[Wojtek Gumuła]

cat /etc/profile

Getting started with VPS

2019-02-15 (4 minutes to read)

Recently, I decided to organize how I host and manage this website. Until now, I was using tangled net of services hidden behind the idea of simplicity. I used Github Pages for hosting but wanted to keep my own domain. Easily done, unless you want to also have HTTPS – I had to use Cloudflare for DNS and tunneling traffic via theirs server for SSL. My domain provider didn’t support managing mail communication with custom DNS addresses, so I configured mailgun to do it instead. On top of that, I maintained development box with its own subdomain but without tunneling the traffic via Cloudflare. It was a mess. The time has come to sort things out.


I am using Jekyll to generate static website from Markdown and HTML snippets. It is really great. Those are still being hosted by Github repository but I no longer care for Github Pages – it’s only reason for existence is to redirect to mine domain. And one more thing but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I host the content on Vultr $5/mo VPS. 1 GB of RAM + 25 GB of SSD storage is more than enough to support such endeavour and allow me to play with side projects on the same machine. Theirs $2.5/mo would be probably sufficient, too. Decided to use Ubuntu just for the library of guides already available on Vultr and DigitalOcean for that distribution.


I installed nginx, configured it, normal stuff. The configuration was dead-simple.

server {
    root /var/www/wgml.pl/html;
    index index.html;
    error_page 404 /404.html;

    server_name wgml.pl www.wgml.pl;

    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

I also installed a few necessary packages, like git, vim, jekyll. Built blog with jekyll build --destination /var/www/wgml.pl and, voilà, I could see my website under http://wgml.pl.

Yeah, at least two issues with that setup:

Fortunately, we will solve both of them in a minute.

Deploying content changes automatically

I googled a bit for ideas on how to automate website deployment. It seems there are at least two interesting solutions. Jekyll docs describe how to use bare git repository and post-receive hooks to regenerate website on every push. You can also use Github webhooks to notify something like jekyll-hook about changes. Both solutions work fine, I went with the second one because who would like to write two git push commands every time when one is sufficient?

Within a couple of minutes I prepared a bit overly complicated shell script to handle deployments.


set -e


cd $(mktemp -d)
git clone $REPO_URL --depth=1 --branch=master --single-branch .

HEAD=$(git rev-parse HEAD)

if [ -d "$SITE_REV_DIR" ];
  exit 0
  mkdir "$SITE_REV_DIR"

jekyll build --destination "$SITE_REV_DIR" && ln -sfn "$SITE_REV_DIR" "$SITE_PUBLIC_DIR" || rm -rf "$SITE_REV_DIR"

I modified nginx configuration to expose /update endpoint and forward all requests to the hook listener.

server {
    location / {
        try_files $uri $uri/ =404;

    location /update {
        rewrite ^/update(.*) /$1 break;

    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;

Now, when I do git push on my local machine, changes will appear on website in a matter of seconds. Finally, I have dynamic-static website.

Let’s Encrypt

Let’s encrypt is a go-to service for everyone in need of free TLS certificates and I highly recommend it. For configuration, I mostly followed DO How To Secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt guide.

To sum up, install LE Certbot, configure firewall, obtain your SSL certificate with something similar to:

sudo certbot --nginx -d wgml.pl -d www.wgml.pl

certbot will attempt to renew any near-expiring certificates but make sure it will work by running

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

Make sure you entered your email address while requesting certificate as Let’s Encrypt will mail you if renewal fails. certbot modified nginx configuration on itself, https://wgml.pl was available when I restarted nginx. Yay!


I managed to migrate from Github Pages into personal VPS in a matter of couple of hours. I didn’t lose ability to dynamically regenerate content on changes and SSL support. And, in addition to DIY factor, hosting your own website means you no longer need to care about limitations of Github Pages.