Install Moodle on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Let’s Encrypt free SSL/TLS

There are probably few open source course management platform in use today… and the king of all is Moodle. When deciding what to use to administer your courses online, don’t ignore Moodle course management platform….

Moodle is a free PHP based course management system (CMS) designed to help educators create great courses for students. Many reputable universities and colleges are using it to run their courses online. Students will also find it easy to use and work on. Teachers and students can also use it to collaborate and build great teaching materials.

This brief tutorial shows students and new users how to easily install Moodle CMS on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Server with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Let’s Encrypt SSL support.

In today’s environments, Moodle is frequently being installed with SSL/TLS encryption so that all traffic to and from the course materials is protected over HTTPS. Also, websites that use HTTPS may rank better with Google and other search engine providers.

This post covers installing the latest version of Moodle, which at the time of writing was at version 3.3.2+.

To get started with installing Moodle with Let’s Encrypt support, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Install Nginx

Moodle needs a webserver and the second most popular webserver in use today is Nginx. So, go and install Nginx on Ubuntu by running the commands below:

sudo apt-get install nginx

Next, run the commands below to stop, start and enable Nginx service to always start up with the server boots.

sudo systemctl stop nginx.service
sudo systemctl start nginx.service
sudo systemctl enable nginx.service

Step 2: Install MariaDB

Moodle also needs a database server… and MariaDB database server is a great place to start. To install it run the commands below.

sudo apt-get install mariadb-server mariadb-client

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

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

After that, run the commands below to secure MariaDB server.

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

After that, open MariaDB default configuration file by running the commands below:

sudo nano /etc/mysql/mariadb.conf.d/50-server.cnf

Then add the below lines just below [mysqld] section.

default_storage_engine = innodb
innodb_file_per_table = 1
innodb_file_format = Barracuda
innodb_large_prefix = 1

Save the file and exit.

Restart MariaDB server

sudo systemctl restart mysql.service

Step 3: Install PHP 7.1-FPM and Related Modules

PHP 7.1 isn’t available on Ubuntu default repositories… in order to install it, you will have to get it from third-party repositories.

Run the commands below to add the below third party repository to upgrade to PHP 7.1

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

Then update and upgrade to PHP 7.1

sudo apt update

Run the commands below to install PHP 7.1 and related modules.

sudo apt install php7.1-fpm php7.1-common php7.1-mbstring php7.1-xmlrpc php7.1-soap php7.1-gd php7.1-xml php7.1-intl php7.1-mysql php7.1-cli php7.1-mcrypt php7.1-ldap php7.1-zip php7.1-curl

After install PHP, run the commands below to open PHP-FPM default file.

sudo nano /etc/php/7.1/fpm/php.ini

Then change the following lines below in the file and save. You may increase the value to suite your environment.

file_uploads = On
allow_url_fopen = On
memory_limit = 256M
upload_max_filesize = 64M
max_execution_time = 360
cgi.fix_pathinfo = 0
date.timezone = America/Chicago

Step 4: Create Moodle Database

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

Run the commands below to logon to the database server. When prompted for a password, type the root password you created above.

sudo mysql -u root -p

Then create a database called moodle

CREATE DATABASE moodle;

Create a database user called moodleuser with 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 5: Download Moodle Latest Release

Next, run the commands below to download Moodle latest release. The commands below to download Moodle archive package.

cd /tmp && wget https://download.moodle.org/download.php/direct/stable33/moodle-latest-33.tgz

Then run the commands below to extract the downloaded file to Nginx default root.

tar -zxvf moodle-latest-33.tgz
sudo mv moodle /var/www/html/moodle

Change modify the directory permission.

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

Step 6: Configure Nginx

Finally, configure Apahce2 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 moodle

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/moodle.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.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    root /var/www/html/moodle;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;
    server_name  example.com www.example.com;

    location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;        
    }
 
    location /dataroot/ {
    internal;
    alias /var/www/html/moodledata/
    }

    location ~ [^/]\.php(/|$) {
        include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.1-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        include fastcgi_params;
    }

}

Save the file and exit.

Step 7: Enable the Moodle site

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

sudo ln -s /etc/nginx/sites-available/moodle /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/

Step 8 : Restart Nginx

To load all the settings above, restart Nginx by running the commands below.

sudo systemctl restart nginx.service

STEP 9: OBTAIN AND CONFIGURE LET’S ENCRYPT SSL CERTIFICATES

Now that the Moodle configuration is done, continue below to get Let’s Encrypt installed and configured. Let’s Encrypt now provides a Nginx module to automate this process. To get the client/module installed on Ubuntu, run the commands below

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install python-certbot-nginx

After that run the commands below to obtain your free Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificate for your site.

sudo certbot --nginx -m admin@example.com -d example.com -d www.example.com

After running the above commands, you should get prompted to accept the licensing terms. If everything is checked, the client should automatically install the free SSL/TLS certificate and configure the Nginx site to use the certs.

Please read the Terms of Service at
https://letsencrypt.org/documents/LE-SA-v1.2-November-15-2017.pdf. You must
agree in order to register with the ACME server at
https://acme-v01.api.letsencrypt.org/directory
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(A)gree/(C)ancel: A

Choose Yes ( Y ) to share your email address

Would you be willing to share your email address with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a founding partner of the Let's Encrypt project and the non-profit
organization that develops Certbot? We'd like to send you email about EFF and
our work to encrypt the web, protect its users and defend digital rights.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Y)es/(N)o: Y

This is how easy is it to obtain your free SSL/TLS certificate for your Nginx powered website.

Please choose whether or not to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, removing HTTP access.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1: No redirect - Make no further changes to the webserver configuration.
2: Redirect - Make all requests redirect to secure HTTPS access. Choose this for
new sites, or if you're confident your site works on HTTPS. You can undo this
change by editing your web server's configuration.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Select the appropriate number [1-2] then [enter] (press 'c' to cancel): 2

Pick option 2 to redirect all traffic over HTTPS. This is important!

After that, the SSL client should install the cert and configure your website to redirect all traffic over HTTPS.

Congratulations! You have successfully enabled https://example.com and
https://www.example.com

You should test your configuration at:
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=example.com
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=www.example.com
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

IMPORTANT NOTES:
 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem
   Your key file has been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
   Your cert will expire on 2018-02-24. To obtain a new or tweaked
   version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot again
   with the "certonly" option. To non-interactively renew *all* of
   your certificates, run "certbot renew"
 - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by:

   Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:   https://letsencrypt.org/donate
   Donating to EFF:                    https://eff.org/donate-le

The highlighted code block should be added to your Nginx Moodle site configuration file automatically by Let’s Encrypt certbot. Your Moodle site is ready to be used over HTTPS.

server {
    listen 80;
    listen [::]:80;
    root /var/www/html/moodle;
    index  index.php index.html index.htm;
    server_name  example.com www.example.com;

    location / {
    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;        
    }
 
    location /dataroot/ {
    internal;
    alias /var/www/html/moodledata/
    }

    location ~ [^/]\.php(/|$) {
        include snippets/fastcgi-php.conf;
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php/php7.1-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        include fastcgi_params;
    }

   listen 443 ssl; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/mymodle.com/privkey.pem; # managed by Certbot
    include /etc/letsencrypt/options-ssl-nginx.conf; # managed by Certbot
    ssl_dhparam /etc/letsencrypt/ssl-dhparams.pem; # managed by Certbot

    if ($scheme != "https") {
        return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
    } # managed by Certbot

    # Redirect non-https traffic to https
    # if ($scheme != "https") {
    #     return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
    # } # managed by Certbot

}

After that, open your browser and browse to your domain name to start Moodle configuration wizard. You should see Moodle setup wizard… Please follow the wizard

Then browse to the server hostname or IP address and you should see Moodle site setup wizard.

https://example.com

ubuntu moodle let's encrypt

Accept the default file directory and continue

Make sure to select MariaDB database driver from the list

ubuntu moodle let's encrypt

Enter the database connection info and continue.

ubuntu moodle let's encrypt

Type the admin and password for the website and continue.

Follow the wizard until you’re done setting the site up. When you’re done, Moodle should be installed and ready to use.

ubuntu let's encrypt moodle

Congratulations! You’ve successfully installed Moodle with Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificates.

To setup a process to automatically renew the certificates, add a cron job to execute the renewal process.

sudo crontab -e

Then add the line below and save.

0 1 * * * /usr/bin/certbot renew & > /dev/null

The cron job will attempt to renew 30 days before expiring

Enjoy!

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Install Magento on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS with Nginx, MariaDB, PHP 7.1 and Let’s Encrypt Free SSL/TLS

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