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Do I need to know Linux to administer CiviCRM? This is not a rhetorical question :) . And it's a question I wish I had asked three and a half years ago.

My answer now, to my self of three and half a years ago, would be: No, knowing Linux is not strictly necessary, especially if you use a hosted version of CiviCRM, like Powerbase or CiviDesk, or have a partner like Fuzion or CiviCoop doing your Linux server set up and maintenance; but Yes, knowing how to use a flavor of Linux would be really helpful, regardless, especially if you want to understand what's going on "under the hood" with your Linux server, if that's what your CiviCRM installation is hosted on.

I believe there are three good answers to this question - Yes, No and Maybe.

Your thoughts appreciated....

  • When I see "Yes, No, Maybe" I feel compelled to add "I don't know, can you repeat the question" – DaveFF Sep 6 '16 at 17:24
  • DaveFF :) also a valid answer – Joe McLaughlin Sep 6 '16 at 18:47
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The question is tricky because it's a bit imprecise -- different people may interpret "know Linux" and "administer CiviCRM" a bit differently.

It might be clearer to rephrase the issue this way:

  1. To administer the data model, profiles, contacts, events, mailings, etc, you need an analytic mindset and a general understanding of data-management, but you do not need sysadmin skills.
  2. To administer the installation, backup, or upgrade, you do need sysadmin skills (for HTTP/MySQL/PHP on your chosen platform). For a general GNU/Linux hosting platform with Ubuntu/Redhat/etc, general GNU/Linux skills should do. For Windows or cloud platforms, you probably need more advanced/niche skills.

Additionally, there are the wildcards -- adding new features or perfecting the appearance within your site or debugging hard problems. These are wildcards because the required skills vary widely. Sometimes basic point-and-click will do; sometimes you need robust skills in a dozen systems.

As others have mentioned, a good model is to partner with someone more experienced. You can handle a lot of administration yourself -- and when/if a task comes up which needs more skills, reach out to them.

  • Tim, thanks, yeah the question is intentionally imprecise - it's the way I would have asked it about 3.5 years ago as a total "newbie" to CiviCRM – Joe McLaughlin Sep 6 '16 at 18:42
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I would tend to say "No", it is not required. We have a bunch of customers that administer CiviCRM without Linux knowledge (or GNU, as Tomislav pointed out). However, they do pay for service providers to do this for them. Just as you do not need to know about Windows for server management, but your (internal or external) sys admin does have to know.

  • ErikH thanks and I've updated my 'explanatory text' for the question to give more context. – Joe McLaughlin Sep 6 '16 at 17:22
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@Joe To kick off, you probably mean GNU more than Linux (it's the tools that you learn, not the kernel). That said, being a MySQL/PHP-based system, it's naturally geared towards GNU/Linux as the most popular OS for the platform. In addition, appropriate Linux hosting is probably somewhat more available and cheaper.

There's a partially related discussion on the CiviCRM forum on a related subject and the answer - according to my interpretation - is between 'yes' and 'maybe'. If you only want to prototype, you can probably live with a Windows install. If you want to deploy and have people actually use it, it's almost sure to end up on a Linux machine: if it's you they call when something's wrong, than you can't avoid learning it. If they will call someone else, than you'll get away with Windows.

That said, GNU/Linux is a really nice OS: you'll like it. :) The learning curve has been radically flattened by the incredible amount of useful documentation and discussions on-line and the radical improvements in ease of use made over the last 10 years or so.

  • Thanks Tomislav, yeah I've been learning Linux, especially using The Linux Command Line book - it's great, and available free at linuxcommand.org/tlcl.php . While I'm a fan of the GNU tools and Richard Stallman, I prefer just "Linux", since the GNU tools are a really handy part of Linux - but without the kernel, Linux would not be Linux :) . – Joe McLaughlin Sep 6 '16 at 15:30
  • @JoeMcLaughlin the terminology thing is a minor concern: use what makes sense to you. :) – Tomislav Nakic-Alfirevic Sep 7 '16 at 9:05
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No, you don't need to 'know linux'.

CiviCRM has been intentionally built so that all day to day use and administration of the system can be carried out via the user interface (i.e. the screens that you look at in your web browser).

You can sign up with a CiviCRM partner who will provide you with a ready to use hosted CiviCRM installation that doesn't require any knowledge of linux to operate.

In case you're interested...

The partner who hosts the site more than likely does 'know linux', much like the company that hosts your website (or the people that run any other web service) but as a day to day user and administrator, you don't need to concern yourself with that.

The confusion probably arises because you can choose to host your own CiviCRM installation, in which case some knowledge of linux (or similar) is required. But unless you have an internal technical team with this knowledge, and a specific reason not to choose a hosted solution (privacy, cost, etc.) it makes sense to sign up with a CiviCRM partner, who will take care of the hard stuff for you.

PS. I think you answered the question pretty well yourself :)

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No, because you can also run it on Windows, Mac or whatever if you have the web server, PHP and MySQL.

  • 1
    DaveFF thanks - although running and admining Civi for others to use would necessitate a web server, and that web server would probably be running Linux. – Joe McLaughlin Sep 6 '16 at 18:45
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Tim Otten's answer seems best to me - CiviCRM is a complex app, Linux is an underlying operating system. I came to the environment with decades of Linux experience and some time with other CRM apps, but had never touched CiviCRM before January of 2017. I have an associate who is not a Linux CLI guy, but he's a master of many apps, as soon as I get some basic problems solved, he'll be off and running with Civi.

And I found this question because we're running WordPress under WHM with Cloud Linux, and this is the only question other than the first one I asked that is found, and it's not even Cloud Linux specific, just had both "cloud" and "linux" included. I guess I have some work to do in this area :-)

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Maybe - is likely the case - If you can live with the Civi as is - you are likely not to really need it - If you need custom work have complex upgrades due to that custom work - you will likely not need it.

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