Deploy Buffalo App to DigitalOcean

Table of Contents

alt=“DigitalOcean create droplet”

In this article, we go through the process of deploying a Buffalo application to a DigitalOcean Droplet using Docker images. We will utilize the Docker Compose Tool to manage the containers and Systemd to restart our application in case of failure.


  • You have developed a Buffalo application. I will be using theToodo example application.
  • You have an account with DigitalOcean,
  • You have created a DigitalOcean Droplet based on CoreOs Container Linux
  • You are able to SSH into your Droplet.
  • You have routed your domain to DigitalOcean. This will allow using the domain name instead of the IP address.


Our deployment will comprise of three containers:

  1. Application container (Toodo)
  2. Database container (PostgreSQL)
  3. Web proxy container (Nginx)

We will follow the following steps:

  1. Verify our application builds without errors
  2. Verify that Docker Compose is installed in our DigitalOcean Droplet
  3. Create a Docker Compose file to manage our containers (docker-compose.yml)
  4. Create a Dockerfile for the the application (app.Dockerfile)
  5. Create script file ( with commands to wait for the postgreSQL database to be ready before our application is launched.
  6. Create Nginx configuration file (nginx.conf) for proxying our application
  7. Create Nginx docker file (nginx.Dockerfile) which will copy updated configuration file to the container.
  8. Create Systemd file (toodo.service)
  9. Create a script ( will be used for building the images and uploading required files to our DigitalOcean droplet.
  10. Run the build and upload script
  11. Test that we can run and work with the Toodo application

Set Up Toodo Application

From the Terminal window we clone, install dependencies and build the application by running the following commands.

git clone --depth=1 $GOPATH/src/

cd  $GOPATH/src/

yarn install

buffalo build

git checkout -b do-deploy

We will not be using SSL in this deployment. We therefore comment out the ForceSSL middleware in actions/app.go

// Automatically redirect to SSL
// app.Use(ssl.ForceSSL(secure.Options{
// 	SSLRedirect:     ENV == "production",
// 	SSLProxyHeaders: map[string]string{"X-Forwarded-Proto": "https"},
// }))

Install and Verify Docker Compose on DigitalOcean Droplet

CoreOS Container Linux on DigitalOcean has Docker installed but it does not ship with Docker Compose Tool. We therefore have to install Compose from the Github repository.

SSH into your Droplet and run the following commands:

sudo mkdir -p /opt/bin
sudo curl -L --fail -o /opt/bin/docker-compose
sudo chmod +x /opt/bin/docker-compose

docker-compose --version

/usr/local/bin/ is readonly on CoreOs and this is the reason we are installing to /opt/bin. You can also replace 1.21.2 to a version of your liking or the latest version.

Docker Compose File

Let’s start by creating the Docker Compose file (docker-compose.yml) in the project roor directory.

version: '3'

    image: postgres:10-alpine
    container_name: pg_db
      POSTGRES_USER: postgres
      POSTGRES_DB: toodo-db
      - 5432:5432
    restart: always
    # Un-comment the following two lines if you want data to persist across containers
    # volumes:
    #   - pg-data:/var/lib/postgresql/data
      - db
    image: toodo
    container_name: toodo-app
    restart: always
      - 3000:3000

      - toodo-app
    image: nginx
    container_name: nginx
    restart: always
      - 80:80
      - 443:443


Create Environment Variables Script Generator

In docker-compose.yml file, environment values are being read from an .env file. So let’s create the script file.



echo -e SESSION_SECRET=${sess_secret} > dep.env 
echo -e DATABASE_URL=\"postgres://postgres:${db_passwd}@pg_db:5432/toodo-db?sslmode=disable\" >> dep.env;
echo -e POSTGRES_PASSWORD=${db_passwd} >> dep.env;

@pg_db is the host value and this refers to the db service within the docker compose file.

Assign execute permissions to the script file:

  chmod +x

Create Application Dockerfile

In the root of the project, create the application docker file app.Dockerfile

FROM alpine
RUN apk add --no-cache bash && apk add --no-cache ca-certificates && apk add --no-cache postgresql-client


COPY toodo .
COPY ./ . 
RUN chmod +x

ENV GO_ENV=production



CMD /bin/; /bin/toodo migrate; /bin/toodo

Create Wait For PostgreSQL Startup Script

Before our application starts up, we make sure that PostgreSQL is running and can accept commands by creating script file having the following commands:


# Script lifted from
# Using Docker Compose Entrypoint To Check if Postgres is Running
# Author: Kelly Andrews

set -e


# service/container name in the docker-compose file
# PostgreSQL port
# Database user making commection

# pg_isready is a postgreSQL client tool for checking the connection
# status of PostgreSQL server
while ! pg_isready -h ${host} -p ${port} -U ${user} > /dev/null 2> /dev/null; do
   echo "Connecting to postgres Failed"
   sleep 1

>&2 echo "Postgres is up - executing command"
exec $cmd

Assign execute permissions to the script file:

  chmod +x

Nginx Dockerfile and Configuration

Create nginx.conf file with the following contents:

user  nginx;
worker_processes  1;

error_log  /var/log/nginx/error.log warn;
pid        /var/run/;

events {
    worker_connections  1024;

http {
    include       /etc/nginx/mime.types;
    default_type  application/octet-stream;

    log_format  main  '$remote_addr - $remote_user [$time_local] "$request" '
                      '$status $body_bytes_sent "$http_referer" '
                      '"$http_user_agent" "$http_x_forwarded_for"';

    access_log  /var/log/nginx/access.log  main;

    sendfile        on;
    #tcp_nopush     on;

    keepalive_timeout  65;

    #gzip  on;

    upstream toodo-app_server {
        server toodo-app:3000;

    server {
        listen 80;

        # Hide NGINX version (security best practice)
        server_tokens off;  

        location / {
            proxy_pass       http://toodo-app_server;
            proxy_redirect   off;
            proxy_set_header Host              $http_host;
            proxy_set_header X-Real-IP         $remote_addr;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For   $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
            proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;


The modificatons made to the configuration file will forward any root requests ( to the toodo-app service defined in the docker-compose.yml file. That service is our app which will be listening on port 3000 ready to serve responses.

Create the Nginx Dockerfile (nginx.Dockerfile) which will be used to replace the default nginx configuration file in the nginx container.

FROM nginx:1.15-alpine

COPY nginx.conf /etc/nginx/nginx.conf

Create Build and Upload Script

Create the script file ( that we will always be executing to build and upload our images.


readonly app=toodo
readonly app_image=toodo:latest
readonly app_docker=app.Dockerfile

readonly nginx_image=nginx:latest
readonly nginx_docker=nginx.Dockerfile

readonly bzip_file=${app}-latest.tar.bz2

readonly app_key="~/.ssh/toodo-ssh"
readonly app_domain_user=""


# Remove image and ignore 'image does not exist' error
echo "Building app and images ..."
docker rmi -f ${app_image} 2>/dev/null 
env GOOS=linux GOARCH=386 buffalo build -o ${app}
docker build --no-cache -t ${app_image} -f ${app_docker} .
rm ${app}

docker rmi -f ${nginx_image} 2>/dev/null
docker build --no-cache -t ${nginx_image} -f ${nginx_docker} .

echo "Creating deployment .env file..."

echo "saving docker images ..."
docker save ${app_image} ${nginx_image} | bzip2 > ${bzip_file}
ls -lah ${bzip_file}

echo "uploading images to the server ..."
scp -i ${app_key} ${app}-latest.tar.bz2  docker-compose.yml dep.env ${app_domain_user}:/home/core

ssh -i ${app_key} ${app_domain_user} << ENDSSH
cd /home/core
bunzip2 --stdout ${bzip_file} | docker load
rm ${bzip_file}
mv dep.env .env -f
docker-compose down && docker-compose up -d --force-recreate;

From the Terminal window, make the script to be executable:

  chmod +x

Testing Our Deployment

From the Terminal window, run the following command to build and upload our images to DigitalOcean:


The script will display messages during the build and upload process.

After the process completes, open your browser and navigate to (replace with your own url. The welcome to Toodo should load with options to Register or Sign-In

alt=“DigitalOcean add new SSH key”

Setup Systemd Service

If your Droplet was to restart, your application will no longer work. To make sure that your application will always be available, you need to setup a Systemd service for your application. You can refer to the Buffalo docs on the steps of how to configure your application systemd service.


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