Running Metabase on Debian as a service with nginx

For those people who don’t (or can’t) use Docker in their infrastructure, there’s still a need to easily setup and deploy Metabase in production. On Debian-based systems, this means registering Metabase as a service that can be started/stopped/uninstalled.

Note: This is just a bare-bones recipe to get you started. Anyone can take it from here to do what they need to do on their systems, and should follow best practices for setting up and securing the rest of their server.


The core assumption in this guide:

  • You will run Metabase using the metabase.jar file
  • You already have nginx and postgres (or another supported database) running on your server
  • You will use environment variables to configure your Metabase instance
  • You have sudo access on your server

Create an unprivileged user to run Metabase and give the user access to app and logs

For security reasons we want to have Metabase run as an unprivileged user. We will call the user simply metabase. Further we will create the files we will need later for logging and configuration of Metabase, and apply the correct security settings for our unprivileged user.

sudo groupadd -r metabase
sudo useradd -r -s /bin/false -g metabase metabase
sudo chown -R metabase:metabase </your/path/to/metabase/directory>
sudo touch /var/log/metabase.log
sudo chown syslog:adm /var/log/metabase.log
sudo touch /etc/default/metabase
sudo chmod 640 /etc/default/metabase

Create a Metabase Service

Every service needs a script that tells systemd how to manage it, and what capabilities it supports. Services are typically registered at /etc/systemd/system/<servicename>. So, a Metabase service should live at /etc/systemd/system/metabase.service.

The Metabase service file

Create the /etc/systemd/system/metabase.service service file and open it in your editor:

sudo touch /etc/systemd/system/metabase.service
sudo <your-editor> /etc/systemd/system/metabase.service

In /etc/systemd/system/metabase.service, replace configurable items (they look like <some-var-name>) with values sensible for your system. The Metabase script below has extra comments to help you know what everything is for.

Description=Metabase server

ExecStart=/usr/bin/java -jar </your/path/to/metabase/directory/>metabase.jar


Create syslog conf

Next we need to create a syslog conf to make sure systemd can handle the logs properly.

sudo touch /etc/rsyslog.d/metabase.conf
sudo <your-editor> /etc/rsyslog.d/metabase.conf

if $programname == 'metabase' then /var/log/metabase.log
& stop

Restart the syslog service to load the new config.

sudo systemctl restart rsyslog.service

Environment variables for Metabase

Environment variables provide a good way to customize and configure your Metabase instance on your server. On Debian systems, services typically expect to have accompanying configs inside etc/default/<service-name>.

The Metabase config file

Open your /etc/default/metabase environment config file in your editor:

sudo <your-editor> /etc/default/metabase

In /etc/default/metabase, replace configurable items (they look like <some-var-name>) with values sensible for your system. Some Metabase configs have available options, some of which are shown below, separated by | symbols:

# any other env vars you want available to Metabase

Final steps

The best part of setting up Metabase as a service on a Debian-based system is to be confident it will start up at every system boot. We only have a few more quick steps to finish registering our service and having Metabase up and running.

Ensure your database is ready

If you’re running postgres or some other database, you need to ensure you’ve already followed the instructions for your database system to create a database for Metabase, as well as a user that can access that database. These values should match what you’ve set in your Metabase config for the MB_DB_TYPE, MB_DB_DBNAME, MB_DB_USER, and MB_DB_PASS environment variables. If you don’t have your database properly configured, Metabase won’t be able to start.

Ensure nginx is setup to proxy requests to Metabase

Getting into too much detail about configuring nginx is well outside the scope of this guide, but here’s a quick nginx.conf file that will get you up and running.

Note: The nginx.conf below assumes you are accepting incoming traffic on port 80 and want to proxy requests to Metabase, and that your Metabase instance is configured to run on localhost at port 3000. There are several proxy directives you may care about, so you should check those out further in the Official nginx docs.

# sample nginx.conf
# proxy requests to Metabase instance
server {
  listen 80;
  listen [::]:80;
  location / {

Register your Metabase service

Now, it’s time to register our Metabase service with systemd so it will start up at system boot. We’ll also ensure our log file is created and owned by the unprivileged user our service runs the metabase.jar as.

sudo systemctl daemon-reload
sudo systemctl start metabase.service
sudo systemctl status metabase.service

Once we are ok here, enable the service to startup during boot.

sudo systemctl enable metabase.service

Start, stop, or restart Metabase

Now, whenever you need to start, stop, or restart Metabase, all you need to do is:

sudo systemctl start metabase.service
sudo systemctl stop metabase.service
sudo systemctl restart metabase.service

Read docs for other versions of Metabase.

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