Let’s configure Cloudron!

Once the process is finished, click the IP address (those numbers) to copy it your clipboard.

Paste the IP address into your browser’s URL bar.

Do not include http://www. or anything else

This is an existing install so it’s showing me a preview – it will not do this for you+

If you get a message saying the site is not secure, press “Advanced” and then “Continue” – you should only see this message when you first setup the server. You should see Cloudron’s DNS Setup page. We are now going to connect the domain name you created earlier to our server.

Type in your domain name, select Cloudflare, then API Token, and paste in the API token you saved to Notepad or Sticky Notes earlier. Then click Save. After a few moments, you should be prompted to create your Cloudron username and password. Your email must be valid – double check it!

After that, you’ll want to create a Cloudron.io account. This is the account you’ll use to pay for a license to Cloudron (or try it for free). After that, you should now be able to see the App Store! Let’s try installing an app.

Let’s install WordPress!

Click App Store, select WordPress and click Install. On the next screen, you’ll be prompted for a location and user management settings.

We’ll get back to user management later, so feel free to leave that for now. Location is what will appear before your domain name, creating the location of the app. For example, wordpress.socialism.tools links to this WordPress installation (to set a default app that your users will see if they just type the domain name, just the location field blank – but remember, you can only have one of those! I have WordPress set up with both a WordPress prefix and as the blank domain.)

Press Install and wait a few moments. Congratulations, you’ve just installed WordPress! You can use WordPress to have a web page for your chapter, write blog posts, and send out emails. WordPress is a huge, powerful tool, so we won’t cover it all in this post.

Before we continue – a word about updates

You may have heard of WordPress before – in perhaps not in a flattering light. As WordPress is very popular, attacks that target WordPress installations are also popular, as many are not updated when new vulnerabilities are found. Luckily, Cloudron makes it easy to keep WordPress updated and secure – you only need to click the green “Update” arrow when you see it:

The update indicator button

After pressing the button, you’ll be taken to the Updates tab of the app’s Settings page.

Update tab of this WordPress install

Click the green “Update available” button to run the update (it will also run automatically if you wait long enough). Remember that whatever is updating will be briefly unavailable, so try to make sure many other people aren’t using the software when you do it. This update process applies to all Cloudron software, not just WordPress.

After clicking the update button, Cloudron will show you a changelog:

Make sure nothing is alarming, and then click “Update”.

Let’s Chat!

I recommend using Rocket Chat or Matrix as your Slack replacement. Cloudron offers both.

Matrix (Synapse + Element)

Matrix is a protocol; it requires a server (Synapse) and a client (Element) to function. Matrix is designed with decentralization in mind, meaning it is designed to function as a network of servers, of which your installation is one node. This is great for a lot of purposes but can be confusing for people who are less tech-savvy, and it’s not designed with the same ideas in mind as Slack replacements like Rocket Chat and Mattermost.

That being said, Matrix has a lot of energy behind it and is improving constantly. Matrix’s usability has improved drastically over the past year, but if you want something simple Rocket Chat is recommended. This guide will focus on Rocket Chat, but if you want to use the advanced privacy, security, and collaboration features Matrix offers and aren’t afraid of just a bit of extra work, check out our Matrix guide.

Install & Configure Rocket Chat

RocketChat is an excellent open-source Slack alternative that’s easy to use and includes everything your chapter needs to chat together. If you’ve used Slack before, you’ll feel at home with Rocket Chat – you can even import your old Slack messages!

Install Rocket Chat the same way you installed WordPress – just head to the app store and click Install! Consider setting the location to chat.yourdomain to make things simple.

Once Rocket Chat is installed, you will need to set it up. Please follow the first-time set up instructions that appear on the app’s modal:

I strongly recommend registering your server with Rocket Chat. It includes a ton of things you need, is easy to register, and is free!

Very large chapters, with multiple mobile device developers, are the only people that should choose Standalone, and even then, it’s a lot of work. Standalone gives you the opportunity to access a couple of additional features, but it’s significantly more work to maintain and requires far, far more technical knowledge of mobile app development to setup.

Congratulations! Let’s get into your Rocket Chat workspace. First, let’s finish registering your server with Rocket Chat. Click the three-dot menu in the top left corner, and then click Administration.

Click “Connectivity Services”

Now, open up a new tab and check your email (the one listed on this screen). You’ll have an email that looks like this:

Click the blue button and create a Rocket Chat Cloud account if you don’t have one. Once you’re done, you should be on the Workspaces screen in your Rocket Chat Cloud account. Click the blue box and press “Register self-managed”

Select Internet access, Continue, then copy the code that appears. Go back to your Rocket Chat instance and enter the code in the Token box and press Connect. It should then look like this:

Press the blue button and authorize your server. When you’re done with that, your Connectivity Services should look like this:

Awesome! You now have a Slack replacement complete with mobile notifications, app integrations, and more! I’ll build a separate guide for a more advanced Rocket Chat configuration. For now, let’s create a simple announcement channel. Select the “new” button, then Channel, and then Broadcast Channel.

Note how it says only certain users will be able to post. You can control user roles under Settings > Users > Click a user to edit > scroll down to roles. We’ll cover more advanced Rocket Chat configuration in another guide.

Let’s set up Email!

Email is more complicated than anything else here. Before we go in-depth on Cloudron’s email services and how they interact with your apps, I want to take a moment to familiarize you with the main concepts of email routing.

We are going to be enabling the SMTP server in Cloudron. SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, and it is anything but simple in practice. Luckily, Cloudron handles the hard parts for us, but there is one thing it cannot help with – your IP reputation.

A quick note on IP reputation

As you recall, when you created your VPS you first accessed it with its IP address. Nearly all mail systems, including Cloudron itself, compare incoming emails against IP denylists. There are public IP denylists and private ones, but all email servers use IP denylists in one way or another to gauge how trustworthy your IP is.

To illustrate how they work, I’m going to use a Gmail user on your server as an example. Let’s say Alex sets up his Rocket Chat account with his email, [email protected] Rocket Chat will send his two-factor login code from Cloudron to Gmail. Gmail will analyze the message – using a huge variety of factors like sending IP, message content, and Alex’s preferences, to determine 1) if it reaches their inbox at all and 2) where it will go if it does.

Let’s start with sending IP. There are a limited number of IPv4 addresses, so big hosting providers, such as Digital Ocean, are forced to re-use them. It is also possible to detect what “block” an IP comes from – so Gmail knows your message is coming from Digital Ocean. Unfortunately, spammers use virtually all VPS services to send spam, so these companies usually do not have very reputable IPs to begin with. This usually isn’t enough to prevent your message from being received by Alex’s Gmail account, but it may send it to their spam folder.

If you want to avoid this problem, a much more reliable way to send mail is via a “transactional email service” such as Mailgun. These companies go to great lengths to protect their IP reputation, and so your messages have a better chance of being delivered. They also cost money, but not too much (roughly a dollar per thousand emails for Mailgun, or $35/mo for a very advanced plan with 50,000 mails per month which only the largest chapters would need). To keep costs low and this guide short, we’re going to stick with the built-in SMTP server to send mail and hope for the best. A guide on setting up Mailgun is coming soon.

How to use Cloudron’s Email services

By default, Cloudron will just be configured to send mail. This is all you need for your apps to send things like password reset emails or two-factor codes. After a few changes, you can turn Cloudron into a full-service email provider, with email inboxes, delegation, and many more features.

Setup

Setup is easy. Open the Cloudron menu (your name, in the top right) and click Email. Then click Enable.

Cloudron should automatically configure all your email DNS records for you! It may take a few minutes (and sometimes a few hours) to fully take effect. You can click the Status screen to ensure everything is configured correctly:

I hit an issue where ethics where some of the records (SPF and DMARC) did not get applied for whatever reason (I was also very impatient and only waited about 30 minutes). If, after a day, you still aren’t seeing these records in Cloudflare, click the record and Cloudron will show you exactly what it’s expecting to see – then enter that information into Cloudflare under DNS.

That’s it! You can view the post from Cloudron on troubleshooting emails for more help if you need it.

Using your new email account

After your email is ready to go, you can create a mailbox. Mailboxes are based on Cloudron accounts and tied to a domain. Remember – your emails live in the Cloudron service itself, not with any single app.

To begin, click “Email” in the Cloudron menu.

Dark mode seems a bit goofy here, but the pencil icon is on the far right for my domain.

Click the pencil icon next to the domain to add things like mailboxes, mailing lists, and catch-alls.

You can create accounts under the Users tab, but we’ll go over that more next – let’s start with you as the admin. Click “Add” in the mailboxes menu.

Now, on to the hard part – document collaboration!

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