How DigitalOcean supports Ghost’s continued growth

“We have a very, very lean team because DigitalOcean does all the work.”

How DigitalOcean supports Ghost’s continued growth

Ghost is a nonprofit, open source platform for content creators. They provide a wide range of offerings for writers, from websites for individual bloggers to content management platforms for teams at large organizations. The team at Ghost is focused on creating the best possible open-source tools for writers and journalists worldwide and strives to be a platform where individuals can create and grow their businesses. Ghost partnered with DigitalOcean for their cloud computing needs in 2014, and the partnership has allowed the organization to grow and scale in ways that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

An open source project that’s good for the world

In 2013, John O’Nolan, one of the co-founders of Ghost, had an idea. He wanted to create a platform for content creators that would allow them to showcase their best, world-changing work, with less bloat and overhead than a typical CMS or website builder. When he called his friend and now co-founder Hannah Wolfe, she too thought it was an incredible idea and built the first iteration, which he showcased with a blog post. That post took off, hitting the front page of Hacker News and garnering the interest of over 30,000 people. After launching a successful Kickstarter campaign, they were sure they had a vision that could make a big impact on the industry.

John and Hannah wanted to make an open source product that was good for the world, good for journalism, and good for people. They approached the project as a type of anti-startup, with the notion that the platform would try to stay small and prioritize its users, rather than raising money and growing as fast as possible. With that in mind, they created an organizational structure that would preclude them from ever selling the business. John and Hannah founded the organization as a nonprofit, with them as trustees rather than shareholders.

Ghost was already speaking with DigitalOcean, and knew they needed to migrate to a cloud solution for improved infrastructure and to resolve their scaling issues quickly before their limitations had negative impacts on customers or growth. Ghost needed the ability to scale up server capacity within minutes, enough RAM to serve tens of thousands of Node.js apps, excellent customer support, and finally, a provider that would allow them to migrate their software without a significant refactor and with no downtime. Not only could DigitalOcean provide for all their technical needs, but the team at DigitalOcean believed in the mission of Ghost and the importance of their open source project and provided the Ghost team with substantial credits to help the organization maintain a robust infrastructure and thrive.

Now, every aspect of Ghost’s cloud computing architecture runs on DigitalOcean.

High growth, lean team

The team at Ghost is committed to keeping things as simple as possible, including keeping the number of full-time people to a minimum. They run a bare-bones infrastructure team, with only one full-time hire and two supporting individuals, responsible for serving 3 billion requests per month across over 20,000 different publications. The team keeps up with customer demand by being smart with their setups and using managed services whenever possible. They’ve grown to over 3,000,000 installs of their application and continue to meet the needs of their customers without issue.

Simplicity in practice

Ghost runs large Droplets that host between 200 and 300 customers in their own containers. They run all containers in LXC to keep things simple. Everything within the Droplet is configuration managed through Salt, saving additional time for the Ghost team. As a Droplet reaches capacity, an underlying functionality allows the CPU to decide what applications to start and stop in order to keep running at peak performance. For example, if a customer isn’t accessing their site and using their data then their container is shut down and will serve cached versions of the content. When it’s time to scale, the Ghost team can either resize a Droplet or quickly spin up a new Droplet, both of which are extremely easy to do within minutes.

“Unquestionably, it wouldn’t be possible for us to serve 15,000 customers with only a few full-time people if DigitalOcean wasn’t doing the heavy lifting. We’ve never had a scaling problem. We’ve always been able to serve our customers because we have the ability to scale things up very quickly and easily.” - Hannah Wolfe

Quick growth with managed services

Ghost is continuing to transition as many parts of its infrastructure as possible to DigitalOcean’s managed services. Whenever they hit bottlenecks, they adjust with an off-the-shelf managed solution, allowing them to maintain their lean team while accomplishing their needs. Ghost anticipates much more growth in the coming years as they take aim at the creator economy, servicing a wide range of writers, journalists, publishers, and companies building businesses around digital content.

With that growth will come the continued need to scale infrastructure and handle more customers, more requests, and maintain uptime SLAs. Ghost is confident that DigitalOcean has everything they need to make this possible while keeping its commitment to a small team.

A strong partnership

In addition to the ease and simplicity of DigitalOcean’s cloud offerings, Ghost gained a dedicated, helpful partner in DigitalOcean. Ghost has an app in DigitalOcean’s marketplace, allowing users to self-host an instance of Ghost in one click. The app was first created by DigitalOcean but has since been a collaborative effort between DigitalOcean and the Ghost team. This allows Ghost to have control over the look and feel of the application and interface so that they’re providing the same great experience to customers across platforms. The app is now Ghost’s officially recommended self-hosting method for all developers.

DigitalOcean continues to support Ghost through open source credits—grants of credits DigitalOcean gives to open source projects to help with their development, infrastructure, and testing needs. Instead of paying high costs to their cloud provider, Ghost is instead able to reinvest money in infrastructure management, developers, and platform enhancements, as well as invest in their communities and local journalism. Ghost has been able to grow faster and build a stronger foundation thanks to the credits it received from DigitalOcean.

“Ghost wouldn’t exist if not for DigitalOcean. The support we receive is instrumental to the company existing. While we are profitable now, we weren’t always, and without the support of DigitalOcean, we may not have made it to this point. We serve customers that may not have made it without us, and we may not have made it without DigitalOcean.” - John O’Nolan






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