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New Operators Tutorial

This tutorial assumes you understand the frequently asked questions as well as the moving parts of the technical problems Co-op Cloud solves. If yes, proceed 😄

Deploy your first app

In order to deploy an app you need two things:

  1. a server with SSH access and a public IP address
  2. a domain name pointing to that server

This tutorial tries to help you make choices about which server and which DNS setup you need to run a Co-op Cloud deployment but it does not go into great depth about how to set up a new server.

Can abra help automate this?

Our abra tool can help bootstrap new servers & configure DNS records for you. We'll skip that for now since we're just getting started. For more on these topics after you finish the tutorial see the operators handbook.

Server setup

Co-op Cloud has itself near zero system requirements. You only need to worry about the system resource usage of your apps and the overhead of running containers with the docker runtime (often negligible. If you want to know more, see this FAQ entry).

We will deploy a new Nextcloud instance in this guide, so you will only need 1GB of RAM according to their documentation. You may also be interested in this FAQ entry if you are curious about security in the context of containers.

Most Co-op Cloud deployments have been run on Debian machines so far. Some experiments have been done on single board computers & servers with low resource capacities.

You need to keep port :80 and :443 free on your server for web proxying to your apps. Typically, you don't need to keep any other ports free as the core web proxy (Traefik) keeps all app ports internal to its network. Sometimes however, you need to expose an app port when you need to use a transport which would perform better or more reliably without proxying.

abra has support for creating servers (abra server new) but that is a more advanced automation feature which is covered in the handbook. For this tutorial, we'll focus on the basics. Assuming you've managed to create a testing VPS with some $hosting_provider, you'll need to install Docker, add your user to the Docker group & setup swarm mode:

You may need to log in/out

When running usermod ..., you may need to (depending on your system) log in and out again of your shell session to get the required permissions for Docker.

# docker install convenience script
wget -O- | bash

# add user to docker group
sudo usermod -aG docker $USER

# setup swarm
docker swarm init
docker network create -d overlay proxy
Do you support multiple web proxies?

We do not know if it is feasible and convenient to set things up on an existing server with another web proxy which uses ports :80 & :443. We'd happily receive reports and documentation on how to do this if you manage to set it up!

DNS setup

You'll need two A records, one to point to the server itself and another to support sub-domains for the apps. You can then support an app hosted on your root domain (e.g. and other apps on sub-domains (e.g.,

Your entries in your DNS provider setup might look like the following.

@  1800 IN A
*. 1800 IN A

Where can be replaced with the IP address of your server.

How do I know my DNS is working?

You can use a tool like dig on the command-line to check if your server has the necessary DNS records set up. Something like dig +short <domain> should show the IP address of your server if things are working.

Install abra

Now we can install abra locally on your machine and hook it up to your server. We support a script-based installation method (script source):

curl | bash

The installer will verify the downloaded binary checksum. If you prefer, you can manually verify the binary, and then manally place it in one the directories in your $PATH variable. To validate that everything is working try listing the --help command or -h to view output:

abra -h 

You may need to add the ~/.local/bin/ directory to your $PATH variable, in order to run the executable.

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/.local/bin

If you run into issues during installation, please report a ticket 🙏 Once you're all set up, we highly recommend configuring command-line auto-completion for abra. See abra autocomplete -h for more on how to do this.

Can I install abra on my server?

Yes, this is possible. However, the instructions for this setup are different. For more info see this handbook entry.

Add your server

Now you can connect abra with your server. You should have a working SSH configuration before you can do this (e.g. a matching Host <server-domain> entry in ~/.ssh/config with the correct SSH connection details). That means you can run ssh <server-domain> on your command-line and everything Works ™.

ssh <server-domain> # make sure it works
abra server add <server-domain>

It is important to note that <domain> here is a publicy accessible domain name which points to your server IP address. abra does make sure this is the case and this is done to avoid issues with HTTPS certificate rate limiting.

You will now have a new ~/.abra/ folder on your local file system which stores all the configuration of your Co-op Cloud instance.

By now abra should have registered this server as managed. To confirm this run:

abra server ls
Beware of SSH dragons 🐲

Under the hood abra uses plain 'ol ssh and aims to make use of your existing SSH configurations in ~/.ssh/config and interfaces with your running ssh-agent for password protected secret key files.

Running server add with -d or --debug should help you debug what is going on under the hood. If you're running into SSH connection issues with abra take a moment to read this troubleshooting entry.

How do I share my configs in ~/.abra?

It's possible and quite easy, for more see this handbook entry.

Web proxy setup

In order to have your Co-op cloud deployment serve the public internet, we need to install the core web proxy, Traefik.

Traefik is the main entrypoint for all web requests (e.g. like NGINX) and supports automatic SSL certificate configuration and other quality-of-life features which make deploying libre apps more enjoyable.

1. To get started, you'll need to create a new app:

abra app new traefik

Choose your newly registered server and specify a domain name. By default abra will suggest <app-name> or prompt you with a list of servers.

2. Configure this new traefix app

You will want to take a look at your generated configuration and tweak the LETS_ENCRYPT_EMAIL value. You can do that by running abra app config:

abra app config <traefik-domain>

Every app you deploy will have one of these .env files, which contains variables which will be injected into app configurations when deployed. These files exist at relevantly named path:


Variables starting with # are optional, others are required. Some things to consider here is that by default our Traefik recipe exposes the metric dashboard unauthenticated on the public internet at the URL <traefik-domain> it is deployed to, which is not ideal. You can disable this with:


3. Now it is time to deploy your app:

abra app deploy <traefik-domain>

Voila. Abracadabra 🪄 your first app is deployed ✨

Deploy Nextcloud

And now we can deploy apps. Let's create a new Nextcloud app.

abra app new nextcloud -S

The -S or --secrets flag is used to generate secrets for the app: database connection password, root password and admin password.

Beware of password dragons 🐉

Take care, these secrets are only shown once on the terminal so make sure to take note of them! abra makes use of the Docker secrets mechanism to ship these secrets securely to the server and store them as encrypted data. Only the apps themselves have access to the values from here on, they're placed in /run/secrets on the container file system.

Then we can deploy Nextcloud:

abra app deploy <nextcloud-domain>

abra app deploy will wait nearly a minute for an app to deploy until it times out and shows some helpful commands for how to debug what is going on. If things don't come up in time, try running the following:

abra app ps -w <nextcloud-domain>     # status check
abra app logs <nextcloud-domain>      # logs trailing
abra app errors -w <nextcloud-domain> # error catcher

Your new traefik instance will detect that a new app is coming up and generate SSL certificates for it. You can see what traefik is up to using the same commands above but replacing <netcloud-domain> with the <traefik-domain> you chose earlier (abra app ls will remind you what domains you chose 😀).

Upgrade Nextcloud

To upgrade an app manually to the newest available version run:

abra app upgrade <nextcloud-domain>

Automatic Upgrades

kadabra the auto-updater is still under development, use it with care and don't use it in production environments. To setup the auto-updater copy the kadabra binary to the server and configure a cronjob for regular app upgrades. The following script will configure ssmtp for email notifications and setup a cronjob. This cronjob checks daily for new app versions, notifies if any kind of update is available and upgrades all apps to the latest patch/minor version.

apt install ssmtp

cat > /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf << EOF

cat > /etc/cron.d/abra_updater << EOF

0  6 * * *       root    ~/kadabra notify --major
30 4 * * *       root    ~/kadabra upgrade --all

Add ENABLE_AUTO_UPDATE=true to the env config (abra app config <app name>) to enable the auto-updater for a specific app.

Finishing up

Hopefully you got something running! Well done! The operators handbook would probably be the next place to go check out if you're looking for more help. Especially on topics of ongoing maintenance.

If not, please get in touch or raise a ticket and we'll try to help out. We want our operator onboarding to be as smooth as possible, so we do appreciate any feedback we receive.