Recommended Hosting Providers for Self Hosters

This guide is intended for people who are not system administrators who just want to make Discourse work. This is a list of cloud hosting services that are believed to be reliable and easy enough for a novice to get up and running with as little fiddling as possible. You should be able to create an account, and a server on which to run your Discourse instance and still be able to pull the job off in very close to 30 minutes.

I have installed Discourse on each of these, received an email from Discourse, and used it to log in as an admin. For all of these the standard Install Cloud instructions work just fine.

What about AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud?

If you have spent many hours using bash, know what ports 80, 443, and 22 are, and are familiar with firewalls, partitions, and what an S3 bucket is, any of these will work just fine. If you have never found a solution to your problem using Stack Exchange, you should probably stay away from these providers. These are the finicky hot rods of the hosting world. This guide is to help you find something more like a Honda Civic than a Formula One racer.

Easy and Reliable

The table below provides a comparison of these easy-to-use providers. The “Build time” column is the result of

time ./launcher rebuild app

It is not a meaningful benchmark, but a crude measure of how fast the CPU, Disk, and network are. Your mileage may vary. You can see, though, that the Digital Ocean “optimized” instance is nearly twice as fast as the standard 1GB one.

Provider Price Disk CPU GB RAM Build time Data Centers
Digital Ocean $6 25GB 1 1 10m0.252s US (2), NL, SG, UK, DE, CA, IN, AU
DO Optimized $42 25GB 2 4 5m47.878s US (2), NL, SG, UK, DE, CA, IN
Hetzner CX11 €4.51 20GB 1 2 7m41.816s DE, FI
Lightsail $10 30GB 1 2 8m17.215s US (3), JP, SG, AU, IN
Linode 1024 $5 20GB 1 1 9m46.437s US (3), UK, DE, SG, JP
Upcloud $10 30GB 1 2 7m22.627s DE, FI, NL, JP, UK, US
Vultr $5 24GB 1 1 8m0.930s US (7), NL, FR, DE, UK, JP, SG, AU

Note: Build times are dependent on amount of posts, plugins, and many other things. The more your site grows, the longer it will take.

Provider Notes

These are notes on individual providers. If you have good experiences with any of them, please feel free to add your comments here. If you have bad comments, please add them as a reply.

Amazon AWS/Lightsail


Super easy! Click a button to open a window with a logged-in SSH connection.

Uses ubuntu@hostname rather than root@hostname. Not what most sites do, but it’s just like AWS, and somewhat more secure.

Digital Ocean


This is the simplest, easiest, and most-used provider, and since the recent price drop, it is again quite competitive. A problem for people not in the US is that they sometimes make it harder to get an account created and block outgoing SMTP ports (my standard install script works around this problem by using port 2525, which Mailgun and other providers support).




Note: Remove the too-small swap space that is automatically created. discourse-setup will create a 2gb swap file for you.


No problems or frustrations in creating an account and cranking up a server.


Accept PayPal, Bitcoin, Alipay

I had no problems or frustrations creating an account and doing an install.

Perhaps the Cheapest here: 4 cores/8gb ram/8.25 usd+tax. (as on 25 May, 2022)

Alibaba cloud

Simple Application Server, price:

What about XXX?

If you use a provider that is easy to set up and works reliably, please feel free to leave a comment with your recommendation. Alternatively, you can edit this post to add your own experiences.


Great overview Jay, thanks! I did notice one thing though:

This comparison isn’t entirely fair; you’re comparing a 1 CPU/1GB droplet to a 2 CPU/4GB ‘optimized’ one. They also offer a $20/month regular droplet with 2 cpu’s and 4GB Ram - it would be interesting to see how this performs when compared to the optimized version.


It’s not intended to be.

Perhaps. My guess is that having more ram on the same slower processor as the 1GB droplet won’t make that much different on a build. Once someone gets to that point, though, this guide isn’t much help. If you have a huge database, an 8GB “slow” droplet might outperform a 4GB “fast” one. It’s not really a very useful statistic for the Real World.


It does, especially with 2GB or below.

1 Like

Oh. Right! Because swap. Duh.

The point if this guide, though, is just to get people to be able to do an install, not to make decisions about whether this host or that host is better for their unique situation.


Not sure if this is super important, but it might be worth noting (especially for novices) that their support is available only during (German) office hours. (I don’t mean to discourage anyone from using them - I’m a happy Hetzner user myself - just an FYI.)


I am using UCloud(Hosting provider in China)
because I have coupon. it’s cheaper.
anyway, my point is I would post about UCloud hosting Discourse after using it for awhile.
in here & my blog. hope it can help other people.


I just did a rebuild (with multiple plugins installed) and it finished in pretty much exactly 7 minutes. Not sure where the variation comes from, but I thought I’d mention it cause that makes Hetzner even faster than UpCloud.



1 Like

6 posts were split to a new topic: Set up some email

What does “optimized” means and how can we “optimize” our own servers?

Like we mention " Digital Ocean Optimized" instances in the table on the OP? That’s just marketing lingo for a CPU with usually 3.0GHz+ of clock speed. Like the AWS C5.large family.


I am on Ramnode. Rebuild time is 8m22.374s.

KVM (necessary to run docker), 2cpu 2.4GHz, 2GB ram + 4swap, 40GB ssd, $10 per month (12 for NVMe).

It has 1 datacenter in EU, 4 in US. Cpanel, reverse-dns, quick support team.
Recommended for those who like everything under control.

Currently my instance is running only for tests, so I cannot say yet, how stable it can be in production mode with a lot of users online.


I’ve just spun up a Discourse installation there in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been using Contabo for other VPS needs for a bit over a year. Pricing starts at 3.99 EUR/mo for a “SSD-boosted” instance with two cores, 4 GB RAM, and 300 GB storage, or 4.99 EUR/mo for an all-SSD instance with four cores, 8 GB RAM, and 200 GB storage. Setup isn’t quite as quick as DO, but they’ll run any major Linux distro.

Rebuild time on my small SSD instance is 5 minutes, 1 sec.


Forgive me if this seems like a silly question, I definitely fall under this category:

I don’t know what I’m doiiiing! :tired_face: My head is spinning from even the minimal amount of info I’ve read here on meta!

Does Digital Ocean offer in-house server maintenance, management and backups? I’m referring to this post from a different topic.

Like, will those services be included in my plan if I self host with DO? Or will I have to seek someone like “Literate Computing, LLC” to help me manage my server instance with DO?

This whole realm of self hosting is completely mysterious to me, but I’d like to give it an honest consideration so I can confidently make a hosting decision by weighing the major pros/cons of Discourse hosting vs self hosting for my specific situation.


They do not. They provide a virtual machine. If it’s running, they are doing their job. They do provide backups of the entire virtual machine, which might be all you need.

If you want backups, updates, and someone to care if Discourse isn’t working, you want a hosted solution or to pay someone to manage your “self-hosted” site.

If you want to give self-hosting a try, you can always switch later unless something calamitous happens like you delete the droplet or lose control of your digital ocean account (I’ve never heard of either of those things happening).


Thank you for explaining this to me!

So, budget is kind of tight for me. Two questions:

1. Are the different package tiers still applicable if I wanted to self host?

All the site says is this:

Does this mean: Tier package price + installation fee?

Or is it just a flat rate of $99 for a one-size-fits-all Discourse instance and installation?

2. Is self hosting really cheaper?

This is the major deciding factor in making the decision to self host or not.

I will probably be more than fine going with the Basic tier instance for my community. Would the

  • time
  • money
  • and effort

of self hosting really contribute to the greater value of self hosting over a Discourse hosted instance?


If you’re that unsure, then just having Discourse-hosted site would probably be the best - and easiest for you. While that costs $99 for the installation (by Discourse) and $100/month, there is nothing for you to do regarding upgrades and backups. These are done by Discourse. Also, should any problems arise, Discourse will handle that. It is a “No worries” situation. You also get a 14-day free trial to decide if this is right for you.
On the other hand, if you don’t want to pay $100/month, you can have Discourse do the installation for you on Digital Ocean (DO) where Discourse will charge $99 installation and DO will charge you $5/month for hosting. But should any problems arise, you will be responsible to fix them. That’s why it says “this option is completely self-support after the initial install.” But this forum is always here to help as much as they can. :smiley:
If you were tech savvy enough, you could do the install yourself on a DO droplet and only pay the $5/month to DO. You still have to provide your own support.

That would depend upon you. If you have no idea as to what you are doing, or have a minimal knowledge of this, what you may save in monthly costs could later on cost you in something not working properly, downtime, aggravation, frustration, etc… And you could end up paying someone to fix things for you if you were unable to implement on your own any fixes suggestion on this forum.

If you know what you are doing, self-hosting is cheaper. If you don’t, self-hosting could be a mild nightmare. In my case, I was suddenly given just 3 weeks to come up with a forum to replace an existing one that was going to be shut down. After weighing the options, I went with the “no hassles” option of a Discourse-hosted forum. I bought the domain, Discourse did the install and maintains it. I just have to contend with the users. :slightly_smiling_face:


You need to consider what happens if you have a problem. At setup this is not a big problem but once you’ve launched your forum then downtime is bad news.

Provided you have no problems then self-hosting Discourse on a VPS is good value for a tight budget. But you only have to have one problem to consume 5-20 hours of your time. So how much is your time worth? And how constrained is your budget? Your solution will be somewhere between those two parameters.

I also recommend that you work out which plug-ins you are likely to need because that has a potential impact. Plug-ins appear to be the source of many of the difficult problems that face self-hosters so you can work out your risk profile by answering these questions. The higher the risk then the more attractive Discourse hosting becomes:

  • Do I need to use official plug-ins? Low risk.
  • Do I need to use third-party plug-ins ie. not officially supported? High risk.
  • Are they well-supported third-party plug-ins? Medium risk.

The Discourse hosting plans from various providers are partly based on varying collections of pre-installed plug-ins, e.g.: