Virtual machines are called Droplets at Digital Ocean so hit Create then:
1. Give it a name
Give your server a name. This has no bearing on the name your customers see and is only for initially connecting to it/in the Digital Ocean dashboard.
2. Select size
A popular blog should have no problem with the $10 a month 1GB/30GB/2TB option but I run a few sites so went for the next one up with more CPU and RAM.
You can scale up later although you won’t get the extra disk space as it can’t resize the disk. Given static storage like Amazon S3 is cheap and integrates with their CloudFront CDN this isn’t a problem.
3. Select region
Is your audience focused in a specific area?
- Yes (e.g. a real estate site) then choose the closest server to them
- No – choose the US East Coast like New York for good global coverage
4. Select Image
Here you select which distribution of Linux, which version and which CPU architecture you want to use.
For this guide I’m using Ubuntu 14.04 x64. In theory you could use alternative distributions or versions but you’re on your own.
Do not select x32 as HipHopVM is only supported on 64-bit architectures.
5. Add optional SSH keys
SSH keys let you automatically sign in without a password – the security being a key file on your computer instead. It’s worth learning how to use this but is outside the scope of this article so just use the normal password for now.
Leave the defaults on unless you want to pay extra for their backup service. Personally I like to use a WordPress plugin that backs up to S3 called UdraftPlus.
7. Hit Create Droplet
Within 60 seconds you should have a fresh virtual machine ready to go.
8. Connect to your Ubuntu virtual machine/droplet
You will need ssh (pre-installed on a Mac, Windows users should check out Putty) Check the IP address shown on your droplet’s page then:
You should confirm the fingerprint the first time by typing yes then be rewarded with a Welcome message and a cursor to type new commands into!
9. Update your Ubuntu virtual machine
Even though the version of Ubuntu you chose is quite up to date there will be a few updates to apply, thankfully this is very easy.
sudo apt-get update
Tells the package manager (known as “apt”) to go find out about all the updates. It doesn’t yet install them though, to do that we need to wait until it’s finished then type:
sudo apt-get upgrade
You’ll need to confirm this with Y and wait a little bit. This upgrades a lot of the packages and applications. Once complete then:
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
This tells apt to upgrade the core operating system as well. Again confirm with Y and wait a little bit. Once this one is complete you’ll need to reboot your machine with:
sudo reboot now
You’re now ready to reconnect and starting installing packages to make your virtual machine do something useful!