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.

Warning

Central is intended to be configured and administrated entirely with docker-compose stop and that is what we show in all our instructions. If you inadvertently do a docker-compose down, it will look like you have lost your data. See the troubleshooting section to learn how to recover.

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. Start 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.

Warning

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 20.04 LTS 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. Follow the instructions below.

  1. Install Docker Engine on Ubuntu.
  2. Install Docker Compose.

After installing Docker and Docker Compose you can follow our DigitalOcean instructions from running git clone https://github.com/getodk/central. 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.

Installing on Windows

We strongly recommend using Linux, preferably the latest Ubuntu Server LTS, as the host operating system (natively or in a virtual machine) for your Central install.

If you wish to use Windows as the host, 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.

The major differences are that you'll first need to install Git, Node.js, Docker, and Docker Compose. You'll also need to clone the Central repository with the correct line endings: git clone -c core.autocrlf=false https://github.com/getodk/central.