This post is a short guide on hosting a privacy-focused comment system Remark42 on a virtual machine in the cloud for free or a small monthly fee.
Obtaining a virtual machine instance in the public cloud
Follow one of the instructions below to obtain an instance. At the end of the setup process, generate an SSH key and download it to your machine. The default location to store the private part of the key on Mac and Linux is
~/.ssh/id_rsa. You’ll need to connect to that instance using SSH during the next step.
Oracle Cloud, free
Register (requires credit card details) first. Then, create an instance there: you should pick a machine type Ampere “VM.Standard.A1.Flex” with 4 CPUs and 24GB of RAM. Initially, you would have a free trial for many resources, but that machine would be free and remain free for you for the time being.
In case you need more machines for other purposes, you can run up to four with 1 CPU and 6Gb of RAM each, as long as the total number of CPUs and RAM amount fits the number above. Oracle Linux is the default OS there, but you can pick something else like Ubuntu if you wish.
Digital Ocean, $4-$6 per month
Register first if you don’t have an account there yet. The link is a referral and would give you 100$ for 60 days, effectively giving free Remark42 hosting for the first two months.
Then, create the smallest\cheapest server possible in that cloud provider. For DigitalOcean, virtual machines are called droplets, and you need “Basic” -> “Regular with SSD” -> $4/month 1 CPU, 512MB RAM and 10GB SSD, or $6/month 1CPU, 1GB RAM and 20GB SSD if $4 option is not available in the region of your choice. Any operating system will do, in case you are unsure — pick Ubuntu.
How to start Remark42 on the virtual machine
Before starting the work, point remark42.example.org (with your domain name instead of example.org) to the IP address of the instance using your DNS provider.
SSH to the instance and install Docker and docker-compose to it using this guide for Ubuntu or that for CentOS / Oracle Linux.
docker-compose.ymlon the instance and paste the content below into it:
version: "2" services: remark: image: umputun/remark42:latest container_name: "remark42" hostname: "remark42" restart: always logging: driver: json-file options: max-size: "10m" max-file: "5" ports: - "443:8443" # uncomment the line below to make remark42 # work not only on HTTPS but also via HTTP # - "80:8080" environment: - REMARK_URL=https://remark42.example.org - ADMIN_SHARED_EMAIL= - SECRET= - DEBUG=true - SSL_TYPE=auto - AUTH_ANON=true # Enable it only for the initial comment # import or for manual backups. # Do not leave the server running with the # ADMIN_PASSWD set if you don't have an intention # to keep creating backups manually! # - ADMIN_PASSWD=<your secret password> volumes: - ./var:/srv/var
Complete setup could be done using parameters’ documentation. Here are the minimum required steps:
SECRETto a random string
ADMIN_SHARED_EMAILto your email address (Remark42 will subscribe it to HTTPS certificate renewal notifications)
- replace example.org with your domain name
docker compose upto start the instance and observe the logs. After that, https://remark42.example.org/web/ (with your domain name instead of example.org) should show you the working Remark42 demo.
After making sure that the Remark42 demo works, make it persistent. Stop the previous command by pushing
docker-compose up -dinstead: it will run Remark42 in the background and start automatically on the VM restart. To see the log of the Remark42 container running in the background mode, you’ll need to run the command
docker compose logs remark42 -f
After the steps above are done, you can set up the frontend according to the instruction.