How to Install Backdrop CMS on a FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS

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Backdrop CMS 1.8.0 is a simple and flexible, mobile-friendly, free and open source Content Management System (CMS) that allows web designers to design beautiful web sites without any knowledge of web programming languages. Backdrop CMS 1.8.0 features advanced access control, a robust API, integrated add-on installation, and is designed with web security best practices in mind.

In this tutorial we are going to install Backdrop CMS 1.8.0 on a FreeBSD 11 FAMP VPS using Apache web server, PHP 7.1, and a MariaDB database.


  • A clean Vultr FreeBSD 11 server instance with SSH access

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 Vultr FreeBSD 11 server instance, so we will first install sudo:

pkg install sudo

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

adduser user1

The adduser command will prompt you for lots of details for the user account, so simply select the defaults for most of them when it makes sense to do so. When you are asked whether to Invite user1 into any other groups?, you should enter wheel to add user1 to the wheel group.

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


Look for a section like this:

# %wheel        ALL=(ALL)       ALL

This line tells us that users who are members of the wheel group can use the sudo command to gain root privileges. It will be commented out by default so you will need to uncomment it and then save and exit the file.

We can verify the user1 group membership with the groups command:

groups user1

If user1 is not a member of the wheel group, you can use this command to update the user1 group membership:

pw group mod wheel -m 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 /etc/rc.d/sshd restart

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 wheel group so that it looks like this:

%wheel        ALL=(ALL)       NOPASSWD: ALL

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 -isudo su -

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


Step 2: Update FreeBSD 11 System

Before installing any packages on the FreeBSD 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 freebsd-update fetchsudo freebsd-update installsudo pkg updatesudo pkg upgrade

Step 3: Install Apache Web Server

Install the Apache 2.4 web server:

sudo pkg install apache24

Enter “Y” when prompted.

Now use the sysrc command to enable the Apache service to execute automatically at boot time:

sudo sysrc apache24_enable=yes

The sysrc command updates the /etc/rc.conf configuration file, so if you want to verify the configuration update manually you can simply open the /etc/rc.conf file with your favourite terminal editor:

vi /etc/rc.conf

Now start the Apache service:

sudo service apache24 start

You can quickly check that apache is running by visiting the IP address or domain of the server instance in your browser:


You should see the default FreeBSD Apache page displaying the text:

It works!

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

sudo vi /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf

The DocumentRoot configuration option should look like this:

DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/apache24/data"

We now need to enable the mod_rewrite Apache module. We can do this by searching the default Apache configuration file for the term mod_rewrite.

By default, the mod_rewrite Apache module will be commented out (which means it is disabled). The configuration line on a clean Vultr FreeBSD 11 instance will look like this:

#LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache24/

Simply remove the hash symbol to uncomment the line and load the module. This, of course, applies to any other required Apache modules too:

LoadModule rewrite_module libexec/apache24/

Now save and exit the Apache configuration file.

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 service apache24 restart

Step 4: Install PHP 7.1

We can now install PHP 7.1 along with all of the necessary PHP modules required by Backdrop CMS:

sudo pkg install php71 mod_php71 php71-gd php71-mbstring php71-mysqli php71-curl php71-ctype php71-tokenizer php71-dom php71-session php71-iconv php71-hash php71-json php71-fileinfo php71-pdo php71-pdo_mysql php71-zlib php71-filter 

We need to configure Apache to actually use PHP, so let’s create a new file called php.conf in the Apache Includes directory:

sudo vi /usr/local/etc/apache24/Includes/php.conf

Enter the following text into the newly created file:

<IfModule dir_module>    DirectoryIndex index.php index.html    <FilesMatch "/.php$">        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php    </FilesMatch>    <FilesMatch "/.phps$">        SetHandler application/x-httpd-php-source    </FilesMatch></IfModule>

Save the file.

Now let’s restart Apache so that it can reload the configuration changes:

sudo service apache24 restart

Step 5: Install MariaDB (MySQL) Server

FreeBSD 11 defaults to using MariaDB database server, which is an enhanced, fully open source, community developed, drop-in replacement for MySQL server.

Install the latest version of MariaDB database server:

sudo pkg install mariadb102-server mariadb102-client

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

sudo sysrc mysql_enable="yes"sudo service mysql-server start

Secure your MariaDB server installation:

sudo mysql_secure_installation

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 Backdrop CMS

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

sudo mysql -u root -p

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

Run the following queries to create a MySQL database and database user for Backdrop CMS:

CREATE DATABASE backdrop_db CHARACTER SET utf8 COLLATE utf8_general_ci;CREATE USER 'backdrop_user'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED BY 'UltraSecurePassword';GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON backdrop_db.* TO 'backdrop_user'@'localhost';FLUSH PRIVILEGES;EXIT;

You can replace the database name backdrop_db and username backdrop_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 Backdrop CMS Files

Change your current working directory to the default web directory:

cd /usr/local/www/apache24/data

Your current working directory should now be: /usr/local/www/apache24/data. You can check this with the pwd (print working directory) command:


Now use wget to download the Backdrop CMS installation package:

sudo wget

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

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

ls -la

Now uncompress the zip archive:

sudo unzip

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

sudo mv backdrop/* /usr/local/www/apache24/data

Change ownership of the web files to avoid any permissions problems:

sudo chown -R www:www *

Let’s restart Apache again.

sudo service apache24 restart

Now we’re ready to move on to the final step.

Step 10: Complete Backdrop CMS Installation

Before running the Backdrop CMS installer, we will first edit the Backdrop CMS settings file settings.php to make sure Backdrop CMS correctly detects the database settings. Make sure you are in the webroot directory and then open the settings file:

sudo vi settings.php

Now find the following line in settings.php:

$database = 'mysql://user:pass@localhost/database_name';

Edit it so that it looks like this:

$database = 'mysql://backdrop_user:UltraSecurePassword@localhost/backdrop_db';

We are now ready to run the Backdrop CMS installer, so visit the IP address of your Vultr server instance in your browser, or if you’ve already configured your Vultr DNS settings (and given it enough time to propagate) you can simply visit your domain instead:


If the Backdrop CMS installation page doesn’t appear in your browser, then simple add index.php to the end of the URL:


Most of the Backdrop CMS installation options are self explanatory, but here are a few pointers to help you along:

Choose your language and click on the “Save and Continue” button.

Once the installation script has run, simply enter the following details on the Configure site page:

Site name: <Your preferred site name>Username: <Your preferred username>E-mail address: <Your email address>Password: <A secure password>Default time zone: <Appropriate time zone>

Click “Save and Continue“.

You will be automatically redirected to the home page of your site.

If you haven’t already set up your Vultr DNS, then that should probably be your next step.

You are now ready to start adding content and configuring the look and feel of your site. Be sure to check out the excellent Backdrop CMS User Guide for more information on how you can build and configure your site.

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