Deploy Zulip on Ubuntu

Zulip is an open source chat software for teams, and is an excellent self-hosted alternative to Slack.

In this tutorial, we’ll install Zulip on an Ubuntu server; the steps will work with Ubuntu 16.04 or Ubuntu 18.04. In the end, we’ll have a website like this:

Awesome, huh? Alright, let’s get started! Don’t worry — this will be quick because the Zulip developers made the installation process super easy!

Download and extract the latest Zulip release:

cd /tmp
tar -xf zulip-server-latest.tar.gz

If you have a domain name, configure the DNS on a subdomain to point to your server, and run the Zulip installer, replacing with your subdomain:

sudo ./zulip-server-*/scripts/setup/install --certbot [email protected]

Zulip will automatically acquire a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt.

If you don’t have a domain name or subdomain, you can install Zulip with a self-signed SSL certificate and access it directly with your server’s IP address, but you’ll get an SSL warning in the browser (replace A.B.C.D with your server IP):

sudo ./zulip-server-*/scripts/setup/install --self-signed-cert [email protected] --hostname=A.B.C.D

The installation will take several minutes. After it’s done, the installer will pop out a URL to setup our Zulip website:

Please visit the following secure single-use link to register your 
new Zulip organization:

Open up the link in a browser. There will be a page asking us to create a new Zulip organization:

Fill out your e-mail address and press Create organization. The setup page will ask for a few more details like the organization name; fill out those as well. After that, we’re done, and you’ll be redirected to your Zulip app!

Configure Email

Right now, we have a big red bar telling us that we need to configure email. So let’s do that!

If you don’t have an SMTP server for your domain, install one on the server:

sudo apt install -y postfix

Edit /etc/zulip/; update the settings under “Outgoing email (SMTP) settings”. If you installed Postfix, then update the settings like this:

# EMAIL_HOST and EMAIL_HOST_USER are generally required.
EMAIL_HOST = 'localhost'

# Passwords and secrets are not stored in this file.  The password
# for user EMAIL_HOST_USER goes in `/etc/zulip/zulip-secrets.conf`.
# In that file, set `email_password`.  For example:
#   email_password = abcd1234

# EMAIL_USE_TLS and EMAIL_PORT are required for most SMTP providers.

(If you’re not using local Postfix, you may need to enter the SMTP password in /etc/zulip/zulip-secrets.conf under email_password.)

Then, restart Zulip:

sudo -u zulip /home/zulip/deployments/current/scripts/restart-server

After Zulip comes back online, go back to the browser window where Zulip is open; you should now be able to invite users to your Zulip app by clicking “Invite more users”!

Happy chatting!