The HTTPS protocol allows one to connect to websites and web applications in a secure way. The absence of this de-facto standard usually triggers a big red warning on modern browsers. This means that using HTTPS is nowadays a must when creating web pages and web applications that face external users.
In practice, it is not straightforward to setup servers so that they use this secure protocol. This requires acquiring and installing trusted certificates on the servers hosting the application, which requires a certain knowledge of the inner working of web servers and web protocols.
Web-hosting providers have managed solutions for this, which of course all come at a price. This is great for commercial products but not an option when dealing with personal projects or experiments that don’t really produce any value.
If you haven’t heard about Dokku yet, expect to hear
about it sometime in the future.
Dokku is an open-source platform-as-a-service (PaaS) implementation
that makes hosting web application really easy.
Think Heroku that you can install wherever you want and use
for free (as long as you own the hardware).
Dokku supports a number of languages (all languages supported by Herokuish) and, more importantly, it supports deployment through a Dockerfile, further expanding the array of possibilities for your deployment.
In practice Dokku can host any app that can be put in a Docker container.
Let’s Encrypt provides free and trusted SSL/TLS certificates that people can use for their websites.
dokku-letsencrypt is a Dokku plugin that allows one to automatically acquire and install certificates produced by Let’s Encrypt. The plugin takes care of setting up the web server and makes the installation of the certificates seamless.
The plugin can be installed with this command:
sudo dokku plugin:install https://github.com/dokku/dokku-letsencrypt.git
If the app named myapp is running on a Dokku installation, one can install the certificate for the app as follows. First one should set an email address for the certificate:
dokku config:set --no-restart myapp DOKKU_LETSENCRYPT_EMAILemail@example.com
then the certificate can be installed and the app automatically set up with
dokku letsencrypt myapp
Once this step is successful, the website is reachable via HTTPS and HTTP requests get automatically redirected
One can test the state of the installed certificates with the command
The plugin can also set up the automatic renewal of the app’s certificate (yes, because they expire! I forgot to mention that!)
I am blown away by how much Dokku can improve one’s quality of life with little things like this. It’s possibly the easiest solution I have seen for self-hosting or self-managing web applications.