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How to Set Up a DigitalOcean Ubuntu Server in 5 Minutes

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If you follow my posts at all, you know that I just think the world of DigitalOcean as a host and platform testbed. There are just a ton of reasons why DigitalOcean is my favorite server-hosting provider, and here’s a quick list of just a few off the top of my head:

  • No minimum term limits at all – With DigitalOcean, you can create a server to use forever, a year, a week or even only 5 minutes. If you need a quick-and-easy server to test a function, app or whatever, DigitalOcean lets you do that. When it comes to time, you only pay for what you use. DigitalOcean is strictly “pay as you go.” So, if you only need a server for 20 minutes, then you’ll pay for only 20 minutes of use. (Note – they’re a really good long-term host as well. I am hosting this site on one of their VPSs.)
  • Really Affordable – $5 per month for a pretty decent server. While you won’t be running an enterprise on one of their basic servers, even the $5 packages are much better than any shared hosting deal you’ll find. Oh by the way, those $5-per-month cost less than a penny a minute when you need one to test out something. Use one for an hour, and you’ll pay less than a nickel.

I could go on and on about how much I like DigitalOcean, but I digress. Anyway, back to the 5-minute Ubuntu server. Actually, it only takes 55 seconds to create the Ubuntu instance with DigitalOcean. However, you’ll need the other four minutes to create an account, make a small deposit payment (unless you use my referral link,) download some software and then secure your new server with SSH. Let’s get started.

Step 1 – Sign Up for A DigitalOcean Account

Direct your browser to Click the “Sign Up” button, and then follow the prompts to set up a new account. Verify your email address, and then return to your account dashboard page.

Step 2 – Deposit Some Cash into Your DO Account

Go the “Settings” area in your DO dashboard, and then go to “Billing.” Use your credit card or PayPal account to make at least $5 deposit in your DigitalOcean account (of course, you can deposit more if you wish.) Or… you can avoid the initial deposit altogether by using this referral link to sign up for your new account. If you use the link, DigitalOcean will deposit a few dollars into my DO account and you get $10 instant credit. That’s enough for two months’ worth of hosting with a basic account. So, we both win.

Step 3 – Create Your First Droplet (That’s DO Speak for Server)

After you create your DO account and log in, click the “Create” button. On the “Create Droplets” page, click the “Ubuntu” button. By default, the selected Ubuntu version is 14.04. However, you can change to other popular versions as well by clicking the drop-down arrow and selecting the one most suitable for your application or use purpose. IMPORTANT – STOP the droplet creation at this point. Before you proceed, you need to create a SSH key (you don’t have to, but it’s highly recommended you do so to secure your server.)

Step 4 – Install PuTTY

Click this link and download PuTTY (yeah, it’s really spelled that way.) PuTTY is a terminal program that supports SSH, Telnet and other communication protocols. You will use PuTTY to connect to and administer your DigitalOcean server (no pretty interface windows here; DO is not for COMPLETE NOOBS.)

Step 5 – Create the SSH Key Pairs

After you install PuTTY, go to THIS PAGE on the DigitalOcean website. Follow the instructions exactly for creating a new SSH key pair in PuTTY. Save the key pair as instructed on the DO tutorial page. (Note – If that page on the DO site seems a little hard to understand, try this one (it has pretty pictures.)

Step 6 – Copy the Key to Your New DigitalOcean Droplet Page

Follow the instructions from this page to copy the KEY text from PuTTY into your DO droplet page.

Step 7 – Select a Data Center

Choose a server from one of the data center locations shown on the droplet creation page. Currently, DO has data centers in New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Toronto, Bangalore, Singapore, London and Frankfurt. Just choose the one closest to you or the one most appropriate for your target user base.

Step 8 – Create the Server

Select any additional options you need from the ones show on the droplet creation page, and then click the “Create” button. Wait 55 seconds for DO to create the server and then you’re done. Once the server is created, log in to the new droplet with PuTTY and start coding or setting up your new webserver. That’s it. See, about five minutes and you’re done.

Stay tuned for more posts on DO. DO servers are dead simple to set up, but also super powerful. You can do anything with DO servers, and the best part is you can set one up so, so fast. They even have one-click installs for setting up popular images such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, ownCloud, LAMP and many others.

If you’re looking for a great application or VPS host, you really should consider DigitalOcean. They have great products and their service is just awesome.

Disclaimer. DO did not pay (or offer to pay) anything for this post (although they SHOULD!) I do hope you use my referral link, though. A couple of months of free hosting on my smaller droplets would be really cool.

1 thought on “How to Set Up a DigitalOcean Ubuntu Server in 5 Minutes”

  1. Pingback: How to Build Your Own Free Multi-User VPN Server in Half an Hour

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