Setting up a $5 Staging Server with Forge, Envoyer, and Nginx

By JacobBennett

Ever wanted to have your very own staging server? Here is how to make that happen for $5 bucks a month (assuming you are already using Forge and Envoyer).

1. Spin up a new server with Forge on Digital Ocean for $5 bucks.

For first time Forge users, I would highly suggest this great blog post from the one and only Matt StaufferUp and running with Forge

If you learn better through video, check out the free Forge series on Laracasts - Server Management With Forge

2. Set up Envoyer to auto-deploy from your staging branch

Again for first time Envoyer users, reference the following blog post — Setup Envoyer for the first time or head over to Laracasts to check out their free series on Envoyer.

Note: Be sure to check the PHP7 option when setting up your new server in Envoyer. If this is a new server created in Forge, it is PHP7 by default.

3. Set up your hosts file to point to your digital ocean IP

Check out how to setup a Local DNS record under the Local DNS section of this link. This is not a required step but adds a few conveniences for you.

  1. This will allow you to access your staging site using a URL like http://staging.mysite.com instead of using the IP address of your server or setting up a DNS record that you likely don't want exposed to the world.
  2. For picky OAuth providers (Twitter), you can provide a callback_url that isn't localhost or 127.0.0.1. Use the address you have set up in your hosts file and you should be good.

4. Configure NGINX for Basic Auth

In the case that someone does stumble upon your staging box, it would be nice to have at least a single layer of security between them and the secret goods you're working on. Use this guide to setup Basic Auth on a Digital Ocean NGINX box. It takes all of five minutes and will help you sleep at night. Use this key generator to generate a random and secure password for your Basic Auth setup.

Note: Basic Auth can be pretty dang susceptible to brute force attacks. Use a lenghty random password and don't expose anything on your staging site that could compromise you or your users.

How to log out of Basic Auth

If your site is http://staging.mysite.com, prefix your site address with log:out@ so it would look like http://log:out@staging.mysite.com. This sends through a request with the username of log and a password of out which will return a 401 and log you out of the site.

Wrapping Up

I've been using this for a few months and have been pretty happy with it. Hope this can help a few of you who are looking to do the same! Good luck.

Notes: A few commenters mentioned that using a $5 server equipped with 512MB of RAM can cause some problems when running composer install or npm install. You can read the following post to learn how to set up a swap file on digital ocean. Thanks to @jbpapp and @simondavies for the tip!

Created 2 years ago | Updated 1 year ago

Comments (13)

Nice work! This is a really solid writeup.

This is really great. I read. I actioned within 5 minutes.

Great article. One thing to mention, if you have troubles with composer, you should enable swapping, 'cause most probably the $5 server with 512MB RAM won't be able to install the dependencies. At least it happened with me.

Here's a a tutorial:
https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-add-swap-on-ubuntu-14-04

You don't need Envoyer for that. Forge can autodeploy itslef.

@olimorris Awesome! So handy to have one. Saved me a few times already.

@jbpapp have heard a few others complain about this as well. Thanks for the link!

@justutiz true, I happen to use both so this tutorial makes use of both services. Thanks!

Really great article, helped me alot.

I would also iterate what @jbpapp mentioned the $5 set up only has 512ram and when running npm install it will killed it, half way through it, so they will need to set up a swap file during installation, in order then perform this. This helpped me using ubuntu 16.04 - https://www.digitalocean.com/community/tutorials/how-to-add-swap-on-ubuntu-14-04

Thanks @simondavies! I have seen other people run into this as well. Might modify the article to reference this link.

I think 5$ is not true, 10$ for Forge, 10$ for Envoyer and 5$ for node. There is also a 25$ Staging Server ;)

@abstractFlo I did point out in the article that this assumes you are already using Envoyer and Forge ;) You can make it happen without either of these if needed, but that is outside the scope of this particular article. Thanks for reading!