This article is part of my series on how I set up my website and blog.
To host your own website or blog, you need a server. For my blog, paulstephenjournal.com, I went with Digital Ocean to create a basic cloud server. This article explains the setup process I went through, which is relatively straightforward.
I chose Digital Ocean because most of the Ghost blog "how to" videos suggested them. Specifically, DO offer a Ghost blog build which is automatically installed when you create your "droplet," Digital Ocean's term for cloud servers.
My Digital Ocean droplet has been hosting my blog for over a year, and I have had no issues with it. The setup process was easy, and there has never been a problem with access, performance, or availability. The price, at $7.20 USD for their most basic droplet plus backups (that price did increase in the middle of 2022), is more than sufficient to run my small blog, and entirely reasonable.
There are a variety of options to create a droplet, and I will not go through them all, only the most pertinent with respect to setting up a Ghost blog server.
Assuming you have already created your account with Digital Ocean, select Droplets from the main menu:
In the upper-right corner you will see the green Create button. Click this and then select Droplets:
The Create Droplets page has many options based on all sorts of cloud hosting needs. You could go with the vanilla Ubuntu install and then install Ghost yourself, but in my opinion, unless you are an expert Ghost admin or have some specific customization need, you should take Digital Ocean's default Ghost build. To direct to it, click Marketplace:
A search bar will appear. Type "ghost" and the first option should be for the Ghost build:
You will now be at the most important page to choose all the options for your Ghost droplet. Assuming, like me, you are creating a personal blog, you do not need any extra power, unless you already know you are going to immediately have a heavily-trafficked site (e.g. maybe this is a port from another platform like Wordpress and you have traffic data to leverage). But for most, the Basic plan should be fine to start.
Under CPU options, I went with the most basic. I noticed, as shown below, that since I created my droplet in 2021, Digital Ocean added these options to more premium SSD. Again, I think the basic to start is fine. The same goes with the spec pricing plan. Unless you know you will be getting a lot of traffic or have other needs for the server, anything beyond the basic specs will be overkill. I run both my Ghost blog and the Commento comments server from the smallest-available droplet.
You will also want to choose a datacenter closest to you. For example, if you live east of the Mississippi in the United States, choose a New York location.
A few other options are important. SSH keys is the more secure than Password, so use that if you can, which will require an SSH file to terminal into your Ubuntu droplet:
Lastly, I recommend selecting Enable backups. This will create a weekly image of your droplet, which means, in a worst-case disaster and your server gets corrupted or messed up in any way, you can restore it to a version no older than one week. From personal experience, this is well worth the extra cost. When I was building my website, and I messed up a part of the installation, I think I recall for Commento, and it caused serious problems with Nginx, the web server Ghost runs. Instead of trying to remediate what I messed up, it was far easier to restore from the backup.
There are various other options that you can select for your own preferences before you save/purchase your droplet. You will start to see a "cost" estimate in the upper-right of your screen, but I don't worry about it, as your monthly costs are simply what you sign up for (in my case, $7.20 USD as of today, even though my current "estimate" is $4.30, which makes little sense to me).
If you have any questions on how I created my Ghost blog's Digital Ocean droplet, please leave a comment!