Install Koha on Ubuntu — Part 6: Going Live

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Warn­ing: this tuto­r­i­al was devel­oped in 2008, and is for ver­sions of Koha and Ubun­tu that are now con­sid­ered quite old. If you want to install the cur­rent ver­sion of Koha on Ubun­tu, please vis­it Koha on Ubun­tu at the Koha Com­mu­ni­ty wiki.

This is part 6 of 6 in a tuto­r­i­al series on installing Koha 3.0 on Ubun­tu 8.10.

So far we’ve installed and con­fig­ured Lin­ux, laid the ground­work for Koha, installed and con­fig­ured Koha, and played around with it a lit­tle.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing the next step—using Koha for actu­al library hold­ings and actu­al patrons—this final arti­cle is for you.

If you plan to put Koha into pro­duc­tion for real-world Library use there are many oth­er things you need to con­sid­er. The final arti­cle in the series, Going Live, dis­cuss­es this fur­ther.

Who this arti­cle is for.
  • Peo­ple who want to try Koha.
  • Peo­ple who aren’t nec­es­sar­i­ly Lin­ux experts, but…
  • Who are very com­fort­able with com­put­ers and not afraid of using a com­mand-line inter­face.
What to expect.

Showtime!

If you’re con­sid­er­ing host­ing your own live, pro­duc­tion Koha imple­men­ta­tion, it’s impor­tant that you under­stand what you’re get­ting into.

Before you take Koha into pro­duc­tion with live data it’s crit­i­cal that you seek sound advice from one or more com­pe­tent web/Linux sys­tem admin­is­tra­tors.

I am def­i­nite­ly not a com­pe­tent sys­tem admin­is­tra­tor, so this sec­tion is sim­ply a col­lec­tion of my (informed, I hope) opin­ions. Please take it as such.

What You’ll Need

Koha is free. Com­pe­tent appli­ca­tion- and sys­tem admin­is­tra­tion and sup­port is not.

I’m not qual­i­fied to admin­is­ter a pro­duc­tion web serv­er, but through years of devel­op­ing and deploy­ing web-based appli­ca­tions for sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion I’ve worked with a num­ber of peo­ple who are. Here’s what I know.

To pro­ceed with a pro­duc­tion Koha imple­men­ta­tion you’ll either need your own IT staff with the required exper­tise, or you’ll need to con­tract with some­one who has it. That might be gen­er­al IT con­sult­ing firm or an orga­ni­za­tion that spe­cial­izes in Koha imple­men­ta­tions. The Koha Library Soft­ware Com­mu­ni­ty pro­vides a page list­ing orga­ni­za­tions that install and/or sup­port Koha.

In any case you must have:

  • A serv­er and net­work con­nec­tiv­i­ty that can sup­port your expect­ed peak lev­els of use.
  • Some means of ensur­ing that the appli­ca­tion remains avail­able (for exam­ple, a failover serv­er in case the pro­duc­tion serv­er goes down), or else a thought­ful deci­sion not to have such mea­sures in place and an accep­tance that peri­od­ic down­time is pos­si­ble.
  • One or more peo­ple with the time and exper­tise to set up and secu­ri­ty-hard­en your pro­duc­tion serv­er and your net­work.
  • One or more peo­ple with the time and exper­tise to mon­i­tor it reg­u­lar­ly, ensur­ing it is func­tion­ing prop­er­ly and its secu­ri­ty hasn’t been breached—people com­mit­ted to remain­ing cur­rent on best prac­tices for secu­ri­ty and sys­tem admin­is­tra­tion.
  • One or more peo­ple with the time and exper­tise to respond quick­ly when there are appli­ca­tion, serv­er, or net­work prob­lems, or when the system’s secu­ri­ty is com­pro­mised.
  • Fund­ing, both up-front and ongo­ing, to sup­port all of the above.

There are more things of course, but your com­pe­tent appli­ca­tion- and sys­tem-admin­is­tra­tors can work with you on the details.

External Hosting

One way to address some of these issues is to locate Koha with an inde­pen­dent web host (one sup­port­ing shell access and vir­tu­al pri­vate servers). There are hun­dreds of web hosts to choose from.

This is far from a panacea. While this will relieve you of many secu­ri­ty and sys­tem admin­is­tra­tion issues, you’re also putting both your trust and your patron infor­ma­tion in the hands of a third par­ty com­pa­ny. Not all web hosts deserve this trust. Of the ones that do, not all will remain that way.

This Blaz­ing Moon arti­cle gives some advice on research­ing and choos­ing a web host.

Application Troubleshooting: An Example

This thread from a Koha news­group is a good exam­ple of some mod­er­ate­ly hairy diag­nos­tic work in response to an issue with the option­al Zebra search engine. I include it here to illus­trate a point: embark on a Koha imple­men­ta­tion only if some­one in your orga­ni­za­tion or some­one you con­tract with is will­ing and able to tack­le trou­bleshoot­ing of this sort when need­ed.

And on a happier note…

Koha is a won­der­ful and Free Open Source soft­ware pack­age devel­oped by a com­mu­ni­ty of peo­ple who are try­ing to make the world a bet­ter place and who believe high-qual­i­ty soft­ware should be freely avail­able.

Though I’ve out­lined a some­what impos­ing list of logis­ti­cal con­sid­er­a­tions above, there are many suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion Koha imple­men­ta­tions in the world, there will be many more, and there are plen­ty of good peo­ple out there who can help you to have one if it’s the direc­tion you choose.

If all has gone well you’ve just installed a test bed where you can bet­ter under­stand how Koha would work for your orga­ni­za­tion. I believe you’ll not only find the soft­ware to be of high qual­i­ty, but the online com­mu­ni­ty to be help­ful and sup­port­ive.

Best of luck with your inves­ti­ga­tion and the choic­es you have ahead.

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