When engineering a suitable infrastructure, we focused on three key metrics: Reliability, scalability, and value.

How NodeBB Grows Communities on DigitalOcean

Barış Soner Uşaklı

Barış Soner Uşaklı



Who are we?

NodeBB is an open-source modern forum software solution. It combines all the communication tools of today's mobile and social web with the deep community engagement of classic Internet bulletin boards. NodeBB brings mobile-ready design together with an extensible platform built on Node.js, with the power to scale and support organizations of all sizes.

NodeBB Inc. is based in Toronto, Canada and formed around the NodeBB project. We provide professional customization services, hosting, and support. We also provide a range of self-service plans that allow communities to be started at the click of a button. Larger customers are better served with our Enterprise Support options.

The Challenge

NodeBB is available as an open source package that anyone can install and use. The original developers realized there was an untapped market for hosted forums from community managers and business owners without the technical know-how to install and set up their own forum. Other individuals and companies wanted a full service, turn-key solution that didn't take away time from their busy schedules. NodeBB Inc. was founded to meet this demand.

When engineering a suitable infrastructure, we focused on three key metrics: Reliability, scalability, and value.

We needed an infrastructure service that would provide us with full root access, while abstracting out the behind-the-scenes work of server administration. The ideal hosting partner would have to maintain a proven track record of uptime, offer great customer service, and ensure that the integrity of our data would be protected.

We wanted a provider that offered a variety of server packages to accommodate all of our users, and provided a management backend that would simplify administration of each server.

Lastly, we wanted to stay lean and have our expenses grow with our revenue. The ideal hosting provider would provide hosting at a price point that would ensure that we would be able to offer NodeBB to our customers while at the same time budget for future expansion.

It is rare that a hosting company can meet all three criteria, but DigitalOcean was more than up for the challenge.

The Solution

How did DigitalOcean stack up?

  • Reliability: We've never had extended periods of downtime while hosting with DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean also allows us to build in redundancy on top of their reliable platform.
  • Scalability: DigitalOcean's service allowed us to match each customer with an appropriate solution in order to best serve them. The smallest Droplet is a tiny little powerhouse that is more than capable of handling a NodeBB forum, a MongoDB data store, and a Nginx proxy server, with plenty of cycles to spare. We can also deploy a large solution based off multiple Droplets to serve our Enterprise customers.
  • Value: DigitalOcean offers great value. When we compared other hosting providers, none could offer the same performance, service, and support at DigitalOcean's prices.

We ended up building our SaaS backend with integration from DigitalOcean's API. Being able to remotely spin up a server within a minute was a huge time saver, not to mention that it allowed our customers to get going just that much quicker.

Their customer service team was ready and willing to help us with any problems we would face, as well as to work with us when we ran into trouble. At no point were we treated like "just a number", even when our hosting charges were small and insignificant to begin with.

How we use Digital Ocean

When a new NodeBB customer signs up for a trial, a new DigitalOcean Droplet is created immediately. This structure allows us to provide each NodeBB hosting customer with the full performance, reliability and network speed of their own infrastructure.

Additionally, DigitalOcean's built in backup service allowed us to seamlessly offer weekly external backups of client data at an attractive cost, further increasing our value proposition.

In the case of larger customers, Droplet resizing to take advantage of additional cores/disk space is a click away. When scaling vertically became cost prohibitive, we can easily deploy an optimized array of Droplets for horizontal scaling, with many small application servers working in parallel, handling many thousands of requests per second.

Large NodeBB Infrastructure diagram


We've been able to successfully create our SaaS service built on DigitalOcean in a reliable and cost effective way. As DigitalOcean innovates in the IaaS space, we're excited to take advantage of what they have to offer. We already have plans to implement DigitalOcean's IPv6 and storage features as we grow.

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