Symbolic Logic

01. August 2015

The easiest guide to deploying and setting up Node.js in production

by Jeff Parrish

right from your terminal - without a third party service


There are a lot of articles about how to setup Node.js in production, but they don’t always cover the full thing in an automated, easily deployable way. We will review how to setup a one-line Node.js deploy from your local terminal (OSX or Linux), with very minimal code.

No fancy third party services deploy services here - just a little bash and an upstart script.

Deploying Node via simple shell script

The script below will:

  • ensure Node.js is installed
  • make an archive out of your code
  • upload it via ssh to the server
  • log to a file and rotate the logs regularly to prevent filling up the disk
  • setup auto-starting on server reboot
  • setup auto-starting when the app crashes

You can reuse the script again and again to deploy your app.

While this isn’t a silver bullet, it lets you host Node.js apps on an extremely cheap VPS (virtual private server), if you like, without needing too much knowledge of server admin. VPS hosting can be orders of magnitude cheaper than cloud hosting - and faster. You can host a simple Node.js website for a dollar or two per month in many cases - extremely cheap.

Configuration (upstart .conf file) for Node.js app on Ubuntu 14.04

From inside your app directory:

touch myapp.conf # create it with your app name
chmod +x myapp.conf # make it executable


# Edit these to fit your app
author "@ruffrey"
env NAME=myapp
env APP_BIN=app.js
# End editables

description "$NAME"

env NODE_BIN=/usr/bin/node

# Max open files are @ 1024 by default
limit nofile 32768 32768

start on runlevel [23]
stop on shutdown
# Respawn in case of a crash, with default parameters

    touch $LOG_FILE
end script

post-start script
  echo "\n---------\napp $NAME post-start event from upstart script\n---------\n" >> $LOG_FILE
end script

Deploy script for hosting on Ubuntu 14.04

From inside your app directory:

touch deploy # create it
chmod +x deploy # make it executable


#! /bin/sh

# immediately abort if any of these commands fail
set -e

# The name of your app goes here and should match the .conf file

    rotate 12
    size 10M
    su root jpx
        service '$APPNAME' restart > /dev/null

# Make sure all the pre-reqs are installed. if not, install them.
echo 'Checking that the server is setup.'
    echo '\n Build tools \n'
    ssh $LOGIN 'sudo apt-get update; sudo apt-get install -y build-essential'
    # install node
    echo '\n Node.js \n'
    ssh $LOGIN '/usr/bin/node --version || (curl -sL | sudo bash -; sudo apt-get install -y nodejs)'
    # setup logrotate
    echo '\n log rotation\n'
        ssh $LOGIN "sudo rm -f '$LOGROTATE_FILE'"
        # needs to use tee because echo does not work with sudo
        ssh $LOGIN "echo '$LOGROTATE_CONFIG' | sudo tee --append '$LOGROTATE_FILE'"

echo '\n Ensuring all necessary paths exist on the server.\n'
    ssh $LOGIN " sudo mkdir -p /opt/$APPNAME; sudo chown '$USER' /opt/$APPNAME; \
        sudo mkdir -p /opt/$APPNAME-temp; sudo chown '$USER' /opt/$APPNAME-temp; \
        rm -f /opt/$APPNAME-temp/$APPNAME.tar.gz"

echo '\n Doing some housecleaning \n'
    ssh $LOGIN 'rm -f /opt/$APPNAME-temp/$APPNAME.tar.gz;'
    rm -f "$APPNAME.tar.gz"

echo '\n Making the artifact \n'
    tar czf $APPNAME.tar.gz --exclude='node_modules' *
    du -h $APPNAME.tar.gz

echo '\n Copying the artifact \n'
    scp $APPNAME.tar.gz $LOGIN:/opt/$APPNAME-temp

echo '\n Setting up the new artifact on the server \n'
    ssh $LOGIN "cd /opt/$APPNAME; \
        sudo rm -rf *; \
        cp -f '/opt/$APPNAME-temp/$APPNAME.tar.gz' '/opt/$APPNAME'; \
        tar xzf '$APPNAME.tar.gz'; \
        sudo cp -f '$APPNAME.conf' /etc/init;"

echo '\n npm install\n'
    ssh $LOGIN "cd '/opt/$APPNAME'; sudo service '$APPNAME' stop; sudo /usr/bin/npm install --production;"

echo '\n Starting the app\n'
    ssh $LOGIN "sudo service '$APPNAME' restart"

echo 'Done.'
exit 0;

Deploy script usage

# or

where the argument is the hostname or IP to deploy it to.


Check the upstart logs:

sudo tail /var/log/upstart/myapp.log

If those look ok, check your server logs

tail /var/log/myapp.log

Don’t stay with sudo

You should not run your app with sudo permanently (see the upstart myapp.conf script).

After starting up the app (and listening on a port, if you do that):