Git

After installing and configuring Git on your Droplet. Please continue to the next step, installing a database.

Install the database for your project

DigitalOcean has excellent documentation regarding the installation and use of the major databases that work with Strapi. The previous steps above should all be completed prior to continuing. You can find links, and any further instructions, below:

  1. Install PostgresSQL on Ubuntu 18.04(Through Step 4 - Creating a New Database).

Complete the steps to install PostgreSQL, add a user and create a database.

  1. In order to connect to a PostgreSQL database with Strapi, it needs either to have a password, or specifically state there is no password by noting an empty string. Follow these commands from your terminal to alter the user you created and add a password:
sudo -u postgres psql     //only necessary if you switched away from the postgres@ user
[sudo] password for your-name:
psql (10.8 (Ubuntu 10.8-0ubuntu0.18.04.1))
Type "help" for help.

postgres=# ALTER USER your-name PASSWORD 'password';
postgres=# \q
  • OPTIONAL: If in Development, your Strapi project uses SQLite, you will need to install a dependency package called pg:

    • On your Development computer:

    Path: ./my-project/

    npm install pg --save

    The pg package is automatically installed locally if you choose PostgreSQL as the initial database choice when you first set-up Strapi.

You will need the database name, username and password for later use, please note these down.

Local Development Configuration

  • You must have Git installed and set-up locally.
  • You must have created a repository for your Strapi project and have your development project initialized to this repository.

In your code editor, you will need to edit a file called database.js. Replace the contents of the file with the following.

path: ./config/database.js

module.exports = ({ env }) => ({
connection: {
client: 'postgres',
connection: {
host: env('DATABASE_HOST', ''),
port:'DATABASE_PORT', 5432),
database: env('DATABASE_NAME', 'strapi'),
user: env('DATABASE_USERNAME', ''),
password: env('DATABASE_PASSWORD', ''),
ssl: {
rejectUnauthorized:env.bool('DATABASE_SSL_SELF', false),
debug: false,

You are now ready to push these changes to Github:

git add .
git commit -m "Configured production/database.json"
git push

Please continue to the next section, Deploy from GitHub.

Deploy from Github

You will next deploy your Strapi project to your Droplet by cloning it from GitHub.

From your terminal, logged in as your non-root user to your Droplet:

cd ~
git clone

Next, navigate to the my-project folder, the root for Strapi. You will now need to run npm install to install the packages for your project.

Path: ./my-project/

cd ./my-project/
npm install
NODE_ENV=production npm run build

Strapi uses Port: 1337 by default. You will need to configure your ufw firewall to allow access to this port, for testing and installation purposes. After you have installed and configured NGINX, you need to sudo ufw deny 1337, to close the port to outside traffic.

cd ~
sudo ufw allow 1337/tcp
sudo ufw enable

Command may disrupt existing ssh connections. Proceed with operation (y|n)? y
Firewall is active and enabled on system startup

Your Strapi project is now installed on your Droplet. You have a few more steps prior to being able to access Strapi and create your first user.

You will next need to install and configure PM2 Runtime.

Install and configure PM2 Runtime

PM2 Runtime allows you to keep your Strapi project alive and to reload it without downtime.

Ensure you are logged in as a non-root user. You will install PM2 globally:

npm install pm2@latest -g

The ecosystem.config.js file

  • You will need to configure an ecosystem.config.js file. This file will manage the database connection variables Strapi needs to connect to your database. The ecosystem.config.js will also be used by pm2 to restart your project whenever any changes are made to files within the Strapi file system itself (such as when an update arrives from GitHub). You can read more about this file here.

    • You will need to open your nano editor and then copy/paste the following:
cd ~
pm2 init
sudo nano ecosystem.config.js
  • Next, replace the boilerplate content in the file, with the following:
module.exports = {
apps: [
name: 'strapi',
cwd: '/home/your-name/my-strapi-project/my-project',
script: 'npm',
args: 'start',
env: {
NODE_ENV: 'production',
DATABASE_HOST: 'localhost', // database endpoint
DATABASE_NAME: 'strapi', // DB name
DATABASE_USERNAME: 'your-name', // your username for psql
DATABASE_PASSWORD: 'password', // your password for psql

You can also set your environment variables in a .env file in your project like so:

We recommend you continue setting the NODE_ENV variable in the ecosystem.config.js file.

Use the following command to start pm2:

cd ~
pm2 start ecosystem.config.js

pm2 is now set-up to use an ecosystem.config.js to manage restarting your application upon changes. This is a recommended best practice.

OPTIONAL: You may see your project and set-up your first administrator user, by creating an admin user.

💡 Tip

Earlier, Port 1337 was allowed access for testing and setup purposes. After setting up NGINX, the Port 1337 needs to have access denied.

Follow the steps below to have your app launch on system startup.

💡 Tip

These steps are modified from the DigitalOcean documentation for setting up PM2.

  • Generate and configure a startup script to launch PM2, it will generate a Startup Script to copy/paste, do so:
$ cd ~
$ pm2 startup systemd

[PM2] Init System found: systemd
[PM2] To setup the Startup Script, copy/paste the following command:
sudo env PATH=$PATH:/usr/bin /usr/lib/node_modules/pm2/bin/pm2 startup systemd -u your-name --hp /home/your-name
  • Copy/paste the generated command:
$ sudo env PATH=$PATH:/usr/bin /usr/lib/node_modules/pm2/bin/pm2 startup systemd -u your-name --hp /home/your-name

[PM2] Init System found: systemd
Platform systemd

. . .

[PM2] [v] Command successfully executed.
[PM2] Freeze a process list on reboot via:
$ pm2 save

[PM2] Remove init script via:
$ pm2 unstartup systemd
  • Next, Save the new PM2 process list and environment. Then Start the service with systemctl:
pm2 save

[PM2] Saving current process list...
[PM2] Successfully saved in /home/your-name/.pm2/dump.pm2

  • OPTIONAL: You can test to see if the script above works whenever your system reboots with the sudo reboot command. You will need to login again with your non-root user and then run pm2 list and systemctl status pm2-your-name to verify everything is working.

Continue below to configure the webhook.

Set up a webhook on DigitalOcean / GitHub

Providing that your project is set-up on GitHub, you will need to configure your Strapi Project Repository with a webhook. The following articles provide additional information to the steps below: GitHub Creating Webhooks Guide and DigitalOcean Guide to GitHub WebHooks.

  • You will need to access the Settings tab for your Strapi Project Repository:

    1. Navigate and click to Settings for your repository.
    2. Click on Webhooks, then click Add Webhook.
    3. The fields are filled out like this:
      • Payload URL: Enter http://your-ip-address:8080
      • Content type: Select application/json
      • Which events would you like to trigger this webhook: Select Just the push event
      • Secret: Enter YourSecret
      • Active: Select the checkbox
    4. Review the fields and click Add Webhook.
  • Next, you need to create a Webhook Script on your server. These commands create a new file called webhook.js which will hold two variables:

cd ~
mkdir NodeWebHooks
cd NodeWebHooks
sudo nano webhook.js
  • In the nano editor, copy/paste the following script, but make sure to replace your_secret_key and repo with the values that correspond to your project, then save and exit.

(This script creates a variable called PM2_CMD which is used after pulling from GitHub to update your project. The script first changes to the home directory and then runs the variable PM2_CMD as pm2 restart strapi.

var secret = 'your_secret_key';
var repo = '~/path-to-your-repo/';

const http = require('http');
const crypto = require('crypto');
const exec = require('child_process').exec;

const PM2_CMD = 'cd ~ && pm2 startOrRestart ecosystem.config.js';

.createServer(function(req, res) {
req.on('data', function(chunk) {
let sig =
'sha1=' +
.createHmac('sha1', secret)

if (req.headers['x-hub-signature'] == sig) {
exec(`cd ${repo} && git pull && ${PM2_CMD}`, (error, stdout, stderr) => {
if (error) {
console.error(`exec error: ${error}`);
console.log(`stdout: ${stdout}`);
console.log(`stderr: ${stderr}`);

  • Allow the port to communicate with outside web traffic for port 8080:
sudo ufw allow 8080/tcp
sudo ufw enable

Command may disrupt existing ssh connections. Proceed with operation (y|n)? y
Firewall is active and enabled on system startup

Earlier you setup pm2 to start the services (your Strapi project) whenever the Droplet reboots or is started. You will now do the same for the webhook script.

  • Install the webhook as a Systemd service

    • Run echo $PATH and copy the output for use in the next step.
echo $PATH

  • Create a webhook.service file:
cd ~
sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/webhook.service
  • In the nano editor, copy/paste the following script, but make sure to replace your-name in two places with your username. Earlier, you ran echo $PATH, copy this to the Environment=PATH= variable, then save and exit:
Description=Github webhook

ExecStart=/usr/bin/node /home/your-name/NodeWebHooks/webhook.js

  • Enable and start the new service so it starts when the system boots:
sudo systemctl enable webhook.service
sudo systemctl start webhook
  • Check the status of the webhook:
sudo systemctl status webhook
  • You may test your webhook by following the instructions here.

Further steps to take

  • You can add a domain name or use a subdomain name for your Strapi project, you will need to install NGINX and configure it.
  • Deny traffic to Port 1337. You have set-up a proxy using Nginx, you now need to block access by running the following command:
cd ~
sudo ufw deny 1337

Your Strapi project has been installed on a DigitalOcean Droplet using Ubuntu 18.04.