Self Hosting

Hosting the CHT on self run infrastracture

Whether run on bare-metal or in a cloud provider, the Community Health Toolkit (CHT) core framework has been packaged into a docker container to make it portable and easy to install. It is available from dockerhub. To learn more how to work with docker you could follow the tutorial here and the cheat sheet here.

Installing with a compose file

The CHT containers are installed using docker compose so that you can run multiple containers as a single service.

Start by choosing the location where you would like to save your compose configuration file. Then create the docker-compose.yml file by cding into the correct directory and running:

curl -s -o docker-compose.yml

The install requires an admin password that it will configure in the database. You need to provide this externally as an environment variable. Before you run the compose file, you need to export this variable as shown below.


You can then run docker-compose in the folder where you put your compose docker-compose.yml file. To start, run it interactively to see all the logs on screen and be able to stop the containers with ctrl + c:

sudo docker-compose up 

If there are no errors, stop the containers with ctrl + c and then run it detached with -d:

sudo docker-compose up -d

Note In certain shells, docker-compose may not interpolate the admin password that was exported in DOCKER_COUCHDB_ADMIN_PASSWORD. Check if this is the case by searching the logs in the medic-os dockers instance. If the docker logs medic-os command below returns a user and password, then the export above failed, and you should use this user and password to complete the installation:

docker logs medic-os  |grep 'New CouchDB Admin'
Info: New CouchDB Administrative User: medic
Info: New CouchDB Administrative Password: password

Monitor the logs until you get the Setting up software (100% complete) message. At this stage all containers are fully set up.

Once containers are setup, please run the following command from your host terminal:

sudo docker exec -it medic-os /bin/bash -c "sed -i 's/--install=3.9.0/--complete-install/g' /srv/scripts/horticulturalist/postrun/horticulturalist"
sudo docker exec -it medic-os /bin/bash -c "/boot/svc-disable medic-core openssh && /boot/svc-disable medic-rdbms && /boot/svc-disable medic-couch2pg"

The first command fixes a postrun script for horticulturalist to prevent unique scenarios of re-install. The second command removes extra services that you will not need.

Visit your project

If you’re running this on your local machine, then open a browser to https://localhost. Otherwise open a browser to the public IP of the host if it’s running remotely.

You will have to click to through the SSL Security warning. Click “Advanced” -> “Continue to site”.

Clean up and re-install

If some instructions were missed and there’s a broken CHT deployment, use the commands below to start afresh:

  1. Stop containers: docker stop medic-os && docker stop haproxy

  2. Remove containers: docker rm medic-os && docker rm haproxy

  3. Clean data volume:docker volume rm medic-data

    Note: Running docker-compose -f docker-compose.yml down -v would do all the above 3 steps

  4. Prune system: docker system prune

After following the above commands, you can re-run docker-compose up and create a clean install: docker-compose -f docker-compose.yml up -d

Port Conflicts

In case you are already running services on HTTP(80) and HTTPS(443),you will have to either remap ports to the medic-os container or stop the services using those ports.

To find out which service is using a conflicting port: On Linux:

sudo netstat -plnt | grep ':<port>'

On Mac (10.10 and above):

sudo lsof -iTCP -sTCP:LISTEN -n -P | grep ':<port>'

You can either kill the service which is occupying HTTP/HTTPS ports, or run the container with forwarded ports that are free. In your compose file, change the ports under medic-os:

    container_name: medic-os
    image: medicmobile/medic-os:cht-3.7.0-rc.1
      - medic-data:/srv
     - 8080:80
     - 444:443

Turn off and remove all existing containers that were started:

sudo docker-compose -f /path/to/docker-compose.yml down

Bring Up the containers in detached mode with the new forwarded ports.

sudo docker-compose -f /path/to/docker-compose.yml up -d

Note: You can substitute 8080, 444 with whichever ports are free on your host. You would now visit https://localhost:444 to visit your project.

Data storage & persistence

Docker containers are stateless by design. In order to persist your data when a container restarts you need to specify the volumes that the container can use to store data. The CHT app stores all its data in the /srv folder. This is the folder that you need to map to your volume before you spin up your containers.

Ideally you should map this folder to a volume that is backed up regularly by your cloud hosting provider.

The example below shows how to map this folder in Ubuntu:

  1. Create the /srv folder: sudo mkdir /srv

  2. Mount your volume to this folder: sudo mount /dev/xvdg /srv . The attached volume number varies. Find your volume by running lsblk.

  3. Update your compose file so that the containers store data to this folder

        container_name: medic-os
        image: medicmobile/medic-os:cht-3.9.0-rc.2
          - /srv:/srv
        container_name: haproxy
        image: medicmobile/haproxy:rc-1.17
          - /srv:/srv 

Alternatively, can create the /srv folder on any drive with enough space that is regularly backed up. Then map the path to the folder in the compose file like this.

      - /path/to/srv:/srv

Be sure to check the available storage space regularly and expand your volume when needed


Regular backups should be made of the /srv directory to have holistic and easy to restore copies of all important data and the current CHT version installed. To backup just the data and not the CHT, make copies of /srv/storage/medic-core/. This directory includes 4 key sub-directies:

  • ./couchdb
  • ./openssh
  • ./nginx
  • ./passwd

To make backups of just CouchDB data outside of the CHT docker infrastructure, please see CouchDB’s Backup docs for 2.3.1. Please note:

  • CouchDB data files are in /srv/storage/medic-core/couchdb/data in the medic-os container.
  • Backing up via replication is discouraged as restored DBs can cause offline users to restart replication from zero. Use file backups instead.