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.

Advanced installer options

The Zulip installer supports the following advanced installer options as well as those mentioned in the install documentation:

  • --postgresql-version: Sets the version of PostgreSQL that will be installed. We currently support PostgreSQL 10, 11, 12, and 13.

  • --postgresql-missing-dictionaries: Set postgresql.missing_dictionaries ([docs][doc-settings]) in the Zulip settings, which omits some configuration needed for full-text indexing. This should be used with cloud managed databases like RDS. This option conflicts with --no-overwrite-settings.

  • --no-init-db: This option instructs the installer to not do any database initialization. This should be used when you already have a Zulip database.

  • --no-overwrite-settings: This option preserves existing /etc/zulip configuration files.

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 PostgreSQL, 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 PostgreSQL extensions), we have designed the Puppet configuration that Zulip uses for installing and upgrading configuration to be completely modular.

For example, to install a Zulip Redis server on a machine, you can run the following after unpacking a Zulip production release tarball:

env PUPPET_CLASSES=zulip::profile::redis ./scripts/setup/install

All puppet modules under zulip::profile are allowed to be configured stand-alone on a host. 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: Set up 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 --postgresql-missing-dictionaries

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

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

This complication will be removed in a future version.

Step 2: Create the PostgreSQL database

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

  • Create a database called zulip.

  • Create a user called zulip.

  • Now log in 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 PostgreSQL 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 PostgreSQL database

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

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

  • REMOTE_POSTGRES_PORT: Port on the PostgreSQL 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 PostgreSQL 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.

Using an outgoing HTTP proxy

Zulip supports routing all of its outgoing HTTP and HTTPS traffic through an HTTP CONNECT proxy, such as Smokescreen; this includes outgoing webhooks, image and website previews, and mobile push notifications. You may wish to enable this feature to provide a consistent egress point, or enforce access control on URLs to prevent SSRF against internal resources.

To use Smokescreen:

  1. Add , zulip::profile::smokescreen to the list of puppet_classes in /etc/zulip/zulip.conf. A typical value after this change is:

    puppet_classes = zulip::profile::standalone, zulip::profile::smokescreen
  2. Optionally, configure the smokescreen ACLs. By default, Smokescreen denies access to all non-public IP addresses, including

  3. Add the following block to /etc/zulip/zulip.conf, substituting in your proxy’s hostname/IP and port:

    host =
    port = 4750
  4. As root, run /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/zulip-puppet-apply. This will compile and install Smokescreen, reconfigure services to use it, and restart Zulip.

If you would like to use an already-installed HTTP proxy, omit the first step, and adjust the IP address and port in the second step accordingly.

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 set up:

  • 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. The following example is a good starting point:

server {
        listen                  443 ssl http2;
        listen                  [::]:443 ssl http2;
        server_name   ;

        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/scripts/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
    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).

System and deployment configuration

The file /etc/zulip/zulip.conf is used to configure properties of the system and deployment; /etc/zulip/ is used to configure the application itself. The zulip.conf sections and settings are described below.



A comma-separated list of the Puppet classes to install on the server. The most common is zulip::profile::standalone, used for a stand-alone single-host deployment. Components of that include:

  • zulip::profile::app_frontend

  • zulip::profile::memcached

  • zulip::profile::postgresql

  • zulip::profile::redis

  • zulip::profile::rabbitmq

If you are using a Apache as a single-sign-on authenticator, you will need to add zulip::apache_sso to the list.


Set to the string enabled if enabling the multi-language PGroonga search extension.



Options passed by upgrade-zulip and upgrade-zulip-from-git into upgrade-zulip-stage-2. These might be any of:

  • --skip-puppet skips doing Puppet/apt upgrades. The user will need to run zulip-puppet-apply manually after the upgrade.

  • --skip-migrations skips running database migrations. The user will need to run ./ migrate manually after the upgrade.

  • --skip-purge-old-deployments skips purging old deployments; without it, only deployments with the last two weeks are kept.

Generally installations will not want to set any of these options; the --skip-* options are primarily useful for reducing upgrade downtime for servers that are upgraded frequently by core Zulip developers.


Default repository URL used when upgrading from a Git repository.



If set to non-empty, configures Zulip to allow HTTP access; use if Zulip is deployed behind a reverse proxy that is handling SSL/TLS termination.


Set to the port number if you prefer to listen on a port other than 443.


To enable the the S3 uploads backend, one needs to both configure and set this to ‘true’ to configure nginx. Remove this field to return to the local uploads backend (any non-empty value is currently equivalent to true).


By default, Zulip automatically detects whether the system has enough memory to run Zulip queue processors in the higher-throughput but more multiprocess mode (or to save 1.5GiB of RAM with the multithreaded mode). The calculation is based on whether the system has enough memory (currently 3.5GiB) to run a single-server Zulip installation in the multiprocess mode.

Set to true or false to override the automatic calculation. This override is useful both Docker systems (where the above algorithm might see the host’s memory, not the container’s) and/or when using remote servers for postgres, memcached, redis, and RabbitMQ.


Override the default uwsgi buffer size of 8192.


Override the default uwsgi backlog of 128 connections.


Override the default uwsgi (Django) process count of 6 on hosts with more than 3.5GiB of RAM, 4 on hosts with less.



If set to the string yes, Certbot will attempt to automatically renew its certificate. Do no set by hand; use scripts/setup/setup-certbot to configure this.




Override PostgreSQL’s effective_io_concurrency setting.


Override PostgreSQL’s listen_addresses setting.


Override PostgreSQL’s random_page_cost setting


Set to non-empty to enable replication to enable streaming replication between PostgreSQL servers.


Set to the path to the PEM-encoded certificate authority used to authenticate client connections.


Set to the path to the PEM-encoded public certificate used to secure client connections.


Set to the path to the PEM-encoded private key used to secure client connections.


The version of PostgreSQL that is in use. Do not set by hand; use the PostgreSQL upgrade tool.



The name used to identify the local RabbitMQ server; do not modify.



Override the number of megabytes of memory that memcached should be configured to consume; defaults to 1/8th of the total server memory.



Comma-separated list of IP addresses or netmasks of external load balancers whose X-Forwarded-For should be respected.



The hostname or IP address of an outgoing HTTP CONNECT proxy.


The TCP port of the HTTP CONNECT proxy on the host specified above.