Manage your own Discourse Install rather than use a hosting company. I get you started with Discourse by creating so that you can manage your own site.
My Discourse Install includes the following:
- A new Digital Ocean account with a $5 balance plus a $10 referral credit.
- A new Mailgun account configured to send email for your domain.
- Discourse installed on a 1GB ($10/month) Digital Ocean droplet configured for your domain name as described in the Official Install Guide.
- Detailed instructions (see an example) to finish your part of the installation.
Note: If you already have Digital Ocean and/or Mailgun accounts, I can use those instead. See API Key instructions below.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Provide me with:
- the domain name for your discourse site (e.g., forum.example.com)
- your email address
- Pay $99.
- Wait (usually less than 1 business day).
- Configure your DNS A record to point to your site and TXT records required for mail delivery.
- Activate your domain on Mailgun.
- Build your community!
This service includes only installing Discourse, not any support configuring it, or domain registration. My job is not done until your setup is properly functioning and can send mail (but only you can update your DNS records and you cannot log inn until you do) and you have established your admin account. If you need more help, like importing data from your existing site, instruction on managing Discourse, or integrating with WordPress, I can help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you need.
Discourse Install Questions
I am not a techie. Will I get enough support to get this up and running?
Yes. I will send you instructions to make three changes to your DNS records, one for the address of you site, and two TXT records required for mail delivery. After that, you will need to log in to Mailgun and click a button to get Mailgun to check those records and activate your domain. I include instructions to make this easy for non-technical people.
What do I pay after the initial install amount?
I create a 1GB Digital Ocean “droplet” for which they charge $10/month. If I create your Digital Ocean account, I deposit $5 in it and create the account using my referral code, giving you an additional $10 credit (and me $25 once you have paid them that much). You should provide them with your credit card info as soon as possible so that they do not shut down your droplet when that credit runs out.
Is a 1GB Droplet sufficient?
For most small communities, yes. During upgrades, however, a lot of memory is required. Though I (via the
discourse-install script) create a 2GB swap partition, sometimes upgrades fail and you need to rebuild Discourse from the command line. (See “Help!“, below.)
What domain name can I use? Does my domain name have to be forum.example.com?
You can use any domain name that you own and control. You can make your forum be example.com or www.example.com. Most often, however, people already have another site at example.com, so most people use a name like forum.example.com.
I already have a Digital Ocean/Mailgun account. Can I use the same one?
Yes. Before you create your order, send me API key(s) via email or via my contact page. To create the Digital Ocean key, go to the API page, and click the “Generate New Token” button to generate a token. For Mailgun, most pages have an “API Keys” section on the right; I need the “Secret API Key.”
Though 1GB is enough memory to run Discourse for small-to-moderate communities, a lot of memory is required when Discourse upgrades. If something goes wrong, you can enlist my services. Often, however, (and especially if you have not installed any plugins) all that is needed is to log in to your server via ssh or Digital Ocean’s console and issue these commands:
cd /var/discourse git pull ./launcher rebuild app
If in the first six months you need a rebuild (as shown above) and my SSH keys are still on your droplet, I will do one for free; send me an email that includes your host name, and I will do it as soon as possible.
Do you recommend Digital Ocean? Can I use another service?
Most people use Digital Ocean for their Discourse sites. I do not remember any complaints on Meta complaining about Digital Ocean’s reliability since I started following it in Spring of 2015. I can install Discourse on other systems that support Docker. Typically this requires a minimum of 2 hours of my time.
What are the trade-offs between a “self-supported” install and the $100/month standard hosting offered by Discourse.org?
The advantages of buying one of the hosting plans offered by Discourse.org include:
- having a professional team that makes sure that your site is always up and up-to-date
- increased likelihood that new features that you want will be added to Discourse
With your self-hosted site, you are responsible for doing upgrades of Discourse and the operating system, backups, and so on. If something goes wrong, you will be responsible for making it right again. You can get help on meta.discourse.org, and hundreds of people are running those sites just fine.
What is required to keep my Discourse up to date?
I set up your Discourse install on the “tests-passed,” branch. That’s the code that the folks at discourse.org use for their customers, and keeps you up with the latest changes. When a new version is available, admins will get an email notification with a link to the upgrade page. From there, you can click to update Discourse. Generally, these updates are safe, especially if you do not have any non-standard plugins installed, but it is prudent to wait a few days after a release. If there are problems, they are usually sorted out pretty quickly.
A common problem is that Discourse will run out of memory when doing an upgrade. If that happens, you can need to ssh in to your Discourse (or use Digital Ocean’s console link) and do this:
cd /var/discourse git pull ./launcher rebuild app
That will update Discourse and any plugins you have installed. Unlike upgrading from the web interface, your site will be unavailable while it rebuilds, but if your site was already down, it makes no difference.
I also enabled unattended upgrades as recommended here and enable automatic reboots to ensure that if your system needs to be rebooted to install critical security patches, it will reboot to install them. See this post for more information about maintaining your Droplet and this Digital Ocean document for their recommendations.