Locally hosting Plausible with Cloudflare Tunnels

I’ve recently discovered Plausible from a 2022 /r/selfhosted round-up thread, casually looking for new stuff to try out. Coincidentally, I’ve been running my website analytics free for quite a while now. Sounds like a good excuse to try it out.

Plausible is, in their own words:

Simple, open-source, lightweight (< 1 KB) and privacy-friendly web analytics alternative to Google Analytics.

While Plausible offers a “managed” version, I decided to spice things up and go with the self-hosted version. In this post, I’ll walk you through my setup.


Before proceeding to the fun stuff, I’d like to mention some requirements I had that influenced how I approached the setup. These are:

  • Local-only access to Plausible’s dashboard
  • No direct internet traffic to the VM hosting Plausible

These two criteria are somewhat related and can be boiled down to me being paranoid about exposing my homelab to the internet (and mostly lazy as well). I’d like to avoid waking up to see my homelab pwned because of a misconfiguration.

The next question then is, how? We need a publicly accessible compute to serve the script and receive events on page visits. If the local VM is not reachable, how can Plausible do its job? Enter Cloudflare Tunnels.

With Cloudflare Tunnels, we can front a Cloudflare server towards the internet and only let specific traffic “tunnel” back to the local VM. This way, we offload the server hardening and general security to Cloudflare while enabling the local VM to be accessible as if it was exposed to the internet.

The Plan

Internet | Local Homelab
+-----------+ |
| Website | |
+-----------+ | +--------------------------------------+
| | | |
| | | +---------+ |
| | | +--------> | Nginx | |
v | | | +---------+ |
+------------+ | | +-------------+ | |
| Cloudflare |------------->| cloudflared | | |
+------------+ | | +-------------+ v |
| | +-----------+ |
| | | Plausible | |
| | +-----------+ |
| | |
| +--------------------------------------+

With the requirements in mind, the diagram above summarizes the setup. The public website will be communicating with Plausible via Cloudflare. A tunnel is set up between an internet-facing Cloudflare server and the VM hosting Plausible (inside the local network).

This way, we control what type of traffic we let through the tunnel and only allow local access to Plausible’s dashboard.

Why a reverse proxy?

Before proceeding, you might be thinking, why complicate the setup with a reverse proxy in front of Plausible? Can’t we just point cloudflared to Plausible?

To answer your question, yes, we can point cloudflared to Plausible, but, we’ll expose Plausible’s dashboard to the internet. This violates the first requirement of allowing local-only access to Plausible.

The main reason for the reverse proxy is that we only want to expose 2 URLs that will be served by Plausible:

  1. js/script.js - This endpoint will serve the analytics script
  2. api/event - This endpoint receives the data gathered by the analytics script

Our reverse proxy will only respond to these 2 endpoints and drop everything else. This fulfills our first requirement while allowing Plausible to perform its job unhindered.


Prerequisites for this setup are: compute on your local network and a domain managed by Cloudflare.


Note: Most (if not all) of the information in this section are from Plausible’s self-hosting documentation.

Plausible’s self-hosted version is only offered under Docker. So before anything else, make sure your server has Docker installed. Install instructions

In summary, you need to do the following:

  1. Get the Code
git clone https://github.com/plausible/hosting
cd hosting
  1. Set Configuration

There are only two keys you need to fill up for the config file (plausible-conf.env):

  • SECRET_KEY_BASE - Plausible suggests generating the secret key via:
openssl rand -base64 64 | tr -d '\n' ; echo
  • BASE_URL - This would be the domain managed by Cloudflare that will make our Plausible instance accessible via the tunnel.
  1. Start the App
docker-compose up -d

Plausible should now be accessible at http://{COMPUTE_IP}:8000

You can set up a website inside Plausible at this point. Make sure to note down the JavaScript snippet that Plausible will generate for you. We’ll need that later.


The next step is to install Nginx. Please refer to your OS of choice on how to install it. If you are using Debian/Ubuntu:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install nginx

The following config enables the bare minimum functionality for our setup:

server {
listen 80;
listen [::]:80;
server_name YOUR.DOMAIN.HERE;
root /var/www/your/root/here;

# analytics script
location /js/script.js {

# API call
location /api/event {

I recommend NGINXConfig by Digital Ocean to help generate the complete set of config files for Nginx.

You can verify your setup by:

curl --header "Host: YOUR.DOMAIN.HERE" http://IP.OF.PLAUSIBLE/js/script.js

It should return a blob of JavaScript that contains the analytics code.


The last step would be to configure your Cloudflare tunnel. I’d recommend using the web interface in this case since the setup isn’t that complicated. For setup via CLI, see documentation.

Using the web interface:

  1. Open your Cloudflare dashboard > Click Zero Trust
  2. Click Access > Tunnels
  3. Create a tunnel
  4. Follow the succeeding instructions on how to install cloudflared
  5. Choose “Public Hostnames”
    • Make sure the public hostname is the same as the BASE_URL you used to configure Plausible
    • Under “Service” choose: Type = HTTP, URL = localhost:80
  6. Save

You can verify that the tunnel is working by visiting https://BASE_URL/js/script.js. It should return the same JavaScript blob when we tested via curl.

Once you’ve verified that the js/script.js is publicly accessible, embed the JavaScript snippet Plausible generated a while ago within the head tag of the website. More info on how to do it here.

Finally, visit your website and marvel at the initial number in your Plausible dashboard!