Reverse proxies

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

Zulip requires clients to connect to Zulip servers over the secure HTTPS protocol; the insecure HTTP protocol is not supported. However, we do support using a reverse proxy that speaks HTTPS to clients and connects 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 accept HTTP requests from a reverse proxy 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.

Note that Zulip must be able to accurately determine if its connection to the client was over HTTPS or not; if you enable http_only, it is very important that you correctly configure Zulip to trust the X-Forwarded-Proto header from its proxy (see the next section), or clients may see infinite redirects.

Configuring Zulip to trust proxies

Before placing Zulip behind a reverse proxy, it needs to be configured to trust the client IP addresses that the proxy reports via the X-Forwarded-For header, and the protocol reported by the X-Forwarded-Proto header. This is important to have accurate IP addresses in server logs, as well as in notification emails which are sent to end users. Zulip doesn’t default to trusting all X-Forwarded-* headers, because doing so would allow clients to spoof any IP address, and claim connections were over a secure connection when they were not; we specify which IP addresses are the Zulip server’s incoming proxies, so we know which X-Forwarded-* headers to trust.

  1. Determine the IP addresses of all reverse proxies you are setting up, as seen from the Zulip host. Depending on your network setup, these may not be the same as the public IP addresses of the reverse proxies. These can also be IP address ranges, as expressed in CIDR notation.

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

    # Use the IP addresses you determined above, separated by commas.
    ips =
  3. Reconfigure Zulip with these settings. As root, run /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/zulip-puppet-apply. This will adjust Zulip’s nginx configuration file to accept the X-Forwarded-For header when it is sent from one of the reverse proxy IPs.

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

nginx configuration

Below is a working example of a full nginx configuration. It assumes that your Zulip server sits at; see above to switch to HTTP.

  1. Follow the instructions to configure Zulip to trust proxies.

  2. Configure 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.

  3. Configure the nginx site-specific configuration (in /etc/nginx/sites-available) for the Zulip app. The following example is a good starting point:

    server {
            listen 80;
            listen [::]:80;
            location / {
                    return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
    server {
            listen                  443 ssl http2;
            listen                  [::]:443 ssl http2;
            server_name   ;
            ssl_certificate         /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
            ssl_certificate_key     /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
            location / {
                    proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
                    proxy_set_header        X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
                    proxy_set_header        Host $host;
                    proxy_http_version      1.1;
                    proxy_buffering         off;
                    proxy_read_timeout      20m;
                    proxy_pass    ;

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

Apache2 configuration

Below is a working example of a full Apache2 configuration. It assumes that your Zulip server sits at https://internal.zulip.hostname:443. Note that if you wish to use SSL to connect to the Zulip server, Apache requires you use the hostname, not the IP address; see above to switch to HTTP.

  1. Follow the instructions to configure Zulip to trust proxies.

  2. Set USE_X_FORWARDED_HOST = True in /etc/zulip/ and restart Zulip.

  3. Enable some required Apache modules:

    a2enmod ssl proxy proxy_http headers rewrite
  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}
      RewriteEngine On
      RewriteRule /(.*)           https://internal.zulip.hostname:443/$1 [P,L]
      <Location />
        Require all granted
        ProxyPass https://internal.zulip.hostname:443/ timeout=1200
      SSLEngine on
      SSLProxyEngine on
      SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
      SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/
      # This file can be found in ~zulip/deployments/current/puppet/zulip/files/nginx/dhparam.pem
      SSLOpenSSLConfCmd DHParameters "/etc/nginx/dhparam.pem"
      SSLProtocol all -SSLv3 -TLSv1 -TLSv1.1
      SSLHonorCipherOrder off
      SSLSessionTickets off
      Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000"

    Don’t forget to update ServerName, RewriteRule, ProxyPass, SSLCertificateFile, and SSLCertificateKeyFile as are appropriate for your deployment.

HAProxy configuration

Below is a working example of a HAProxy configuration. It assumes that your Zulip server sits at; see above to switch to HTTP.

  1. Follow the instructions to configure Zulip to trust proxies.

  2. Configure HAProxy. The below is a minimal frontend and backend configuration:

    frontend zulip
        mode http
        bind *:80
        bind *:443 ssl crt /etc/ssl/private/zulip-combined.crt
        http-request redirect scheme https code 301 unless { ssl_fc }
        http-request set-header X-Forwarded-Proto http unless { ssl_fc }
        http-request set-header X-Forwarded-Proto https if { ssl_fc }
        default_backend zulip
    backend zulip
        mode http
        timeout server 20m
        server zulip check ssl ca-file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt

    Don’t forget to update bind *:443 ssl crt and server as is appropriate for your deployment.

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. Additionally, configure Zulip to respect the addresses sent by your reverse proxies. 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. Configure your reverse proxy (or proxies) to correctly maintain the X-Forwarded-Proto HTTP header, which is supposed to contain either https or http depending on the connection between your browser and your proxy. This will be used by Django to perform CSRF checks regardless of your connection mechanism from your proxy to Zulip. Note that the proxies must set the header, overriding any existing values, not add a new header.

  3. Configure your proxy to pass along the Host: header as was sent from the client, not the internal hostname as seen by the proxy. If this is not possible, you can set USE_X_FORWARDED_HOST = True in /etc/zulip/, and pass the client’s Host header to Zulip in an X-Forwarded-Host header.

  4. 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.

  5. 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).