My Selfhosting Setup
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My Selfhosting Setup

ansible docker server traefik

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This post is meant as a reference for myself. I only published it in case someone else might find it interesting. I did not spend much time on this post.

I do host some services on a few rented VPS servers and on my "home lab", which is just an old desktop that is running in the basement. When I got into self-hosting, I decided I would host everything exclusively in docker, which has served me pretty well over the last few years. In the last while I have learned a lot about Kubernetes, and am strongly considering switching my "simple" hosting setup for a more complex Kubernetes cluster. So before I do that I want to write down what my current setup looks like.


As mentioned, everything is hosted in docker containers. Generally, I try to keep everything in docker-compose, since this allows me to specify the settings of the container once, and easily modify it later. To have multiple services available on port 80 and 443, I use the Traeffik (Software) reverse proxy. I use Traefik without a config file, meaning it pulls the routes and rules directly from the labels of the running containers on the VPS. This makes it easy to launch a new service and have its reverse proxy config directly in the docker-compose file.

Since many services use a database, and Postgres seems to be supported by many open-source projects, I decided to have a central Postgres instance running in a docker container. This allows me to back it up with a simple cron job in a single place. If a service does not support Postgres, I specify its database directly in the docker-compose file.

Almost all services use disk access for either config, local files, or similar. I do have a docker folder that is the root of all locally stored files.

OS Setup

When I first started, I configured everything by hand, and documented how, why, and what I did. However I was not happy with this, I could not test it out and it was prone to errors. Therefore, I decided to use Ansible to set up the server and install all dependencies. This worked well, so well that I decided that Ansible was good enough to use to operate the entire pipeline, even to automate the deployment of the services.


I do have an ansible role per service, with its configuration (mostly) as ansible YAML files, and the docker-compose files and other config files as ansible templates. This worked great, with a single ansible-playbook command I can make sure everything is running and has the right config. For most services, I even built logic to make sure that when the docker-compose file or a config file changes, the container is restarted.

The good parts

I am quite happy with this system in general. Everything runs stable, backups are easy and automated, and deployments for services that are already configured are a breeze. I can keep the whole "description" of what is running in a single git repo, and make changes by editing config files. This is a huge step up from manually deploying and keeping track of what docker commands to use for what service.

The not so good parts

Recently I noticed some pain points.

  1. If I want to deploy a service twice for two domain names, I have to create a copy of the role. This unfortunately leads to duplicated "code" which can (and does) lead to configuration drift.
  2. I have to code things myself that already exist. For example, restarting a container when a config value changes. For most services this is implemented, but not everywhere, and also not for all possible things that can be changed. This is not what I want to be concentrating on if I am writing the config to deploy a service.

In general, I seem to have built a worse subset of Kubernetes myself, just without the robustness that makes Kubernetes so interesting.

My plan for the future

I am planning to replace docker with Kubernetes, specifically K3s (Software), a very lightweight and mostly "batteries included" Kubernetes distribution. Ansible will stay, but only as a tool to set up and configure the OS, install dependencies, and install and run K3S. Deployment of services I either want to do directly using the kubectl command line tool, or more likely using ArgoCD, a project that pulls Kubernetes manifests from a Git repository and automatically deploys it.

For the configuration, I will take a look at Helm (Software).

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Photo of Tim Bachmann

Hi, my name is Tim Bachmann! I'm a master graduate in computer science at University of Basel, swimmer and swim coach.

I am passionate about all things web development, swimming, personal knowledge management and much more. If you liked this or any of my posts, feel free to follow me.

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