How to Create Load Balancers

DigitalOcean Load Balancers are a fully-managed, highly available network load balancing service. Load balancers distribute traffic to groups of Droplets, which decouples the overall health of a backend service from the health of a single server to ensure that your services stay online.


Setting up a load balancer is a two step process: creating the load balancer and then adding Droplets or Kubernetes nodes to its backend pool.

Start by creating a load balancer using the Create button at the top of the control panel. Alternatively, use the Create load balancer button on the Load Balancers overview page.

Create menu

On the creation page, you will:

  1. Choose a datacenter region. Your load balancer and its backend Droplets need to be in the same datacenter, so choose the region where your Droplets are or will be located.

  2. Select a VPC Network for the load balancer. You can choose one you have created or use your default network for the datacenter region. VPC networking enables an additional networking interface that can only be accessed by other resources within the same VPC network. This keeps traffic between Droplets and other applicable resource from being routed outside the datacenter over the public internet.

  3. Choose the load balancer’s Scaling configuration.

The load balancer’s scaling configuration allows you to adjust the load balancer’s number of nodes. The number of nodes determines:

  • How many simultaneous connections it can maintain.
  • How many requests per second it can handle.
  • How many SSL connections it can decrypt per second.
  • The load balancer’s overall monthly cost.

The load balancer must have at least one node, and can have up to 100 nodes. You can add or remove nodes at any time to meet your traffic needs.

  1. Connect Droplets to the load balancer. If you are creating this load balancer for DigitalOcean Kubernetes, you can skip this step. Use the Search for Droplet or a tag search bar to add Droplets or groups of tagged Droplets to the load balancer’s backend pool upon creation. You can add or remove resources from the load balancer’s pool at anytime after creation.

  2. Add forwarding rules. Forwarding rules define how traffic is routed from the load balancer to its backend Droplets. You need at least one rule.

    The default route is HTTP port 80 on the load balancer to HTTP port 80 on the backend Droplets. You can create new rules during creation with the New Rule drop-down. After creation, you can modify a load balancer’s rules at any time on its Settings page.

    If you create a forwarding rule that requires a Let’s Encrypt certificate, you have the option to allow us to automatically create the necessary DNS record, at the apex of your domain, to support the certificate. The Create DNS records for all the new Let’s Encrypt certificates box is checked by default. If you want to manage your own DNS records for your Let’S Encrypt certificate, uncheck the box to opt out of creating any records when creating the forwarding rule.

    You can update this selection when adding or updating forwarding rules at a later time. However, the updated selection applies only to the new rules going forward, existing DNS records will not be updated.

  3. Set advanced settings. Advanced settings allow you to modify additional parameters for the load balancer, sticky sessions, health checks, SSL forwarding, and PROXY protocol. You can also modify these settings after you create the load balancer.

  4. Finalize and create, which includes Choose a name and Select project. Load balancer names must be unique and contain alphanumeric characters, dashes, and periods only. You can rename load balancers at any time after creation by clicking on the existing name on the load balancer page.

After you create the load balancer, you can add Droplets or Kubernetes nodes to the load balancer on its detail page. To add Kubernetes nodes, see our guide, How to Add Load Balancers to Kubernetes Clusters. To add Droplets, click Choose Droplets to open the Add Droplets window.

Add Droplets by tag window

You can add individual Droplets or you can choose a tag. You can only choose Droplets that are in the same region as the load balancer, and if you use a tag, only tagged Droplets in the same region as the load balancer will be part of its backend. You can use one tag per load balancer.

When you’ve selected the tag or Droplets, click Add Droplets. When you add Droplets to a load balancer, the Droplets start in a DOWN state and remain in a DOWN state until they pass the load balancer’s health check. Once the backends have passed the health check the required number of times, they will be marked healthy and the load balancer will begin forwarding requests to them.

Once you have at least one load balancer, you can view and manage them on the load balancer index page.

The load balancer index page

Clicking on a load balancer from the index page takes you to its detail page. On the detail page, you can manage and customize the load balancer by modifying its backend Droplet pool, viewing its performance graphs, and changing advanced settings.