For the last couple of weeks I’ve been asking myself this. What is the better solution? Do I want to rely on a third-party for the deployment of my static sites, if so, which ones? If no, should I use git-hooks, scp/rsync or just plain old FTP?

Today I use git-hooks for my deployments for my static sites, and I push to my own server using multiple push-urls. I store a post-receive-template in my Ansible configuration for my servers, and I recently added a Pushover-webhook for notifications for success and error messages.

First of all, I think it’s important to go through all of the alternatives I’ve listed above (except FTP).

GitHub - Pages and Actions#

If you’re a developer, you most likely have a GitHub-account. We do know that they have good reputation1, a decent platform that is reliable that a lot of big name companies use. GitHub has a freemium pricing model, which is quite generous when it comes to GitHub Actions.

If we were to consider using GitHub for deploying our static website, we have two options;

  1. GitHub Pages
  2. GitHub Actions (deployment to our own server)

And both of these alternatives are free.

GitHub Pages#

If you want to deploy a simple Jekyll website, all you need to do is enable GitHub Pages in your repository settings and voila, you’ve deployed your site2.

GitHub Actions#

With GitHub Actions you get more options, you can deploy to GitHub Pages with almost any SSG or you can use the same workflow to deploy to your own server. Each run of the GitHub Actions is initiated when you push to your remote repository (depending on how you’ve setup the rules etc.).

Sourcehut#

Sourcehut is an open source (paid) alternative to GitHub/source forges.

Similarly to GitHub Actions, you can deploy your code to Sourcehut Pages provided by Sourcehut themselves, but you can also deploy to your own servers using their build-system.

GitLab#

GitLab is an open source freemium alternative to GitHub/source forges.

Similar to Sourcehut and GitHub Actions, you can either choose to deploy to their GitLab Pages or to your own server through their CI/CD pipelines.

Git-hooks#

I’ve mentioned git-hooks before on this blog (here), and they can be quite powerful! However, they can be a bit of a pain to setup and debug, depending on how you’ve set them up.

But you can picture a scenario where you have a local repository with either two remotes or one remote with multiple push-urls and you push your local changes to both your Git-provider (ie. GitHub) and your deployment server. When your server receives the changes a post-receive-hook is initiated and through some shell-scripting your site deploys (you can make it as complicated as you want)!

scp/rsync#

Just to get it out of the way, I would argue that rsync is the better option than scp, because you don’t need to transfer files unnecessary that hasn’t been altered between each build.

With rsync you’d deploy your changes to your own server from your local repository.

So what’s the best solution?#

Lets compare third-party services and “local”/self-hosted alternatives separately.

Third-party#

  • GitHub Pages is super simple when using Jekyll, but can be more “challenging” when using a different SSG.
  • Sourcehut Pages and GitLab Pages you must use their .yml-files for CI/CD, and requires some setup.
  • For deploying on your own server, Sourcehut and GitLab uses the same .yml-file as for their Pages setup, this is also true for GitHub Actions.
  • In order to use different packages, like rsync etc., the setup for Sourcehut and GitLab is pretty straightforward, you define the required packages before the inital “script”. But for GitHub Actions you may need to run the basic apt-get to install something, or checkout their Marketplace.
  • Sourcehut provides a good selection of images/OSes to choose from, in comparison to GitHub.
  • Storing secrets are very similar between all three services.
  • You store the deployment-scripts in the repository itself (except for GitHub Pages). (You should also document it)
  • Doesn’t run on your machine locally.
  • Can give helpful and not helpful errors.
  • Can provide clear status indications if something was a success or and error.
  • Can do automatic tests on your code.

“Local”/Self-hosted solutions#

  • It can be very fast, especially when compared to the third-party solutions.
  • Git-hooks; it requires the understanding of what a bare-repository is.
  • You can easily mess up and delete stuff when using rsync both for git-hooks and doing it directly from your local machine.
  • Can be difficult to debug.
  • Git-hooks; You need to either remember what remote-url the post-receive-hook is on or document it somewhere.
  • Doesn’t give much of an indication if something was a success or not, it’s pretty much up to yourself to create good and clear messages.
  • Can do automatic tests on your code, but you’ll need to do some configuration for errors, notifications and halts in the steps.

Conclusion (?)#

I haven’t gone into depth for most of the solutions, but I think I managed to mention the most important parts, and what’s similar and different between them.

There isn’t really a correct answer to my initial question, it’s very much up to you for what you decide what’s best for you. And I’m still on the fence.

I really like Sourcehut’s approach, the yml is clear to me and I like that the details lives inside repository itself. But, and there is a big but, will Sourcehut be around in 2 years, 5 years? I dunno. It also costs money, or at least it will be doing so when it leaves alpha. But I would happily pay a monthly/yearly fee if I knew that the service would be around in 5 years. And I also need to (don’t have to) push to multiple remotes, and I need to either remember all of them or document it somewhere.

As for now, I think I will stick to my self-hosted solution using git-hooks using Pushover for notifications.

I’m open for suggestions and tips you have any, please don’t hesitate to reach out tim@harek.dev (public key).

1

Subjective opinion, because of their massive user base.

2

There are a few more options if you want to have custom domain etc.