Production Installation

Make sure you want to install a Zulip production server. If you'd instead like to test or develop a new feature, we recommend the Zulip server development environment instead.

You will need an Ubuntu system that satisfies the installation requirements. In short, you need:

  • Either a dedicated machine, or a fresh VM on an existing machine.
  • Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial or Ubuntu 14.04 Trusty, 64-bit. If you have a choice, install on Xenial, since Trusty is approaching its end-of-life and you'll save yourself the work of upgrading a production installation.
  • At least 2GB RAM and 10 GB disk space (4GB and 2 CPUs recommended for 100+ users).
  • A DNS name, an SSL certificate, and credentials for sending email.

Step 1: Install SSL Certificates

Zulip runs over https only, and requires SSL certificates in order to work. It looks for the certificates in /etc/ssl/private/zulip.key and /etc/ssl/certs/zulip.combined-chain.crt. Note that Zulip uses nginx as its webserver and thus expects a chained certificate bundle.

If you need an SSL certificate, see our SSL certificate documentation. If you already have an SSL certificate, just install (or symlink) it into place at the above paths, and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Download and install latest release

Download and unpack the latest built server tarball with the following commands:

cd $(mktemp -d)
tar -xf zulip-server-latest.tar.gz

If you'd like to verify the download, we publish the sha256sums of our release tarballs.

Then, run the Zulip install script:

sudo -s  # If not already root

This may take a while to run, since it will install a large number of dependencies.

The Zulip install script is designed to be idempotent, so if it fails, you can just rerun it after correcting the issue that caused it to fail. Also note that it automatically logs a transcript to /var/log/zulip/install.log; please include a copy of that file in any bug reports.

The install script does several things:

  • Creates zulip user, which the various Zulip servers will run as,
  • Creates /home/zulip/deployments/, which the Zulip code for this deployment (and future deployments when you upgrade) go into. At the very end of the install process, the script moves the Zulip code tree it's running from (which you unpacked from a tarball above) to a directory there, and makes /home/zulip/deployments/current as a symbolic link to it.
  • Installs Zulip's various dependencies.
  • Configures the various third-party services Zulip uses, including Postgres, RabbitMQ, Memcached and Redis.

Step 3: Configure Zulip

Configure the Zulip server instance by editing /etc/zulip/ and providing values for the mandatory settings, which are all found under the heading ### MANDATORY SETTINGS. These settings include:

  • EXTERNAL_HOST: the user-accessible Zulip domain name for your Zulip installation (i.e., what users will type in their web browser). This should of course match the DNS name you configured to point to your server and for which you configured SSL certificates. If you plan to use multiple domains, add the others to ALLOWED_HOSTS.
  • ZULIP_ADMINISTRATOR: the email address of the person or team maintaining this installation and who will get support and error emails.
  • EMAIL_HOST, EMAIL_HOST_USER: credentials for an outgoing email (aka "SMTP") server that Zulip can use to send emails. See our guide for outgoing email for help configuring this.
  • If desired, you can also configure additional authentication backends while you're editing /etc/zulip/ Note, however, that the default (email) backend must be enabled when you complete Step 6 (creating an organization) below.

Step 4: Test email configuration

Test your outgoing email configuration. This is important to test now, because email configuration errors are common, and your outgoing email configuration needs to be working in order for you to complete the installation.

Step 5: Initialize Zulip database

At this point, you are done doing things as root. The remaining commands are run as the zulip user. Change to the zulip user and initialize the Zulip database for your production install:

su zulip # If you weren't already the zulip user

The initialize-database script will report an error if you did not fill in all the mandatory settings from /etc/zulip/ It is safe to rerun it after correcting the problem if that happens.

This completes the process of installing Zulip on your server. However, in order to use Zulip, you'll need to create an organization in your Zulip installation.

Step 6: Create a Zulip organization and login

  • Run the organization (realm) creation management command :

    su zulip # If you weren't already the zulip user
    /home/zulip/deployments/current/ generate_realm_creation_link

    This will print out a secure one-time-use link that allows creation of a new Zulip organization on your server.

  • Open the generated link with your web browser. You'll see the "Create organization" page (screenshot here). Enter your email address and click Create organization.

  • Check your email to find the confirmation email and click the link. You'll be prompted to finish setting up your organization and initial administrator user (screenshot here). Complete this form and log in!

Congratulations! You are logged in as an organization administrator for your new Zulip organization.

Step 7: Next steps


  • The zulip user's password. By default, the zulip user doesn't have a password, and is intended to be accessed by su zulip from the root user (or via SSH keys or a password, if you want to set those up, but that's up to you as the system administrator). Most people who are prompted for a password when running su zulip turn out to already have switched to the zulip user earlier in their session, and can just skip that step.
  • If you get an error after scripts/setup/install completes, check the bottom of /var/log/zulip/errors.log for a traceback, and consult the troubleshooting section for advice on how to debug.
  • If that doesn't help, please visit #production help in the Zulip development community server for realtime help or email with the full traceback, and we'll try to help you out! Please provide details like the full traceback from the bottom of /var/log/zulip/errors.log in your report.