Installing ODK Central#

There are two ways to get access to a Central install. You can pay for official managed hosting on ODK Cloud, or if you are technical, you can self-host Central for free on your own infrastructure.

The software is the same either way you choose, but there are important trade-offs to consider.

Self-hosting#

If you are comfortable with Linux server administration, you can self-host Central for free. And while Central is available at no cost, please account for your infrastructure expenses and the time needed for ongoing maintenance.

Note

To self-host Central, you must have a domain name (e.g., central.example.com) mapped to your server. For security reasons, Central will not work with just an IP address (e.g., 93.184.216.34).

Tip

We offer ODK Support packages for large organizations who have a compliance or legal need to self-host, but don't want their staff to take on the added cost and responsibility of keeping a Central install fast, reliable, and secure. Pricing starts at $19K/year. Email support@getodk.org for a quote.

Installing on DigitalOcean#

If you want to self-host but you're not sure what cloud provider to choose, we recommend DigitalOcean. Start here.

Installing elsewhere#

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 AWS#

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 1 GB 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. Regardless of how much memory you select, we also recommend 1 GB of swap and a minimum of 15 GB of disk storage.

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.

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