Deployment options

The default Zulip installation instructions will install a complete Zulip server, with all of the services it needs, on a single machine.

For production deployment, however, it’s common to want to do something more complicated. This page documents the options for doing so.

Installing Zulip from Git

To install a development version of Zulip from Git, just clone the Git repository from GitHub:

# First, install Git if you don't have it installed already
sudo apt install git
git clone zulip-server-git

and then continue the normal installation instructions. You can also upgrade Zulip from Git.

The most common use case for this is upgrading to master to get a feature that hasn’t made it into an official release yet (often support for a new base OS release). See upgrading to master for notes on how master works and the support story for it, and upgrading to future releases for notes on upgrading Zulip afterwards.

In particular, we are always very glad to investigate problems with installing Zulip from master; they are rare and help us ensure that our next major release has a reliable install experience.

Zulip in Docker

Zulip has an officially supported, experimental docker image. Please note that Zulip’s normal installer has been extremely reliable for years, whereas the Docker image is new and has rough edges, so we recommend the normal installer unless you have a specific reason to prefer Docker.

Running Zulip’s service dependencies on different machines

Zulip has full support for each top-level service living on its own machine.

You can configure remote servers for Postgres, RabbitMQ, Redis, in /etc/zulip/; just search for the service name in that file and you’ll find inline documentation in comments for how to configure it.

Since some of these services require some configuration on the node itself (e.g. installing our postgres extensions), we have designed the puppet configuration that Zulip uses for installing and upgrading configuration to be completely modular.

For example, you can install a Zulip rabbitmq server on a machine, you can do the following after unpacking a Zulip production release tarball:

env PUPPET_CLASSES=zulip::base,zulip::apt_repository,zulip::redis ./scripts/setup/install

You can see most likely manifests you might want to choose in the list of includes in the main manifest for the default all-in-one Zulip server, though it’s also possible to subclass some of the lower-level manifests defined in that directory if you want to customize. A good example of doing this is in the zulip_ops puppet configuration that we use as part of managing and

Using Zulip with Amazon RDS as the database

You can use DBaaS services like Amazon RDS for the Zulip database. The experience is slightly degraded, in that most DBaaS provides don’t include useful dictionary files in their installations and don’t provide a way to provide them yourself, resulting in a degraded full-text search experience around issues dictionary files are relevant (e.g. stemming).

You also need to pass some extra options to the Zulip installer in order to avoid it throwing an error when Zulip attempts to configure the database’s dictionary files for full-text search; the details are below.

Step 1: Setup Zulip

Follow the standard instructions, with one change. When running the installer, pass the --no-init-db flag, e.g.:

sudo -s  # If not already root
./zulip-server-*/scripts/setup/install --certbot \
    --email=YOUR_EMAIL --hostname=YOUR_HOSTNAME \
    --no-init-db --postgres-missing-dictionaries

The script also installs and starts Postgres on the server by default. We don’t need it, so run the following command to stop and disable the local Postgres server.

sudo service postgresql stop
sudo update-rc.d postgresql disable

This complication will be removed in a future version.

Step 2: Create the Postgres database

Access an administrative psql shell on your postgres database, and run the commands in scripts/setup/create-db.sql to:

  • Create a database called zulip.

  • Create a user called zulip.

  • Now login with the zulip user to create a schema called zulip in the zulip database. You might have to grant create privileges first for the zulip user to do this.

Depending on how authentication works for your postgres installation, you may also need to set a password for the Zulip user, generate a client certificate, or similar; consult the documentation for your database provider for the available options.

Step 3: Configure Zulip to use the Postgres database

In /etc/zulip/ on your Zulip server, configure the following settings with details for how to connect to your postgres server. Your database provider should provide these details.

  • REMOTE_POSTGRES_HOST: Name or IP address of the postgres server.

  • REMOTE_POSTGRES_PORT: Port on the postgres server.

  • REMOTE_POSTGRES_SSLMODE: SSL Mode used to connect to the server.

If you’re using password authentication, you should specify the password of the zulip user in /etc/zulip/zulip-secrets.conf as follows:

postgres_password = abcd1234

Now complete the installation by running the following commands.

# Ask Zulip installer to initialize the postgres database.
su zulip -c '/home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/setup/initialize-database'

# And then generate a realm creation link:
su zulip -c '/home/zulip/deployments/current/ generate_realm_creation_link'

Using an alternate port

If you’d like your Zulip server to use an HTTPS port other than 443, you can configure that as follows:

  1. Edit EXTERNAL_HOST in /etc/zulip/, which controls how the Zulip server reports its own URL, and restart the Zulip server with /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/restart-server.

  2. Add the following block to /etc/zulip/zulip.conf:

    nginx_listen_port = 12345
  3. As root, run /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/zulip-puppet-apply. This will convert Zulip’s main nginx configuration file to use your new port.

We also have documentation for a Zulip server using HTTP for use behind reverse proxies.

Putting the Zulip application behind a reverse proxy

Zulip is designed to support being run behind a reverse proxy server. This section contains notes on the configuration required with variable reverse proxy implementations.

Installer options

If your Zulip server will not be on the public Internet, we recommend, installing with the --self-signed-cert option (rather than the --certbot option), since CertBot requires the server to be on the public Internet.

Configuring Zulip to allow HTTP

Depending on your environment, you may want the reverse proxy to talk to the Zulip server over HTTP; this can be secure when the Zulip server is not directly exposed to the public Internet.

After installing the Zulip server as described above, you can configure Zulip to talk HTTP as follows:

  1. Add the following block to /etc/zulip/zulip.conf:

    http_only = true
  2. As root, run /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/zulip-puppet-apply. This will convert Zulip’s main nginx configuration file to allow HTTP instead of HTTPS.

  3. Finally, restart the Zulip server, using /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/restart-server.

nginx configuration

For nginx configuration, there’s two things you need to setup:

  • The root nginx.conf file. We recommend using /etc/nginx/nginx.conf from your Zulip server for our recommended settings. E.g. if you don’t set client_max_body_size, it won’t be possible to upload large files to your Zulip server.

  • The nginx site-specific configuration (in /etc/nginx/sites-available) for the Zulip app. You can look at our nginx reverse proxy configuration to see an example of how to do this properly (the various include files are available via the zulip::nginx puppet module). Or modify this example:

server {
        listen                  443 ssl;
        server_name   ;

        ssl                     on;
        ssl_certificate         /path/to/fullchain-cert.pem;
        ssl_certificate_key     /path/to/private-key.pem;

        location / {
                proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
                proxy_set_header        Host $http_host;
                proxy_http_version      1.1;
                proxy_buffering         off;
                proxy_read_timeout      20m;
                proxy_pass              https://zulip-upstream-host;

Don’t forget to update server_name, ssl_certificate, ssl_certificate_key and proxy_pass with the appropriate values for your installation.

Apache2 configuration

Below is a working example of a full Apache2 configuration. It assumes that your Zulip sits at http://localhost:5080. You first need to make the following changes in two configuration files.

  1. Follow the instructions for Configure Zulip to allow HTTP.

  2. Add the following to /etc/zulip/

    ALLOWED_HOSTS = ['', '']
  3. Restart your Zulip server with /home/zulip/deployments/current/restart-server.

  4. Create an Apache2 virtual host configuration file, similar to the following. Place it the appropriate path for your Apache2 installation and enable it (E.g. if you use Debian or Ubuntu, then place it in /etc/apache2/sites-available/ and then run a2ensite && systemctl reload apache2):

    <VirtualHost *:80>
        RewriteEngine On
        RewriteRule ^ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]
    <VirtualHost *:443>
      RequestHeader set "X-Forwarded-Proto" expr=%{REQUEST_SCHEME}
      RequestHeader set "X-Forwarded-SSL" expr=%{HTTPS}
      RewriteEngine On
      RewriteRule /(.*)           http://localhost:5080/$1 [P,L]
      <Location />
        Require all granted
        ProxyPass  http://localhost:5080/  timeout=300
        ProxyPassReverse  http://localhost:5080/
      SSLEngine on
      SSLProxyEngine on
      SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
      SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
      SSLOpenSSLConfCmd DHParameters "/etc/nginx/dhparam.pem"
      SSLProtocol all -SSLv3 -TLSv1 -TLSv1.1
      SSLHonorCipherOrder off
      SSLSessionTickets off
      Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000"

HAProxy configuration

If you want to use HAProxy with Zulip, this backend config is a good place to start.

backend zulip
    mode http
    balance leastconn
    http-request set-header X-Client-IP %[src]
    reqadd X-Forwarded-Proto:\ https
    server zulip check

Since this configuration uses the http mode, you will also need to configure Zulip to allow HTTP as described above.

Other proxies

If you’re using another reverse proxy implementation, there are few things you need to be careful about when configuring it:

  1. Configure your reverse proxy (or proxies) to correctly maintain the X-Forwarded-For HTTP header, which is supposed to contain the series of IP addresses the request was forwarded through. You can verify your work by looking at /var/log/zulip/server.log and checking it has the actual IP addresses of clients, not the IP address of the proxy server.

  2. Ensure your proxy doesn’t interfere with Zulip’s use of long-polling for real-time push from the server to your users’ browsers. This nginx code snippet does this.

The key configuration options are, for the /json/events and /api/1/events endpoints:

  • proxy_read_timeout 1200;. It’s critical that this be significantly above 60s, but the precise value isn’t important.

  • proxy_buffering off. If you don’t do this, your nginx proxy may return occasional 502 errors to clients using Zulip’s events API.

  1. The other tricky failure mode we’ve seen with nginx reverse proxies is that they can load-balance between the IPv4 and IPv6 addresses for a given hostname. This can result in mysterious errors that can be quite difficult to debug. Be sure to declare your upstreams equivalent in a way that won’t do load-balancing unexpectedly (e.g. pointing to a DNS name that you haven’t configured with multiple IPs for your Zulip machine; sometimes this happens with IPv6 configuration).