How to Install Moodle with Apache2 and Cloudflare CDN / SSL on Ubuntu 16.04 / 18.04

Moodle, a free and open source course management system (CMS) works great out of the box after installing… However, to give your students and users the best experience, you may want to consider using Cloudflare CDN, SSL and protection…

Cloudflare provides free and paid features that help speed up websites, offers free CDN and SSL services that protect millions of websites and domains online and many more…

If you’re a student or new user running Moodle CMS and want to take advantage of all the great features Cloudflare offers, the steps below should help you get there…

This brief tutorial will show students and new user a step by step guide on how to setup Moodle websites and use Cloudflare’s CDN, free SSL and security features to help improve their website performance and protect their sites against malicious actors..

This setup might take a while to complete and the process below should work on other websites as well… It doesn’t have to be Moodle… This setup should work on other CMSs and plain HTML sites out of the box…When you’re ready to setup Moodle and Cloudflare, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Sign up for Cloudflare Account…

The first step in this tutorial is to sign up for Cloudflare service… This assumes that you already have registered a domain name.. If you don’t, then go and get one before continuing further…

Once you have a domain name, click on the link below to sign up for Cloudflare…

https://dash.cloudflare.com/sign-up

Type in your email address and click Create Account..

Cloudflare WordPress setup

Once the account is created and you’ve verified your email address and logged back into Cloudflare account, click the button or link (Add a Site) to add a site to your account…

Cloudflare WordPress setup

Next, type in the domain name you have registered… Cloudflare service will help speed up and protect the site you add…

Cloudflare WordPress setup

Next, Cloudflare will begin to query your domain DNS provider for the records in the DNS table… If the domain is online, Cloudflare should find it and import the records into your Cloudflare account…

Cloudflare WordPress setup

After that, select the plan you want to use for the site… For this tutorial, we’re going to be using Cloudflare free plan…

Cloudflare WordPress setup

When you’re done, you should see two nameservers provided to you by Cloudflare… What you need to do is logon to your domain provider’s portal… where you have your domain… and replace the nameservers with the ones Cloudflare gives you…

For example, our example.com site is hosted with Google Domains.. so we’ll logon to our Google Domains account and use custom nameservers… Then we’ll use the nameservers provided by Cloudflare and save..

Cloudflare WordPress Setup

Once you’ve saved your custom nameservers changes,  go back to your Cloudflare account and wait for Cloudflare to see the changes…. Depending on your domain provider, it make take up to an hour for Cloudflare to be visible…

Once all is ready, you’ll see your site status as Active..

When everything is done, you should also see your Cloudflare account with DNS entries as shown below… Your DNS records might have more entries then the two below.. but these two are the most important for running your website….

Cloudflare WordPress Setup

After that, click on Crypto tab and choose to enable Full (strict) SSL.. This should turn on SSL for the site…

Cloudflare WordPress Setup

Still under Crypto tab, scroll down to Origin Certificates… Then click the button to create certificate…

Use the free TLS certificate signed by Cloudflare to install on your origin server… Origin Certificates are only valid for encryption between Cloudflare and your origin server…

Next, choose to Let Cloudflare generate a private key and a CSR for the domain… Click Next…

WordPress Cloudflare

Then copy a paste these into a text file on onto your server…

On Ubuntu, run the commands below to create the key, certificate and origin pull files… Copy and paste each content into the respective file.. and save..

For the key file… run this, then copy and paste the key into the file and save…

sudo nano /etc/ssl/private/cloudflare_example.com.pem

For the certificate file, run this and copy and paste the certificate content into the file and save…

sudo /etc/ssl/certs/cloudflare_example.com.pem

You’ll also want to download Cloudflare Origin Pull certificate… You can download that from the link below:

https://support.cloudflare.com/hc/en-us/articles/204899617-Authenticated-Origin-Pulls#section6

Run th commands below to download it..

cd /etc/ssl/certs/
sudo wget https://support.cloudflare.com/hc/en-us/article_attachments/201243967/origin-pull-ca.pem

After that, you should have three files.. The server key, server certificate and the origin-pull certificate..

We will use these file in Apache2 config below

After saving the key, certificate and origin pull certificates files… continue below..

Still, under, Crypto enable Always use HTTPS and you may also change settings for HSTS but not necessary…

Next, turn on Authenticated Origin Pulls and Opportunistic Encryption, and continue..

Then, turn on Automatic HTTPS Rewrites and continue..

Next, move to the Speed tab, tune on Auto Minify for JavaScript, CSS and HTML.. and continue

Next, move to the Page Rules tab… then create a new rule for the site.. then type URL and choose Always Use HTTPS

http://* example.com/*

Alwyas Use HTTPS

Save your settings and you’re done with setting up Cloudflare..

Step 2: Install and Configure Moodle

Now that Cloudflare is configure, logon to your server and configure Moodle… First install Apache2 HTTP server since we’re using Apache2 for this post.. To install Apache2 server, run the commands below:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install apache2

After installing Apache2, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable Apache2 service to always start up with the server boots…

sudo systemctl stop apache2.service
sudo systemctl start apache2.service
sudo systemctl enable apache2.service

Now that Apache2 is installed…. to test whether the web server is working, open your browser and browse to the URL below…

https://localhost

Apache2 Test Page

If you see the page above, then Apache2 is successfully installed…

Step 3: Install MariaDB Database Server

Moodle also requires a database server to store its content… If you’re looking for a truly open source database server, then MariaDB is a great place to start… To install MariaDB run the commands below:

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

After installing MariaDB, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable MariaDB service to always start up when the server boots…

Run these on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS

sudo systemctl stop mysql.service
sudo systemctl start mysql.service
sudo systemctl enable mysql.service

Run these on Ubuntu 19.04 and 18.04 LTS

sudo systemctl stop mariadb.service
sudo systemctl start mariadb.service
sudo systemctl enable mariadb.service

Next, run the commands below to secure the database server with a root password if you were not prompted to do so during the installation…

sudo mysql_secure_installation

When prompted, answer the questions below by following the guide.

  • Enter current password for root (enter for none): Just press the Enter
  • Set root password? [Y/n]: Y
  • New password: Enter password
  • Re-enter new password: Repeat password
  • Remove anonymous users? [Y/n]: Y
  • Disallow root login remotely? [Y/n]: Y
  • Remove test database and access to it? [Y/n]:  Y
  • Reload privilege tables now? [Y/n]:  Y

Now that MariaDB is installed, to test whether the database server was successfully installed, run the commands below…

sudo mysql -u root -p

type the root password when prompted…

mariadb welcome

If you see a similar screen as shown above, then the server was successfully installed…

Step 4: Install PHP 7.2 and Related Modules

Moodle CMS is a PHP based CMS and PHP is required… However, PHP 7.2 may not be available in Ubuntu default repositories… To run PHP 7.2 on Ubuntu 16.04 and previous, you may need to run the commands below:

sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:ondrej/php

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.2

sudo apt update

Next, run the commands below to install PHP 7.2 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.2 libapache2-mod-php7.2 php7.2-common php7.2-gmp php7.2-curl php7.2-intl php7.2-mbstring php7.2-xmlrpc php7.2-mysql php7.2-gd php7.2-xml php7.2-cli php7.2-zip

After installing PHP 7.2, run the commands below to open PHP default configuration file for Apache2…

sudo nano /etc/php/7.2/apache2/php.ini

The lines below is a good settings for most PHP based CMS… Update the configuration file with these and save….

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
short_open_tag = On
memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 100M
max_execution_time = 360
date.timezone = America/Chicago

Everytime you make changes to PHP configuration file, you should also restart Apache2 web server… To do so, run the commands below:

sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Now that PHP is installed, to test whether it’s functioning, create a test file called phpinfo.php in Apache2 default root directory…. ( /var/www/html/)

sudo nano /var/www/html/phpinfo.php

Then type the content below and save the file.

<?php phpinfo( ); ?>

Next, open your browser and browse to the server’s hostname or IP address followed by phpinfo.php

http://localhost/phpinfo.php

You should see PHP default test page…

PHP Test Page

Step 5: Create Moodle Database

Now that you’ve installed all the packages that are required for Moodle to function, continue below to start configuring the servers. First run the commands below to create a blank Moodle database.

To logon to MariaDB database server, run the commands below.

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called moodle

CREATE DATABASE moodle;

Create a database user called moodleuser with a new password

CREATE USER 'moodleuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'new_password_here';

Then grant the user full access to the database.

GRANT ALL ON moodle.* TO 'moodleuser'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'user_password_here' WITH GRANT OPTION;

Finally, save your changes and exit.

FLUSH PRIVILEGES;
EXIT;

Step 6: Download Moodle Latest Release

To get Moodle latest release you may want to use Github repository… Install Curl and other dependencies to get started…

sudo apt install git curl

After installing git and curl above, change into the Apache2 root directory and download Moodle packages from Github… Always replace the branch number with the latest branch…. The current major version is 36….

cd /var/www/html
sudo git clone -b MOODLE_36_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git example.com
sudo mv moodle /var/www/html/

Then run the commands below to set the correct permissions for Moodle to function.

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/html/moodledata
sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/

Step 7: Configure Apache2

Finally, configure Apache2 site configuration file for Moodle. This file will control how users access Moodle content. Run the commands below to create a new configuration file called example.com.conf

sudo nano /etc/apache2/sites-available/example.com.conf

Then copy and paste the content below into the file and save it. Replace the highlighted line with your own domain name and directory root location…

Also make sure to reference the certificate files created above during Cloudflare setup..

<VirtualHost *:80>
  ServerName example.com
  ServerAlias www.example.com
</VirtualHost>

<VirtualHost *:443>
     Protocols h2 http:/1.1
     ServerAdmin admin@example.com
     DocumentRoot /var/www/html/example.com
     ServerName example.com
     ServerAlias www.example.com
    
     SSLEngine on
     SSLCertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/cloudflare_example.com.pem
     SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/private/cloudflare_example.com.pem
     SSLCACertificateFile /etc/ssl/certs/origin-pull-ca.pem
     SSLVerifyClient require
     SSLVerifyDepth 1

     <Directory /var/www/html/example.com/>
          Options FollowSymlinks
          AllowOverride All
          Require all granted
     </Directory>

     ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
     CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined
    
     <Directory /var/www/html/example.com/>
            RewriteEngine on
            RewriteBase /
            RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
            RewriteRule ^(.*) index.php [PT,L]
    </Directory>
</VirtualHost>

Save the file and exit.

Step 8: Enable the Moodle

After configuring the VirtualHost above, enable it by running the commands below

sudo a2ensite example.com.conf
sudo a2enmod rewrite
sudo systemctl restart apache2.service

Next, open your browser and browse to your domain name used above… You should see Moodle setup wizard to complete. Please follow the wizard carefully.

https://example.com/

Then follow the on-screen instructions and select the installation language here…

Moodle Ubuntu setup

Next, select MariaDB connection driver and continue…

ubuntu moodle install

On the next screen, enter the database connection info you created above and continue…

Ubuntu install moodle

Then create an admin account and the Moodle site info and finish the instalation….

On this page you should configure your main administrator account which will have complete control over the site. Make sure you give it a secure username and password as well as a valid email address. You can create more admin accounts later on.

Congratulation! You have successfully installed Moodle on Ubuntu 16.04 / 18.04 and may work on upcoming 18.10…

Ubuntu moodle setup

In the future when you want to upgrade to a new released version, simply run the commands below to upgrade…

Upgrading Moodle

First stop the webserver…

sudo systemctl stop apache2

For students and new users who already have Moodle installed and wish to upgrade, asuming that you followed the steps above to install, run the commands below to backup your old Moodle folder…

sudo mv /var/www/html/moodle /var/www/html/moodle_bak

Then change into the webserver root directory and download the latest version of Moodle from Github….. always change the version number to the current (latest)

cd /var/www/html
sudo git clone -b MOODLE_37_STABLE git://git.moodle.org/moodle.git moodle

Next, copy Moodle config file, theme and data folder… If you updated your themes… a theme content should be there…. If you also installed aditional modules… you should find them in the /mod directory… copy them to the new Moodle folder….

sudo cp /var/www/html/moodle_bak/config.php /var/www/html/moodle
sudo cp -pr /var/www/html/moodle_bak/theme/mytheme /var/www/html/moodle/theme/mytheme
sudo cp -pr /var/www/html/moodle_bak/mod/mymod /var/www/html/moodle/mod/mymod

After that, update the web server permissions…

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/html/moodle/
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/html/moodle/

Restart your web server…

sudo systemctl start apache2

The last step is to trigger the upgrade processes within Moodle….. If you put your site into Maintenance mode earlier; take it out now!

Once you browse to the server IP or hostname, Moodle should prompt you to begin upgrading your database… After upgrading the database, logon to Moodle and go to:

Administration > Site administration > Notifications.

Moodle will automatically detect the new version and perform all the SQL database or file system upgrades that are necessary. If there is anything it can’t do itself (very rare) then you will see messages telling you what you need to do.

Assuming all goes well (no error messages) then you can start using your new version of Moodle and enjoy the new features!

Moodle Upgrade ubuntu

That’s it!

You may also like the post below:

Configure pH7CMS ( pH7 Builder) on Ubuntu 16.04 / 18.04 with Nginx, MariaDB and PHP 7.2-FPM

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