Recently I set up my server on DigitalOcean with Docker and Nginx as a reverse proxy. This is a brief description of how I did it and a few Docker commands I found most useful.

Setting up a server

This is roughly similar to this article on Google Cloud, just a stripped and slightly reorganized version.

Creating certs directory

To enable HTTPS, we need certificates. So first we need to create a directory to hold the certs.

mkdir certs

We use the Docker Let’s Encrypt nginx-proxy companion to automatically issue and use signed certificates. To do this, we declare volumes when running the reverse-proxy so the nginx-letsencrypt companion can populate them with certificates.

However, in order for nginx-proxy to proxy other containers, they have to be on the same Docker network.

Running all the containers

So we first create a network:

docker network create --driver bridge reverse-proxy

And we run the nginx reverse proxy and the letsencrypt companion on this network, using the --net reverse-proxy command.

Running the nginx reverse proxy:

docker run -d -p 80:80 -p 443:443 --name nginx-proxy --net reverse-proxy -v $HOME/certs:/etc/nginx/certs:ro -v /etc/nginx/vhost.d -v /usr/share/nginx/html -v /var/run/docker.sock:/tmp/docker.sock:ro --label com.github.jrcs.letsencrypt_nginx_proxy_companion.nginx_proxy=true jwilder/nginx-proxy

Running the nginx-letsencrypt companion:

docker run -d --name nginx-letsencrypt --net reverse-proxy --volumes-from nginx-proxy -v $HOME/certs:/etc/nginx/certs:rw -v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock:ro jrcs/letsencrypt-nginx-proxy-companion


We can then start all our website or other app containers using a docker-compose.yml file. For example, my docker-compose file looks something like this:

version: '2'
    restart: always
    image: nginx
    container_name: blog
      - "/etc/nginx/nginx.conf:/etc/nginx/nginx.conf"
      - "/var/www/blog:/etc/nginx/html"
      - reverse-proxy
      - VIRTUAL_PORT=1234
      - [email protected]

    restart: always
    build: "/var/www/draggymail"
    container_name: draggymail
      - reverse-proxy
      - VIRTUAL_PORT=1234
      - [email protected]
      name: reverse-proxy

The blog service serves up my blog, which is what you’re looking at right now. It just uses the nginx container. You can insert the nginx configuration by mounting the appropriate configuration file. The format for mounting volumes is


The options field is optional, it is where you can specify what docker is allowed to do with the mounted volume. ro stands for readonly, and rw gives the docker container permission to (yup, you guessed it) read and write.

The draggymail service builds and runs my NodeJS app. The filepath in build tells docker to look for the Dockerfile inside the folder, build the image, and run the container. This is so that I don’t have to build the image separately every time.

Then just run docker-compose up -d to run your containers.

Handy Docker commands

A few docker commands I found myself repeatedly searching up.

Building an image with a dockerfile in the current directory

docker build -t image_name:tag_name .

Running a docker container

Simple command:

docker run image_name:tag_name

A more complicated command:

docker run -d --name container_name -p 80:80 -p 443:443 --net network_name -v /path/of/file/in/host:/path/of/file/in/container image_name:tag_name
  • -d detached mode
  • --name specify the name you want to call this container
  • -p ports mapping
  • --net network to put it on
  • -v volumes to mount

Creating a network

docker network create --driver bridge network_name

--driver driver to manage the network

Start and go into interactive mode of last created container

(thanks to this stackoverflow answer)

docker start -a -i `docker ps -q -l` 
  • docker start start a container (requires name or ID)
  • -a attach to container
  • -i interactive mode
  • docker ps List containers
  • -q list only container IDs
  • -l list only last created container

Start and go into interactive mode of a specific container

docker exec -it container_name_or_id /bin/bash

Remove dangling images

docker rmi $(docker images -qa -f 'dangling=true')

List all containers (running and exited):

docker ps -a