I'm installing JIRA and Crowd for production environment. For JIRA there are three files, Bit-installer, WAR and tar ball. There is no official doc explaining explaining what's the difference or recommendation for production usage.
JIRA download page
Crowd download page
Depends on what you want to do - there's no generalised "you should use X for production" because it's your decision.
Broadly, there are two ways to deploy an Atlassian product - "standalone" and "WAR".
The standalone distributions contain most of what you need to get up and running - you can follow the instructions for them and end up with a working Jira/Crowd/whatever in a couple of minutes. To make them production worthy, you *must* select a proper database (which you will need to provide separately) as the built-in HSQL one is only for testing. In other words, you get Jira, Tomcat, a database (suitable for testing) and a default set of settings which are good for demo/test or small production system usage. The installer versions also provide their own Java in later versions of some of them.
The WAR version of the software is a pile of things you need to build a deployable package which you can then deploy to an application server. Most bigger users prefer this because they can customise it more easily, and make it suitable for the way they do application servers.
So, as you can see, it's up to you. If you're new to them and expect to stay small (less than 100 users say), then use the installer and just get a proper database hooked up. If you plan to be bigger, you might use the installer and then learn how to tweak it. If you're in a corporate with their own ways of doing things, WAR could be your best option.
I forgot to say, whichever way you go, this is all structural - your users won't be able to tell which one you're on without a bit of thought. Functionally, they're all the same across a version (war 6.3 will deliver the same functions as installer 6.3)
You can use any for production - the difference is in distribution.
If you plan to install on linux - there are 3 ways:
1. Install using binary with helpers in installation
2. untar and install manually
3. If you have some tomcat applicaion and have some policy that app should be installed there - choose war installation.
If you are starting with jira - select the option 1 - installer according to type of your machine - 32 or 64.
The difference between the WAR installation and the "normal" installation of Atlassian products is equal among all products, and is bwest explained in this post. As for installer and archive installation methods, I think this is largely a matter of preference. Once either method is completed, there is no difference between the end products. For more details on the installation methods and some more information, please use this page as start point
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