Installing Central

Central is distributed and installed using Docker. Docker makes it possible to describe exactly how Central's different components should be configured no matter where it is installed. Don't worry if you don't know about Docker yet! We have put together step-by-step instructions for our recommended solutions below.

Installing on DigitalOcean

If you want to install Central on own server but you're not sure what cloud provider to choose, we recommend DigitalOcean, which provides an excellent starting point for Docker installations like ours. The $5/month tier will be enough for most projects (see performance notes).

To learn more about installing on DigitalOcean, please see here.

Installing elsewhere

If you got excited when you saw mention of Docker above, and you already have your own destination and process for managing Docker deployments, you're all set to go. Central is entirely defined via Docker Compose, which means the docker-compose command will be all you need to manage the entire system.


We verify each version of Central on DigitalOcean and confirm that upgrades are possible. However, we do not verify them on other cloud providers and generally can't provide free support for installations that deviate from the DigitalOcean instructions. You may find other community members able to help on the forum.

No matter where you plan to install Central, we recommend reviewing the instructions we've provided for DigitalOcean starting from this section. In particular, you'll need to update your submodules after you clone the repository, and configure your .env file for your installation.

Installing on Amazon EC2

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the many other options for installing Central. It's a good idea to read through the instructions we've provided for DigitalOcean, as many of the steps remain the same or similar.

To obtain a server you will need to first create an AWS account. When launching your instance, select the Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS Amazon Machine Image (AMI) in step 1. The t2.micro instance type has the 1GB of memory recommended for if you don't expect many forms to be submitted at once and you don't expect many large media attachments.

When adjusting the security settings open up the ports for SSH, HTTP, and HTTPS. Once you have launched your instance, go to the Elastic IPs menu option under Network & Security, then allocate a new address and associate it with your server in order to keep the IP address for your server consistent.

Before installing Central on your server, you need to install Docker and Docker Compose.

  1. Docker. Steps 1 and 2 of this how to install Docker on Ubuntu 16.04 tutorial should walk you through the necessary commands. In step 2 add the ubuntu user to the Docker group.
  2. Docker Compose. This how to install Docker Compose on Ubuntu 16.04 tutorial should walk you through the necessary commands. You should only need to complete step 1. You can change the version number to 1.24.1.

After installing Docker and Docker Compose you can follow our DigitalOcean instructions from running git clone Continue with the DigitalOcean instructions for logging into Central.

Finally, configure an e-mail service such as Amazon SES because Amazon restricts emails sent from EC2.