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n8n - Workflow Automation

n8n.io - Workflow Automation

n8n is a free node based "Open Source" (with Commons Clause) Workflow Automation Tool. It can be self-hosted, easily extended, and so also used with internal tools.

n8n.io - Screenshot

Contents

Demo

📺 A short demo (< 3 min) which shows how to create a simple workflow which automatically sends a new Slack notification every time a Github repository received or lost a star.

Available integrations

n8n has 50+ different nodes to automate workflows. The list can be found on: https://n8n.io/nodes

Documentation

The official n8n documentation can be found under: https://docs.n8n.io

Additional information and example workflows on the n8n.io website: https://n8n.io

Start n8n in Docker

docker run -it --rm \
  --name n8n \
  -p 5678:5678 \
  n8nio/n8n

You can then access n8n by opening: http://localhost:5678

Start with tunnel

WARNING: This is only meant for local development and testing. Should not be used in production!

To be able to use webhooks which all triggers of external services like Github rely on n8n has to be reachable from the web. To make that easy n8n has a special tunnel service (uses this code: https://github.com/localtunnel/localtunnel) which redirects requests from our servers to your local n8n instance.

To use it simply start n8n with --tunnel

docker run -it --rm \
  --name n8n \
  -p 5678:5678 \
  -v ~/.n8n:/root/.n8n \
  n8nio/n8n \
  n8n start --tunnel

Securing n8n

By default n8n can be accessed by everybody. This is OK if you have it only running locally but if you deploy it on a server which is accessible from the web you have to make sure that n8n is protected! Right now we have very basic protection via basic-auth in place. It can be activated by setting the following environment variables:

N8N_BASIC_AUTH_ACTIVE=true
N8N_BASIC_AUTH_USER=<USER>
N8N_BASIC_AUTH_PASSWORD=<PASSWORD>

Persist data

The workflow data gets by default saved in an SQLite database in the user folder (/root/.n8n). That folder also additionally contains the settings like webhook URL and encryption key.

docker run -it --rm \
  --name n8n \
  -p 5678:5678 \
  -v ~/.n8n:/root/.n8n \
  n8nio/n8n

Start with other Database

By default n8n uses SQLite to save credentials, past executions and workflows. n8n however also supports MongoDB and PostgresDB. To use them simply a few environment variables have to be set.

It is important to still persist the data in the /root/.n8 folder. The reason is that it contains n8n user data. That is the name of the webhook (in case) the n8n tunnel gets used and even more important the encryption key for the credentials. If none gets found n8n creates automatically one on startup. In case credentials are already saved with a different encryption key it can not be used anymore as encrypting it is not possible anymore.

Use with MongoDB

WARNING: Use Postgres if possible! Mongo has problems with saving large amounts of data in a document and causes also other problems. So support will may be dropped in the future.

Replace the following placeholders with the actual data:

  • MONGO_DATABASE
  • MONGO_HOST
  • MONGO_PORT
  • MONGO_USER
  • MONGO_PASSWORD
docker run -it --rm \
  --name n8n \
  -p 5678:5678 \
	-e DB_TYPE=mongodb \
	-e DB_MONGODB_CONNECTION_URL="mongodb://<MONGO_USER>:<MONGO_PASSWORD>@<MONGO_SERVER>:<MONGO_PORT>/<MONGO_DATABASE>" \
  -v ~/.n8n:/root/.n8n \
  n8nio/n8n \
  n8n start

A full working setup with docker-compose can be found here

Use with PostgresDB

Replace the following placeholders with the actual data:

  • POSTGRES_DATABASE
  • POSTGRES_HOST
  • POSTGRES_PASSWORD
  • POSTGRES_PORT
  • POSTGRES_USER
docker run -it --rm \
  --name n8n \
  -p 5678:5678 \
	-e DB_TYPE=postgresdb \
	-e DB_POSTGRESDB_DATABASE=<POSTGRES_DATABASE> \
	-e DB_POSTGRESDB_HOST=<POSTGRES_HOST> \
	-e DB_POSTGRESDB_PORT=<POSTGRES_PORT> \
	-e DB_POSTGRESDB_USER=<POSTGRES_USER> \
	-e DB_POSTGRESDB_PASSWORD=<POSTGRES_PASSWORD> \
  -v ~/.n8n:/root/.n8n \
  n8nio/n8n \
  n8n start

A full working setup with docker-compose can be found here

Passing Sensitive Data via File

To avoid passing sensitive information via environment variables "_FILE" may be appended to some environment variables. It will then load the data from a file with the given name. That makes it possible to load data easily from Docker- and Kubernetes-Secrets.

The following environment variables support file input:

  • DB_MONGODB_CONNECTION_URL_FILE
  • DB_POSTGRESDB_DATABASE_FILE
  • DB_POSTGRESDB_HOST_FILE
  • DB_POSTGRESDB_PASSWORD_FILE
  • DB_POSTGRESDB_PORT_FILE
  • DB_POSTGRESDB_USER_FILE
  • N8N_BASIC_AUTH_PASSWORD_FILE
  • N8N_BASIC_AUTH_USER_FILE

Build Docker-Image

docker build --build-arg N8N_VERSION=<VERSION> -t n8nio/n8n:<VERSION> .

# For example:
docker build --build-arg N8N_VERSION=0.18.1 -t n8nio/n8n:0.18.1 .

What does n8n mean and how do you pronounce it

Short answer: It means "nodemation"

Long answer: I get that question quite often (more often than I expected) so I decided it is probably best to answer it here. While looking for a good name for the project with a free domain I realized very quickly that all the good ones I could think of were already taken. So, in the end, I chose nodemation. "node-" in the sense that it uses a Node-View and that it uses Node.js and "-mation" for "automation" which is what the project is supposed to help with. However, I did not like how long the name was and I could not imagine writing something that long every time in the CLI. That is when I then ended up on "n8n". Sure does not work perfectly but does neither for Kubernetes (k8s) and did not hear anybody complain there. So I guess it should be ok.

Support

If you have problems or questions go to our forum, we will then try to help you asap:

https://community.n8n.io

Upgrading

Before you upgrade to the latest version make sure to check here if there are any breaking changes which concern you: Breaking Changes

License

n8n is licensed under Apache 2.0 with Commons Clause

Additional information about license can be found in the FAQ

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