Matt Finucane

Building this site - Deployment

In part five of this series we take a look at deploying the site using CircleCI.

An overview of deploying the site

In the previous parts of this series, we looked at an overview of this site, the Hugo setup, setting up a development environment with Docker and asset management with Gulp.

We will now take a look at how to deploy this site with Github and CircleCI.

Github is an online service that uses Git as its source control manager. Both of these are the most widely used services for managing source code today.

CircleCI is a continuous integration tool that ties nicely into Github and facilitates testing and automated deployment for applications.

Both are free to use for small projects exavtly like this one. My server is a simple VPS set up courtesy of Digital Ocean that costs me US$5 a month to run.

Since Hugo is a static site generator, I don’t need a very powerful server to run this portfolio site because I’m not relying on extra infrastructure such as MySQL or Wordpress.

On the staging and production environments, the site is served over HTTPS using the HTTP/2 protocol.


To get started with CircleCI, I signed up using my Github credentials. I was presented with a list of my repositories from Github and I was able select the one for this website.

This allows CircleCI to listen for pushes to the branches within this repository and attempt to carry out tests and builds.

CircleCI will check out the latest code from your branch and then follow the instructions inside the circle.yml file as follows:

    version: 7.7.4

    - cd /tmp
    - wget
    - sudo dpkg -i hugo*.deb
    - npm install -g gulp
    - npm link gulp

    - echo "Tests are coming soon."

    branch: develop
      - hugo -s ./site -b $HUGO_STAGING_HOST --config=./site/staging.yml -d ../public
      - npm install
      - gulp build
      - tar -zcvf public.tar.gz public/
            cd $DEPLOY_STAGING_PATH &&
            rm -rf public/ &&
            tar -xvzf public.tar.gz &&
            mkdir public/.well-known"

    tag: /v[0-9]+(\.[0-9]+)*/
      - hugo -s ./site -b $HUGO_PRODUCTION_HOST --config=./site/production.yml -d ../public
      - npm install
      - gulp build
      - tar -zcvf public-$CIRCLE_TAG.tar.gz public/
            cd $DEPLOY_PRODUCTION_PATH &&
            rm -rf public/ &&
            tar -xvzf public-$CIRCLE_TAG.tar.gz &&
            mkdir public/.well-known"

We will go through this file and explain what each item does:

You will notice that there are various string substitutions within these command directives. This is where sensitive data in the form of environment variables is places. It’s never a good idea to put real values in here and commit them to a code repository.

CircleCI allows you to configure this sensitive information as environment variables that only you can see.

If we take a closer look at what the commands directive does, we see the following:

A note on security

It is always a good idea to disable password based logins for your production servers.

Using a private SSH key is always better because it means you have more control over who can access your server.

Those without the key cannot get in. It is possible to create a private key and paste this in to the repository configuration inside CircleCI.

This allows CircleCI to open secure sessions to your servers with its own key.

Setting up your staging and production servers

Setting up a server is quite simple and there are plenty of resources available online to help you with this. While writing about this here goes beyond the scope of this post, I can highly recommend the following links to get you started:

Wrapping up

We now have an overview of how we can automate the deployment process for this site using the many free and Open-source tools available to us.

Feel free to check out the conclusion of this series on how to set up, maintain and deploy a site using Hugo.