Meteor deployments without mup

I love mup and have been using it for years. It’s the simplest way to get your meteor project deployed. However, when it comes to using binaries, things get complicated. Suddenly, creating your own deployment script becomes the less complicated option.

Advantages of deploying manually

Quite a few good things come out of this. It goes without saying that familiarity with the inner workings with a magical tool such as meteor is a good thing.

Faster deployment. Once your bundle is uploaded, the deployment is running in seconds

There is no longer an SSL error during deployment. The error is a relic of a long-standing “code smell” from mup that I do not like. I believe the cause is that SSL support is handled by a separate docker container which becomes part of a docker network, and while that container is down, the certificate is gone.

You can replace the 500 error page that appears during deployments. When you configure NGINX yourself, you don’t have to worry about “stepping on toes”.

There is no need to author and maintain a docker image. That’s one less thing to worry about.

Let’s get started

In this guide, you will:

Provisioning from a blank server

For this guide, I used Ubuntu Server 20 on DigitalOcean. You’ll want to have set up PEM key authentication in SSH, if you don’t know how to, check out this guide. And don’t forget to create a non-root user to run your apps under.

adduser ubuntu && usermod -aG sudo ubuntu

Now let’s get all the software installed onto the server…

curl -sL https://deb.nodesource.com/setup_12.x | sudo -E bash -
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nginx/stable
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt install -y nginx certbot python3-certbot-nginx nodejs jq
sudo npm install -g pm2

Configure NGINX to proxy to node

Node is not running any of our apps yet, but we can stage the config files and get SSL working. Create a vhost for and app that will run on port 3000.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
    default upgrade;
    '' close;

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name example.jamesloper.com;
    root /var/www/html;
    client_max_body_size 100M;

    location / {
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header Host $host;

Test the config, restart nginx, and enable SSL:

sudo nginx -t
sudo service nginx restart
certbot --nginx -d example.jamesloper.com

Creating the upload script for your laptop

Create .deploy folder for your deployment scripts. In that folder create two more folders to contain your staging and production environment variables.

├── example/
│   ├── env.sh
│   └── staging.json
├── example-staging/
│   ├── env.sh
│   └── settings.json
├── deploy.sh
└── remote-script.sh

Contents of deploy.sh


function log() {
  echo "\033[0;35m\033[1m$1\033[0m$2"
  tput sgr0

# Check for the right files inside the deployment folder
[ ! -f "$1/settings.json" ] && log "Could not locate settings.json" && exit 1
[ ! -f "$1/env.sh" ] && log "Could not locate env.sh" && exit 1

cd ../
PROJECT=$(basename $PWD)

# check cached build directory
log "Building meteor app"
[ -d "/tmp/$1" ] && read -p "Use cached build? [y/n]: " useCache
if [ $useCache != "y" ]; then
  meteor build /tmp/$1 --architecture os.linux.x86_64

log "Uploading app & settings"
scp -pr /tmp/$1 $SERVER:./
scp -pr .deploy/$1/* $SERVER:./$1

log "Executing remote script"
ssh $SERVER "APP=$1 PROJECT=$PROJECT bash -s" < .deploy/remote-script.sh

Contents of remote-script.sh


cd $APP
export BIND_IP=
export METEOR_SETTINGS=$(cat settings.json | jq -M -c -r .)
source env.sh

echo "Unzipping"
tar -xf "$PROJECT.tar.gz"

echo "Installing npm packages"
cd bundle/programs/server
meteor npm install --production &> /dev/null

echo "Restarting app"
pm2 stop $APP -s
pm2 flush $APP -s
pm2 start ../../main.js --name $APP --update-env -s
pm2 logs $APP -s

Contents of example/env.sh

You can make a new folder for each deployment. In the example directory layout I used above, production files are in example/ and staging files are in example-staging/. For each deployment, place a settings.json file in the deployment folder, and as for the env.sh, here is the one I am using for production (the port is 3000, the root URL is fully qualified)


export PORT=3000
export ROOT_URL=https://example.jamesloper.com
export MAIL_URL=smtp://postmaster%40jamesloper.com:password@smtp.mailgun.org:587
export MONGO_URL=mongodb://app:password@db.jamesloper.com:27017/hotspot
export MONGO_OPLOG_URL=mongodb://oplog:password@db.jamesloper.com:27017/local?authSource=admin

Running your first deployment

To deploy, run the script and give it the argument of the deployment folder.

sh deploy example

After deploying, you will get the logs. You can also pull up the logs any time like this.

ssh ubuntu@example.jamesloper.com
pm2 logs example