Server Setup

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We recommend that you start with a $5/month Droplet and install a LEMP stack (Ubuntu 20.04, nginx, MariaDB, and PHP 8.0). If you prefer you may install Apache instead, but nginx offers superior performance and requires less configuration.

When you go to create your Droplet, DigitalOcean will ask you some initial configuration questions. Choose Ubuntu 20.04 as your distribution, and select a datacenter that is nearest to you and your customers. Do NOT set up SSH keys at this time - if you do, DigitalOcean won't email you a root user password. We will set up SSH later, after we've logged in with a password first.

From here, you can follow DigitalOcean's tutorials to set up your server:

Initial Server Setup with Ubuntu 20.04

First, follow this tutorial.

Some notes:

  1. On Windows, you may find it easier to generate an SSH key in Putty and manually copy it to the authorized_keys file on your Droplet.
  2. When you create your non-root user account in Ubuntu, we recommend adding them to the www-data group, which is the group to which your webserver belongs. That way, you can set the group owner of your UserFrosting application files to www-data, and both your account and the webserver account will have ownership. To do this, do sudo usermod -a -G www-data alex, replacing alex with your user account name.
  3. Their instructions for the ufw firewall only have you open up the ssh port by default. Obviously for a web server, you will also need to open up ports 80 or http and/or 443 or https. See this guide for help opening up additional ports. DigitalOcean also provides a cloud firewall which can be set up through the dashboard, rather than the commandline.
  4. For additional security, you may also want to disable root login via SSH by setting PermitRootLogin to no in your /etc/ssh/sshd_config file.

Additional server configuration

Set your server's timezone

See this guide from DigitalOcean.

Configure the nano command-line editor to convert tabs to spaces

Because spaces rule.

nano ~/.nanorc

Add the following:

set tabsize 4
set tabstospaces

Save and exit (Ctrl-X).

You'll probably want to do this same thing in the root .nanorc file, for when you are editing files as the root user:

sudo nano /root/.nanorc

Add Swap Space

Follow this tutorial. Swap space is a part of virtual memory, which allows your server to temporarily move data to the hard drive when there is not enough physical memory available for whatever it is doing. This is essentially the same thing as the pagefile.sys in a Windows environment.

Some notes:

  1. This is just a failsafe in the event that your server experiences occasional spikes in memory usage, for example when installing new software or running a backup. If your server seems to be routinely using more than 70% of its allocated memory, you should consider upgrading to a Droplet with more memory.
  2. DigitalOcean recommends against enabling a swap file on any server (including theirs) which uses SSD.

Install the LEMP Stack

See this guide.

Some notes:

  1. This guide has you install MySQL instead of MariaDB. In general they are completely interchangeable, but MariaDB is more reliable as an open-source option going forward. See Switching to MariaDB for help with this.
  2. Be sure to log into MySQL from the command line and create a non-root database user account. You should give this user limited permissions on your production database.
  3. The gzip module (which is important for site speed and SEO!), may require some additional configuration. See this guide.

Additional php modules to install:

Install gd and curl:

sudo apt-get install php8.0-gd
sudo apt-get install php-curl
sudo service nginx restart


PHP's get_browser() function uses the User-Agent header to guess information about your visitors such as browser, OS, etc. For it to work properly, you need to download a copy of browscap.ini from the Browscap Project and configure your php.ini to find the file.

Assuming that your PHP installation is in /etc/php/8.0, do the following:

cd /etc/php/8.0/fpm
sudo mkdir extra
sudo curl -o /etc/php/8.0/fpm/extra/browscap.ini

This will download the "lite" browscap database, which is supposed to be adequate for most websites. Visit Browscap Project for other options.

Now, we need to edit our php.ini to tell PHP where this file is located:

sudo nano /etc/php/8.0/fpm/php.ini

Use Ctrl+W to search for the browscap section. Uncomment the browscap = line. When you're done, it should look like this:

browscap = extra/browscap.ini

Save and exit.

Other Tools

Node.js compatibility package

On Ubuntu, the node package has been changed to nodejs to avoid a naming collision with another package called node. Unfortunately, this breaks npm, which is expecting the node command to refer to Node.js. To fix this, install the compatibility package:

sudo apt-get install nodejs-legacy

Install Certbot (Let's Encrypt)

See the certbot tutorial.

Some notes:

  1. You won't actually be able to set up a new SSL certificate until you have deployed your application for the first time. Just install the certbot client for now.

Install phpMyAdmin

See this DigitalOcean tutorial.


  1. Make sure to pick a particularly strong password for the phpmyadmin user account. For development, you can use - we recommend generating something with at least 20 characters. recommends against using any online password creation service, including theirs, for anything sensitive.
  2. To enable mcrypt in PHP 8:
sudo phpenmod mcrypt
sudo service php8.0-fpm restart

To disable root login and restrict access to specific users:

cd /etc/phpmyadmin
sudo nano

Find the lines that say:

 * Server(s) configuration
$i = 0;
// The $cfg['Servers'] array starts with $cfg['Servers'][1].  Do not use $cfg['Servers'][0].
// You can disable a server config entry by setting host to ''.

Below this add:

$cfg['Servers'][$i]['AllowDeny']['order'] = 'explicit';
$cfg['Servers'][$i]['AllowDeny']['rules'] = [
    'allow alex from all'

This will allow only alex to log in via phpMyAdmin.