How to Self-host Plausible analytics

Elvis Duru

Elvis Duru / August 9, 2021 

9 min read --- views


Understanding user behavior is key to optimizing your website for key conversion metrics. Web analytics tools help you do that by collecting and providing you all the valuable traffic metrics of your users at a glance in a dashboard.

There are several web analytics tools out there with Google analytics being the top player, but I chose to settle with Plausible for my blog because:

Now that you know some important bits about analytics and Plausible, let's dive right in!

At the end of this tutorial, you'd have accomplished the following tasks:

  • Provision your own server using Digital Ocean
  • Self-host and configure Plausible analytics
  • Add and setup your website for analytics

Step 1 - Provision Your Own Server

Before we can host plausible, you'll need a spin up a droplet at Digital ocean. Droplets are Linux-based virtual machines (VMs), in short, virtual servers that you can spin up very quickly.

If you're new to Digital Ocean, you can sign up and get $100 dollars free credits using this link.

Once you've done that you're ready to proceed.

Spinning Up a Droplet

  1. In your dashboard, create a new project or select an existing one.
  2. Navigate to the “Create” menu in the upper right corner and click “Droplets” to open the "Create Droplet" page.
  3. Choose an image - Click on the option for "Ubuntu 20.04 (LTS) x64".
  4. Choose a plan - Click on the "Basic" plan.
  5. For CPU Options, select the "Regular Intel with SSD" and the "$5/mo." options respectively.
  6. Choose a datacenter region - You can select the one closest to you and your users or leave the default option.
  7. In the "Select additional options" section, select "Monitoring"
  8. For "Authentication", you can choose to use SSH to connect to your droplet instance or "Create a root password". If you prefer SSH, which I recommend, follow the instructions provided on setting up a new SSH key.
  9. Finalize and Create - Select the number of droplets you wish to create, in our case you need to create just one. Name the droplet. Add tags or leave blank if you wish.
  10. Click "Create Droplet". You will be taken to a page showing the progress bar for the Droplet creation process. Take note of its IP address.
Digital ocean dashboard

You will be using the IP address to connect securely to the droplet. Open your terminal and run the following:

ssh root@your_IP_address

You'll be asked for the passphrase you created when setting up SSH for your droplet. After you're logged in successfully, you will see the following:

Ubuntu 20.04 Welcome screen

Now you're have your server ready, and you proceed to the next step.

Step 2 - Self-host and Configure Plausible Analytics

Before we can install Plausible we need to have docker installed. The following steps will help you do that:

Installing Docker

  1. Make sure your server is up to date by running the following commands.
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
  1. You'll install docker using the convenience script provided by the Docker team.
curl -fsSL -o
sudo sh
  1. You can add your user to the Docker group, so you don't have to type in your sudo password every time you execute the docker command.
sudo usermod -aG docker ubuntu
  1. You will also need to install Docker Compose. Run the following commands.
sudo curl -L "$(uname -s)-$(uname -m)" -o /usr/local/bin/docker-compose
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/docker-compose

At the time of writing, the version of compose was 1.29.2. You can find the latest version here.

Installing Plausible

Now that we have docker installed and configured correctly, it's time to get Plausible up and running!

Clone the hosting repository

  1. Make sure you're in the home directory by running the following.
cd ~
  1. Clone the plausible/hosting repo
git clone
cd hosting

You'll find two important files in the just downloaded directory:

  • docker-compose.yml- installs and orchestrates networking between the Plausible server, a Postgres database, a Clickhouse database and an SMTP server. It has default configurations that are ready to go, but you may adjust it if you wish.
  • plausible-conf.env- configures the Plausible server. You can find the configuration options documented here.
  1. Generate and copy a random 64-character secret key that will be used to secure the app. You can run this command to generate one:
openssl rand -base64 64
  1. Edit the plausible-conf.env file to add your config variables
nano plausible-conf.env

Here's an example of a valid configuration. Edit it with your own values:
  1. Save the file.

Starting Plausible

After saving the configuration file with the correct values, run the following command:

docker-compose up -d

You should see the following output once its finished.

Creating hosting_mail_1                ... done
Creating hosting_plausible_db_1        ... done
Creating hosting_plausible_events_db_1 ... done
Creating hosting_plausible_1           ... done

At this stage, you should be able to navigate to the plausible service by typing your Droplet's IP Address from Step 1.

Plausible Login screen

Logging in and activating your account

  1. You can login using the credentials you setup in the Installing Plausible section.

    After logging in, click on the Request activation code button and in a few moments you should receive an email with an activation code. You may want to check your spam folder just in case.

Plausible Activation screen
  1. Enter the code that you received.
Plausible Activation screen 2
  1. If you didn't receive the activation email. You can use the following command to manually activate your account.
docker exec hosting_plausible_db_1 psql -U postgres -d plausible_db -c "UPDATE users SET email_verified = true;"
  1. Next, enter the domain name of the website you want to track and your time zone. Click on the Add snippet button to go to the next step.
Plausible Add Website Details screen
  1. Add the script to your website and then click on Start collecting data.
Plausible Add Snippet screen

Great! We're almost done!

Step 3 - Configure Nginx

You'll need to configure Nginx on your droplet to allow you point a domain name at your instance.

Install Nginx

Execute the following command to install Nginx. apt will install Nginx and any required dependencies.

sudo apt-get install nginx

Adjust the Firewall

Run the following command to list app configurations that ufw knows:

sudo ufw app list

You'll get the following output:

Available applications:
  Nginx Full
  Nginx HTTP
  Nginx HTTPS

There are three profiles listed for Nginx:

  • Nginx Full: This profile opens both port 80 (normal, unencrypted web traffic) and port 443 (TLS/SSL encrypted traffic)
  • Nginx HTTP: This profile opens only port 80 (normal, unencrypted web traffic)
  • Nginx HTTPS: This profile opens only port 443 (TLS/SSL encrypted traffic)

We want to use both ports, so you should run the following:

sudo ufw allow 'Nginx Full'

Verify the change by running:

sudo ufw status

Next, we check if Nginx is running:

sudo systemctl status nginx

You'll see an output that resembles this:

● nginx.service - A high performance web server and a reverse proxy server
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/nginx.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: active (running) ...

This next part allows incoming traffic to point to your Plausible instance.

Navigate to /etc/nginx

cd /etc/nginx

Open the Nginx config file using your favorite text editor. I'm using nano

sudo nano nginx.conf

Replace the server {} block with the snippet below. Be sure to substitute with the actual domain name you configured in the plausible config file at Step 2.

server {
	# replace with your domain name

	listen 80;
	listen [::]:80;

	location / {
		proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;

Save, quit and restart Niginx.

sudo systemctl restart nginx

Enable HTTPS using Certbot

Certbot generates SSL certificates for any of your domain names for free with Let's Encrypt. To install Certbot, run the following command:

sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-nginx

Then, to set up your SSL certificate, run

sudo certbot

Follow the instructions, select your domain name from the list and also select redirect to redirect any HTTP requests to HTTPS.


Congratulations, if you followed the steps successfully, you should have your own self-hosted instance of plausible running on your server. You can always check back to see if you're getting any visits in your Plausible dashboard by visiting the base-url you configured or the Droplet's IP address.

Plausible Dashboard screen

Thanks for reading! if you enjoyed this post or it helped in any way please consider joining other passionate developers who receive the best articles from our weekly newsletter. If you faced any issues during the setup, be sure to reach me on Twitter @elvisduru.

Supporting Plausible

The team at Plausible are doing a fascinating job, they're completely open-source and have allowed the community to self-host their product. I'm running a self-hosted instance of Plausible for my blog. To send support to the developers, you have the option of becoming a sponsor. Here's an official note from Plausible.

Self-hosting our analytics product is free as in beer. You only need to pay for your server and whatever cost there is associated with running a server. You never have to pay any fees to us, only to your cloud server provider. If you choose to self-host Plausible you can become a sponsor which is a great way to give back to the community and to contribute to the long-term sustainability of the project. Simply put, we treat sponsors like paying customers which means you can receive guaranteed priority support.

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