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Bitwarden, self hosted in Docker Swarm

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Heard about the latest password breach (since lunch)? HaveYouBeenPowned yet (today)? Passwords are broken, and as the amount of sites for which you need to store credentials grows exponetially, so does the risk of using a common password.

"Duh, use a password manager", you say. Sure, but be aware that even password managers have security flaws.

OK, look smartass.. no software is perfect, and there will always be a risk of your credentials being exposed in ways you didn't intend. You can at least minimize the impact of such exposure by using a password manager to store unique credentials per-site. While 1Password is king of the commercial password manager, BitWarden is king of the open-source, self-hosted password manager.

Enter Bitwarden..

BitWarden Screenshot

Bitwarden is a free and open source password management solution for individuals, teams, and business organizations. While Bitwarden does offer a paid / hosted version, the free version comes with the following (better than any other free password manager!):

  • Access & install all Bitwarden apps
  • Sync all of your devices, no limits!
  • Store unlimited items in your vault
  • Logins, secure notes, credit cards, & identities
  • Two-step authentication (2FA)
  • Secure password generator
  • Self-host on your own server (optional)

Bitwarden Requirements


Already deployed:



Setup data locations

We'll need to create a directory to bind-mount into our container, so create /var/data/bitwarden:

mkdir /var/data/bitwarden

Setup environment

Create /var/data/config/bitwarden/bitwarden.env, and leave it empty for now.


What, why an empty env file? Well, the container supports lots of customizations via environment variables, for things like toggling self-registration, 2FA, etc. These are too complex to go into for this recipe, but readers are recommended to review the dani-garcia/vaultwarden wiki, and customize their installation to suite.

Bitwarden Docker Swarm config

Create a docker swarm config file in docker-compose syntax (v3), something like the example below:

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version: "3"
    image: vaultwarden/server
    env_file: /var/data/config/bitwarden/bitwarden.env
      - /etc/localtime:/etc/localtime:ro
      - /var/data/bitwarden:/data/:rw
        # traefik common
        - "traefik.enable=true"
        - ""
        # traefikv1
        - traefik.web.port=80
        - traefik.hub.port=3012

        - "traefik.http.routers.bitwarden.rule=Host(``)"
        - ""
        - "traefik.http.routers.bitwarden.service=bitwarden"
        - "traefik.http.routers.bitwarden-websocket.rule=Host(``) && Path(`/notifications/hub`)"
        - "traefik.http.routers.bitwarden-websocket.service=bitwarden-websocket"
        - ""
        - traefik_public

    external: true


Note the clever use of two Traefik frontends to expose the notifications hub on port 3012. Thanks @gkoerk!


Launch Bitwarden stack

Launch the Bitwarden stack by running docker stack deploy bitwarden -c <path -to-docker-compose.yml>

Browse to your new instance at https://YOUR-FQDN, and create a new user account and master password (Just click the Create Account button without filling in your email address or master password)

Get the apps / extensions

Once you've created your account, jump over to and download the apps for your mobile and browser, and start adding your logins!

Chef's notes 📓

  1. You'll notice we're not using the official container images (all 6 of them required!), but rather a more lightweight version ideal for self-hosting. All of the elements are contained within a single container, and SQLite is used for the database backend. 

  2. As mentioned above, readers should refer to the dani-garcia/vaultwarden wiki for details on customizing the behaviour of Bitwarden. 

  3. The inclusion of Bitwarden was due to the efforts of @gkoerk in our Discord server- Unfortunately on the 22nd August 2020 Jerry passed away. Jerry was very passionate and highly regarded in the field of Information Technology. He will be missed. 

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