Production Environment

In the communicative workflow chapter, you will learn that all content revolves around one production instance of the app. It is both the place you build the content structure of your sites, but it is also the app that hosts the live versions of the sites you build.

This guide is really only for one developer on your team. You should only need one production instance of Sapwood, and therefore you only need to do this one time. If this is already setup for your team, then head over and get your local environment up and running.

Let's look at how to setup your production server, and get Sapwood running on the server.

Like the rest of these guides, this assumes you know your way around a Ruby on Rails project. This section, in particular, assumes you've had to deploy a RoR project.

Server Requirements

Choosing A Server

If your experience in deploying projects is strictly using Heroku or a shared environment like you have with Bluehost, then you'll need to change a bit here. This guide covers installing Sapwood on a dedicated private server. Shared servers and Heroku are not supported.

If that sounds expensive, it's because it usually is. Fortunately, there are some awesome companies like Digital Ocean popping up. Digital Ocean offers dedicated, virtual private servers starting at $5 per month.

Operating System

Sapwood will work wherever you can run a Ruby on Rails project. For reference, I develop on Mac OS X Yosemite, while my production servers run Ubuntu 14.04.

For this guide, we're going to assume you're working with an Ubuntu/Debian installation. Obviously, you can use Sapwood in production with other operating systems, but you'll have to find the equivalent packages.

Minimum Specifications

The minimum specs for your server are somewhat open-ended. Obviously, the faster the better, but here's what I am running.

  • Ubuntu 14.04 x64
  • 1GB RAM
  • 4GB Swapfile
  • 30GB SSD Disk
  • 1 CPU

While Rails is scalable, it takes some extra configuration with your web server and perhaps multiple machines. This isn't shown here and a concurrency scenario hasn't yet been tested.

Therefore, if you have a high-traffic site you are going to build using Sapwood, I'd love to hear your story and the obstacles you overcame.

This also means Sapwood doesn't guarantee mileage with high-traffic sites. One production instance of Sapwood is known to be running 5 small sites, and still performing (subjectively) well. Caching and concurrency are on the roadmap.

Server Preparation

Required Packages/Programs

At this point, we're assuming you know how to prepare a production server.

If you've never done this sort of thing before, then check out my one-command install script.

You will need the ensure the following is true on your machine.

  • deploy user with full sudo privileges
  • ssh access to the server on any port

We need a handful of packages. You're probably best to just run this command:

$ sudo apt-get -y install build-essential zlib1g-dev libssl-dev libreadline-gplv2-dev python-software-properties make libxml2 libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev imagemagick libmagickwand-dev nodejs libmagic-dev

In addition, you need the following programs.

Configure Git

It's easiest if your server has its own Git identity. We recommend creating a unique key for each server that has a unique sapwood installation, as it makes them easier to manage and it's a little more secure.

First, ensure you don't already have a key.

$ ls -al ~/.ssh

If you don't see an id_rsa and a file in there, then you're good to go.

Following the GitHub tutorial, let's generate the key.

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C [email_address]

The email address doesn't actually have to be an email address, especially for a deploy key. You can make it unique to your server, like the following example.

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C rtcms01

You'll see the following message.

Enter file in which to save the key (/home/deploy/.ssh/id_rsa):

Just hit enter. That's where we want that file.

Then it asks you to create a passphrase for the private key.

Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):

NOTICE: While it is typically recommended you create the passphrase, you want to skip that step here so Git doesn't prompt us when we're running commands behind the scenes.

Next, you'll want to ensure your server's Git identity is configured. You just need a fake name and a fake email address. Something like the following will work.

$ git config --global "rtcms01"
$ git config --global ""

The last thing you should do is add that key as a deploy key on your git server. This step could differ greatly depending on the application you use to manage your git repositories.

Setup PostgreSQL

Install PostgreSQL

You'll want to do this on your production server, since your development server doesn't use a database.

$ sudo apt-get -y install postgresql libpq-dev postgresql-contrib

Add Database User

Next, let's add the database user. Make note of the username and password you are using.

$ sudo -u postgres psql

postgres=# CREATE ROLE [db_user] LOGIN CREATEDB PASSWORD '[db_pass]';

Open for Remote Connections

The communicative workflow is all about being able to talk with the production database from your development environment(s). To do that, we need to open up PostgreSQL to allow for remote connections.

There are two config files you need to adjust:


# add this to the bottom of the file
host    all             all                  trust
# change this
listen_addresses = 'localhost'          # what IP address(es) to listen on;

# to this
listen_addresses = '*'          # what IP address(es) to listen on;

Then enable 5432 port if you're using ufw:

$ sudo ufw allow 5432

And restart postgres:

$ sudo service postgresql restart

Application Setup

Now you have a working server and it's time to install Sapwood and configure some other items on your server.

Clone Repository

First, let's make a directory for our application.

$ mkdir ~/apps

WARNING: While you can place the project elsewhere if you know what you're doing, the location of the project is tied to a few of these steps.

Next, clone the repo from GitHub.

$ cd ~/apps
$ git clone -b release

Note: This is moving you directly to the release branch of the project. This is the latest stable release on the current major version.

Configure Database

First, configure the database to your environment (production in this case).

$ cp config/database.sample.yml config/database.yml
$ vim config/database.yml

Note: You can use whichever editor you'd prefer. We like vim, but usually nano is easier for beginners.

We need a production database, so your config should look something like this:


  adapter: postgresql
  database: [db_name]
  username: [username]
  password: [password]
  encoding: unicode
  host: localhost
  pool: 5
  timeout: 5000

Here, replace [username], [password] and [db_name] with your values.

Note: You're likely going to need to change the socket path from the default. If you're following this tutorial, then the socket path shown above should work fine.

Configure App Settings

Next, let's change the general application config.

DEPRECATION NOTICE: The config file will be deprecated and built into the app in an upcoming release.

$ cp config/sapwood.sample.yml config/sapwood.yml
$ vim config/sapwood.yml

Add a value for all the blank values, and customize anything you wish. You can learn more about this file here.

Install Gems

Install the gems using Bundler.

$ bundle install --without development test

Create Database

Create and migrate the database.

$ RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:create
$ RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake db:migrate

Precompile Assets

Precompile the assets.

$ RAILS_ENV=production bundle exec rake assets:precompile

Configure Unicorn and Nginx

Move unicorn script to its proper location and update.

$ sudo cp lib/deploy/unicorn_init /etc/init.d/unicorn_sapwood
$ sudo cp lib/deploy/unicorn.rb config/unicorn.rb
$ sudo update-rc.d -f unicorn_sapwood defaults

Start the unicorn workers (your rails server).

$ mkdir -p tmp/pids
$ sudo service unicorn_sapwood start

Add and edit the nginx configuration.

$ sudo cp lib/deploy/nginx /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/sapwood
$ sudo rm /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default
$ sudo vim /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/sapwood

You'll want to change and uncomment the following line to reflect the domain name you're going to use.


# server_name;

This is the domain name to the builder portion of the app, NOT a site you're going to create using Sapwood.

Restart nginx.

$ sudo service nginx restart

Give It A Whirl

At this point, you should be up and running in production. If you hit a bump along the way, let us know. Otherwise, you're off to the races. Check out some of the other docs on how to use sapwood.


It is a lot to write and maintain and it's a lot to ask of you to do manually to get this thing up and running. I'd love to simplify these docs to essentially enable our users to install with just a few commands.

If you're up for the challenge, I'm looking to package the development and production installation processes into just a few scripts using a similar approach as we have with Ripen.

Send me a note if you're interested.