An Engineer in Atlanta

Deploying an SSL application to DigitalOcean with Dokku

March 25, 2016

I love using Elastic Beanstalk on AWS, except for one thing. The cost. So I decided to try and get something similar to working with DigitalOcean using Dokku for deployment. This is how I did it.

First, create a Dokku droplet in DO. Make sure to check the Use virtualhost naming for apps box and put your root domain the Hostname field. No need to redirect your root domain to the IP as per the instructions, as long as the subdomain you want is pointed to the IP correctly.

Next, ssh into the droplet and create your Dokku application.

dokku apps:create <name-of-app>

Install the PostgreSQL plugin for Dokku:

dokku plugin:install

Then create the database image:

dokku postgres:create <name-of-db-image>

and link the two together:

dokku postgres:link <name-of-db-image> <name-of-app>

You now have an environment variable DATABASE_URL available to your app which will allow it to connect. If you have a Rails app, this would go in your database.yml file.

Now on your local machine, add the Dokku instance as a git remote:

git remote add dokku dokku@<ip-of-droplet>:<name-of-app>

git push dokku master

You should now have a running app in Dokku. You will need to ssh back into the Dokku server and run dokku run <name-of-app> bundle exec rake db:migrate to run migrations.

There are a couple of different ways to handle how your app gets run on the Dokku instance, by either using heroku buildpacks, or using a Dockerfile. I went the Dockerfile since I was already familiar with the technology.

I then used a letsencrypt plugin for Dokku to get SSL up and running. On the Dokku machine:

sudo dokku plugin:install

At this point, you will need your DNS for your domain pointing at the IP of the droplet you are now using. Now run:

dokku config:set --no-restart myapp DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAIL=your@email.tld

One note here, the email after the @ needs to include your subdomain.


dokku letsencrypt myapp

You should now have working SSL on your site. All for the price of a DO droplet.

Dan Smith

Written by Dan Smith who lives and works in Atlanta doing random stuff. You should follow him on Twitter