Start Here: Installing Discourse with dashboard

dashboard is still new, but I have been using it to perform an increasing number of Discourse maintenance tasks that I do for my clients.

Installing Discourse with dashboard

To install Discourse, you need 3 things:

  • A domain name that you control and can add A, TXT, and MX records for. You usually manage your DNS settings at the same place you bought it.
  • A Virtual Machine. Digital Ocean is recommended.
  • An email delivery service. Mailgun is recommended.

When you have those things, you can move forward with installing Discourse.

Click the image link at the top of the page. This page will list the servers you are managing with dashboard. If you don’t have any, you can click the :heavy_plus_sign: add a server button. Then click the server name to configure it.

When you click in any field that you need to configure, dashboard offers an explanation in the right-hand pane. You provide your hostname, API keys for Digital Ocean and Mailgun, and size and location of your Digital Ocean droplet. When that is done, you click a button, dashboard will create the “droplet”, configure Mailgun, and send you an email with DNS instructions. When you have made the DNS changes, dashboard will continue installing Discourse just as if you had followed the steps described in the Official “INSTALL-cloud” document, aka an Official Install.

What happens after the installlation is complete?

After the installation is complete, you can use dashboard to do a “./launcher rebuild app” as well as install plugins. dashboard will do the steps described in Install Plugins in Discourse - admins - Discourse Meta.

If you prefer, you can use the Digital Ocean console to connect to your server and manage it as described in dozens of topics at https://meta.discourse.org.

Can I use a different hosting service?

If whatever hosting service you have includes cPanel or Plesk, the answer is “not very easily, and not with dashboard.”

You need a real VM with shell access, root privileges, and the ability to install and run Docker. If you are not sure about anything in the previous sentence, you should use Digital Ocean.

Can I use a different email delivery service?

You can, but you are on your own for getting it and the required DNS entries properly configured, providing SMTP credentials, and the address that Discourse can use to send its emails.

Purchasing a New Installation

If you are not familiar with installing Discourse, these instructions should answer some questions. The various links here (e.g., to where to get API keys and such) are presented when you need them during the process, so if the information below makes sense to you, you should be able to get going now! (And if not, please let us know by posting here.

Here are the steps:

  • Create an account here and log in.

  • Use this link to create a Digital Ocean account if you do not have one already. That referral link will give you a $100/60 day credit. When you have validated your email address and entered your credit card, go to the API Page and generate a token. Leave that page open or copy the token so you can use it here later.

  • Create your account at Mailgun and visit settings/API keys to retrieve your Private API Key

Once you have gotten done that, dashboard should help you figure out the rest, but here is what you will do:

  • Enter your desired hostname. It is recommended that you use a subdomain like “forum” or “www” rather than the bare domain. See Why use www? | www. is not deprecated and http://forcewww.com/ for more information.)

  • Go to the Digital Ocean API page and click the Generate New Token button to generate a new API key (if you do not still have it available). After you generate it, you’ll copy and paste the token into the Digital Ocean API key field on the server page.

  • Similarly, get your Mailgun Private API key from the Settings/API Keys link on the nav bar. (It does not need to be re-generated–there is only one.) Paste it in to the the appriate field.

  • Choose a droplet size. Many people get by with the $5/month 1GB option, but I recommend the $12/month AMD servers if you can afford it.

  • When you have filled in the required information the Install on new droplet button will appear and you can click it to initiate the installation.

  • After a minute or two you will receive an email with DNS instructions. (We’re working on including those instructions in the web interface, as well as creating them automatically for some DNS providers.)

  • When the DNS records have been created and Mailgun approves your domain, the installation will continue. It takes about 15 minutes. When it is complete you’ll see that the task has finished and you’ll receive an “Your Discourse Installation is complete!” email.

You now have an official supported install as described here!

Once that it done, you can use dashboard to add/remove plugins, perform command line upgrades (using exactly the same ./launcher rebuild app command that you will see on meta.discourse.org), set Environment variables to override Discourse settings and more.