Learn How To Install Couch CMS 2.0 on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS

October 18, 2019

Table of Contents

If you are using a different system, please check our other tutorials.

Couch CMS is a simple and flexible, free and open source Content Management System (CMS) that allows web designers to design beautiful web sites without any knowledge of PHP. With Couch CMS, web developers can take any of their static HTML and CSS only designs and transform them into a fully CMS managed web site with very little effort.

In this tutorial we are going to install Couch CMS 2.0 on a Debian 9 LAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.

Step 1: Add a Sudo User

We will start by adding a new sudo user.

First, log into your server as root:


The sudo command isn’t installed by default in the IT Web Services Debian 9 server instance, so we will first install sudo:

apt-get -y install sudo

Now add a new user called user1 (or your preferred username):

adduser user1

When prompted, enter a secure and memorable password. You will also be prompted for your “Full Name” and some other details, but you can simply leave them blank by pressing “Enter“.

Now check the /etc/sudoers file to make sure that the sudoers group is enabled:


Look for a section like this:

%sudo        ALL=(ALL:ALL)       ALL

This line tells us that users who are members of the sudo group can use the sudo command to gain root privileges. It should be uncommented by default so you can simply exit the file.

Next we need to add user1 to the sudo group:

usermod -aG sudo user1

We can verify the user1 group membership and check that the usermod command worked with the groups command:

groups user1

Now use the su command to switch to the new sudo user user1 account:

su - user1

The command prompt will update to indicate that you are now logged into the user1 account. You can verify this with the whoami command:


Now restart the sshd service so that you can login via ssh with the new non-root sudo user account you have just created:

sudo systemctl restart sshd

Exit the user1 account:


Exit the root account (which will disconnect your ssh session)


You can now ssh into the server instance from your local host using the new non-root sudo user user1 account:


If you want to execute sudo without having to type a password every time, then open the /etc/sudoers file again, using visudo:

sudo visudo

Edit the section for the sudo group so that it looks like this:


Please note: Disabling the password requirement for the sudo user is not a recommended practice, but it is included here as it can make server configuration much more convenient and less frustrating, especially during longer systems administration sessions! If you are concerned about the security implications, you can always revert the configuration change to the original after you finish your administration tasks.

Whenever you want to log into the root user account from within the sudo user account, you can use one of the following commands:

sudo -i
sudo su -

You can exit the root account and return back to your sudo user account any time by simply typing:


Step 2: Update Debian 9 System

Before installing any packages on the Debian server instance, we will first update the system.

Make sure you are logged in to the server using a non-root sudo user and run the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y upgrade

Step 3: Install Apache Web Server

Install the Apache web server:

sudo apt-get -y install apache2 

Then use the systemctl command to start and enable Apache to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo systemctl enable apache2
sudo systemctl start apache2

Check your Apache default site configuration file to ensure that the DocumentRoot directive points to the correct directory:

sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf 

The DocumentRoot configuration option should look like this:

DocumentRoot "/var/www/html"

Now save and exit the file, and enable the mod_rewrite Apache module:

sudo a2enmod rewrite

We will restart Apache at the end of this tutorial, but restarting Apache regularly during installation and configuration is certainly a good habit, so let’s do it now:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

Step 4: Install PHP 7.0

We can now install PHP 7.0 along with all of the necessary PHP modules required by Couch CMS:

sudo apt-get -y install php php-gd php-mbstring php-common php-mysql libapache2-mod-php php-curl

Step 5: Install MariaDB (MySQL) Server

Debian 9 defaults to using MariaDB database server, which is an enhanced, fully open source, community developed, drop-in replacement for MySQL server.

Install MariaDB:

sudo apt-get -y install mariadb-server

Start and enable MariaDB server to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo systemctl enable mariadb
sudo systemctl start mariadb    

Secure your MariaDB server installation:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

The root password will probably be blank, so simply hit “Enter” when prompted for the root password.

When prompted to create a MariaDB/MySQL root user, select “Y” (for yes) and then enter a secure root password. Simply answer “Y” to all of the other yes/no questions as the default suggestions are the most secure options.

Step 6: Create Database for Couch CMS

Log into the MariaDB shell as the MariaDB root user by running the following command:

sudo mariadb -u root -p

To access the MariaDB command prompt, simply enter the MariaDB root password when prompted.

Run the following queries to create a MariaDB database and database user for Couch CMS:

CREATE DATABASE couch_db CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;
CREATE USER 'couch_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'UltraSecurePassword';
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON couch_db.* TO 'couch_user'@'localhost';

You can replace the database name couch_db and username couch_user with something more to your liking, if you prefer. Also, make sure that you replace “UltraSecurePassword” with an actually secure password.

Step 7: Install Couch CMS Files

Change your current working directory to the default web directory:

cd /var/www/html/

If you get an error message saying something like 'No such file or directory' then try the following command:

cd /var/www/ ; sudo mkdir html ; cd html

Your current working directory should now be: /var/www/html/. You can check this with the pwd (print working directory) command:


Now use wget to download the Couch CMS installation zip archive:

sudo wget https://www.couchcms.com/kachua/download.php?auth=agJmBvEk%2FIM8aSh4XkqV5fbIxR4ghkd6Gy%2F8eL4nFCUpzoFYvddT%7CbKoInr8INleUFM9lPDT05r0dEfTqzuhb%7C0%7C0%7C0%7C1%7Cbccc27bd8eade8876d3f486bac1f4ca9

Please note: You should definitely check for the most recent version by visiting the Couch CMS download page.

List the current directory to check that you have successfully downloaded the file:

ls -la

Let’s give the zip file a simpler name:

sudo mv download.php* couchcms.zip

Then install unzip so we can actually unzip the file:

sudo apt-get -y install unzip

Now uncompress the zip file:

sudo unzip couchcms.zip

Move all of the installation files to the web root directory:

sudo mv ./CouchCMS-2.0/* /var/www/html

Now change ownership of the web files to avoid any permissions problems:

sudo chown -R www-data:www-data *

Let’s restart Apache again:

sudo systemctl restart apache2

We’re now ready to move on to the final step.

Step 8: Complete Couch CMS Installation

To complete the Couch CMS installation, we need to edit the Couch CMS config file, so first make sure you are in the webroot and then rename the config file:

sudo mv ./couch/config.example.php ./couch/config.php

Next, open the config.php file:

sudo vi ./couch/config.php

Add the following values:

define( 'K_GMT_OFFSET', 0 );
define( 'K_DB_NAME', 'couch_db' );
define( 'K_DB_USER', 'couch_user' );
define( 'K_DB_PASSWORD', 'UltraSecurePassword' );
define( 'K_DB_HOST', 'localhost' );
define( 'K_PRETTY_URLS', 1 );
define( 'K_USE_CACHE', 1 );
define( 'K_EMAIL_TO', 'youremail@yourdomain.com' );
define( 'K_EMAIL_FROM', 'contact@yourdomain.com' );

Once you have added the appropriate configuration values you can save and exit.

The final steps of the Couch CMS installation are really simple.

First visit the Couch CMS installation page in your browser:


Or if you’ve already configured your IT Web Services DNS settings (and given it enough time to propagate) you can simply visit your domain instead:


Simply enter the following details on the installation page:

Super-Admin Username: admin (or your preferred username)
Password: <your preferred password>
Email: <your email address>

Then click the Install button.

If the installation was successful, you should see a confirmation page that says Log in. Simply click “Log in” to continue.

You can now login to your Couch CMS admin panel.

If you haven’t already set up your IT Web Services DNS, that should probably be your next step.

You are now ready to start adding content and configuring the look of your site. Be sure to check out the excellent Couch CMS documentation for more information about how to configure Couch CMS.

Remember that Couch CMS allows you to take your old HTML and CSS web sites and easily change them into fully managed CMS sites that even non-technical users can update for themselves. Unlike most other CMSes, Couch CMS allows you to convert your HTML sites without any server-side programming.

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