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Deploy Laravel app to DigitalOcean

The following steps outline the procedure for deploying a new Laravel application to our DigitalOcean Droplets:


  1. On your server, clone your Laravel app from Github
  2. Build the vendor/ directory via composer install --no-dev
  3. Set permissions
  4. Set up .env file
  5. Configure subdomain

Clone your Laravel app

While SSH'd into your Droplet, navigate into your document root at /var/www/html:

$ cd /var/www/html

Now use Git to clone your project from Github. Edit as necessary with your username and app name.

$ git clone

Navigate into the resulting directory (in this case, it's foobooks) and use a list command to confirm all your files are there.

Build vendor/ directory

If you compare the contents of your local application files to your production application files on your Droplet, you'll notice the Droplet version is missing a vendor/ directory.

This is because vendors are managed by Composer and are not version controlled. This is configured via .gitignore which lists vendor/ as a directory to ignore:

Given this, you need to have Composer build your vendor's directory with this command:

$ composer install --no-dev


  • Running this command may take a few minutes
  • The --no-dev flag is added to indicate we only want packages intended for use on production; it will exclude packages used for local development/testing.
  • Don't worry about the lines regarding suggested packages you should install; we can always add the suggested components later as needed.

Example output from the above command:

root@lamp-512mb-nyc3-01:/var/www/html/foobooks# composer install --no-dev
Do not run Composer as root/super user! See for details
Loading composer repositories with package information
Installing dependencies (including require-dev) from lock file
Package operations: 68 installs, 0 updates, 0 removals
  - Installing doctrine/inflector (v1.2.0): Downloading (100%)


symfony/var-dumper suggests installing ext-symfony_debug ()


Generating optimized autoload files
> Illuminate\Foundation\ComposerScripts::postAutoloadDump
> @php artisan package:discover
Discovered Package: fideloper/proxy
Discovered Package: laravel/tinker
Package manifest generated successfully.

When Composer is complete, if you list the contents of your project you should now see a vendor/ directory:

Vendor directory now on DigitalOcean server


As discussed when we were setting up Laravel on your local server, Laravel/the Apache web server needs write access to the storage and bootstrap/cache directories.

This was a step we could skip locally because of how your local servers are configured, but it can't be skipped on your live servers. On your DigitalOcean server we need to make sure Apache has write access to these folders.

To do this, I first identified that Apache runs under a user called www-data on our DigitalOcean servers.

Given that, make the user www-data own the storage directory and everything in it (-R):

$ chown -R www-data storage

And now make the same change for the bootstrap/cache directory:

$ chown -R www-data bootstrap/cache


Environment file (.env) on production

Laravel applications need a configuration file called .env in order to run. This file contains configuration information specific to the environment (e.g. local or production) the application is running in.

This .env file was created automatically on local when you first created the Laravel project but because it contains environment-specific configs, it’s excluded (.gitignore) from version control so it’s not synchronized across different environments.

Given this, we need to manually create a .env file on production. This can be done by copying the provided .env.example file to .env

$ cp .env.example .env

Once your .env file is created you can edit it to customize the settings as appropriate for this production instance of your application. For example:


There are many other settings in the .env file that we’ll revisit in future lectures; for now, just leave them as is.


In order for your Laravel application to load, it does need a unique hashed key for the APP_KEY setting in your .env file. This can be set using a built-in command line tool Laravel comes with called Artisan:

$ php artisan key:generate

After you run this command, re-open your .env file and you should see the APP_KEY is no longer blank.

Environment file (.env) on local

Switching back to the local version of your application for a moment, you can configure its .env file appropriately:

APP_KEY=[your random key that was set when you installed the app]

Configure subdomain

To access your production application from the web, you'll want to set up a subdomain that points to it. For this you will follow the same procedure you did to create and

Continuing with the foobooks example, I set up

Summary of steps:

  1. Add a new VirtualHost block to /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf (see notes below)
  2. Restart Apache with the command service apache2 restart

Reminder when creating your VirtualHost block that the document root for your Laravel projects should point to the public directory within your project.


<VirtualHost *:80>
	DocumentRoot "/var/www/html/foobooks/public"
	<Directory "/var/www/html/foobooks/public">
		AllowOverride All

Test it out

After setting up your subdomain you should now be able to access your new app on your DigialOcean server:

Moving forward

The above steps were a one-time-process for deploying a new Laravel application.

Moving forward, your deployment process will look like this:

  1. From local add, commit, and push changes.
  2. SSH into your DigitalOcean droplet and navigate into your app folder, then run git pull.
  3. Also while SSH'd in to your app folder, run composer install --no-dev.

It's important to always run composer install --no-dev when deploying code changes. This command will make sure your code base has the latest versions of all dependencies and it will also refresh your application's classmap with the latest details.


Issue: Composer memory issue

You attempt to run a Composer command but get an error about lack of memory or swap, or not having swap configured and/or Cannot allocate memory.

To fix, follow the instructions for setting up a swap file in the note set Prep DigitalOcean for Laravel.

Log files

  • Apache: /var/log/apache2/error.log
  • Laravel: /path/to/your/app/storage/logs/laravel.log

Common issues

  1. Lack of a .env file.
  2. Forgetting to build the vendors directory via composer install.
  3. Forgetting to set the necessary write permissions on storage and bootstrap/cache
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