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Webhosting Control Panels? 121

Posted by Cliff
from the making-administrator's-lives-easier dept.
Rob Becker writes "I just started up a little webhosting company and I've noticed a lot of people have asked me if I have a Control Panel. After a little research I haven't found too many choices. The few that I come across are Plesk's Control Panel and CPanel3. I was wondering if any of the /.ers have used any of these or what they would recommend. I actually started to code my own, but unfortunatly I have another job and the time factor isn't there. It would be nice to have a premade one to take care of it for me." Now as much as tools like these can be a lifesaver in many situations, I have a hard problem with products that claim to do administration and that the users need "absolutely no Linux experience". Can these products really live up to that claim? Are there other, similar projects out there that are better than the two mentioned here?
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Webhosting Control Panels?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I've used Cpanel extensively. I'd have to say it sucks. The creator keeps trying to add new things and keeps breaking old things in the process. It doesn't scale well either. If you have one server, it would be fine. If you have several, sorry about your luck. This is from the hosting side. From the client side it kinda sucks too. The default interface that it ships with is crappy, takes several minutes of a modem to download the 500k of images on it. If you change the interface then when Cpanel is updated again your interface may have parts that just stop working because the backend has changed. I would go with a more mature product than this if I had a choice.
  • Hehe. I wouldn't call them inexpensive. When we bought our Raq4r it was over $4k. Probably cheaper now.
  • Wow, I don't know how many of these types of messages I've seen on slashdot. The good-ol toungue-in-cheek stab at some large company while trying to remain anonymous. "I my from a company that will remain nameless, except that i'll blatantly hint to who it actually is. And BOY, does their SUCK!"

    Come on, man... just because you got shafted doesn't mean there's not decent software out there. My hosting provider uses Cpanel [cpanel.net], which has options for configuring just about anything. The UI could use a little work in some areas, but for the most part it's pretty damn good. It lets you do basic filesystem management, uploading, enabling of certain features, etc. I use the web-based tools for managing the mailing lists and mail aliases, because they're pretty slick- even though I managed to find the files that control it all myself.

    The fact of the matter is, not everyone who's gonna use web hosting is going to be able to telnet to the box and administer it from there. There has to be a middle ground that provides the functionality you need without being too limiting.

    Themed Cpanel example [216.74.69.227]

    Apparently you license the stuff from cpanel; there's more info on their site.
  • Agreed.. I've used many differient Canadian and American hosting services and Pair.com is by far the best all around.. I don't work for them and I have nothing to gain, but they rule.. Excellent staff, deliver what they promise, and their control panel is actually seriously useful even if you do know unix just fine..
  • We (www.dreamhost.com) have spent the better part of the last year and a half writing and tweaking our own control panel interface with all the goodies - billing, domain registration, email aliases, MX records, support form, knowledge base, password management, announcements, adding of MySQL databases, setting up anonftp, and more. It's also skinnable.

    It was _also_ a bitch to write, but we've been using it for new customers for some time now. Much better than what we were originally working with. :>

    The panel was designed with use by others in mind (although we mostly wrote it for our own use at the time), and we have discussed licensing it out in the past but I'm not sure what the status of that is. As it is we've had a ton of resellers using it and they've been pretty happy with it.

    All this running on Debian Linux w/Apache, MySQL, and written in Perl. So if that's something you're familiar with, it may be worth looking into.

    If you're interested, write sales@dreamhost.com with what your plans are and what you need (feel free to ask for my name and I'll try to find out some info).

    - Jeff A. Campbell
  • BigBrother is a monitor, not a control panel. You can't modify and configure the system from within BB

    That being said, you should install BigBrother as well, since it's monitoring kicks ass and is super-extensible. If you can figure out how to script a true/false program to check it, you can wrap the BB scripting around it and add it to your monitoring. I've used it at the last 3 places I've worked at.

  • I've never trusted "control panel" type of setups and much prefer to get my hands dirty in the configs. That way I KNOW what's being changed.

    Last year we had a BUNCH of problems with our host who will for now remain nameless. Let's just say they're big and they've had several ownership changes in the past year and are now a part of a subsidiary of a large company who's name starts with M and ends with icron and who manufacture memory as well as selling full systems.

    Anways durring the heat of these problems I had tech support telling me to stop modifying things by hand and ONLY use the web based interface because they had made changes to things any only their interface would be capable of making the updates properly. Well after two days of tech support hell and the problem (a fairly major one involving e-mail not getting delivered) not getting solved tech support finally said "Oh, wait you're using the web interface. Stop doing that. It dosen't work right and we know it".

    I'll still use these control panels for looking up information but I'll never use them for actually changing anything.
  • by Outland Traveller (12138) on Friday April 20, 2001 @12:26PM (#276543)
    One thing you could try would be to use the midgard web content management system (www.midgard-project.org) along with nadmin management interface developed by the guys at hklc.com.

    This gives you full editable-through-a-browser PHP4 dynamic pages backed up by mysql (other database support under dev.), virtual hosting, mailling list, DNS, webmail, and who knows what else will be thrown in.

    I've used this for a couple intranet sites. The initial configuration is hard, but once it's running you're good for years. Migard development is very active and support via the midgard mailing list is excellent.

    Nadmin is still somewhere between alpha and beta quality, but it's coming along quickly.

  • Aha. In which case, the original poster said nothing about his own level of experience.
  • The actual quote:
    ...I have a hard problem with products that claim to do administration and that the users need "absolutely no Linux experience".

    He has Linux experience: he's just prejudiced against products that claim to obviate the need for it.

    Anyway, he'd better have experience, or he has no place trying to set up his own webhosting company and configure a user control panel himself.

  • A company I worked for used CPanel for their web stuff. The people there liked it a lot, but since I was the developer, I found it very annoying. I ended up calling the provider up and getting shell access so I could directly do things on the box. CPanel makes it easier to interact with a lot of things, but for those who actually know the commands and know what CPanel is doing, it isn't worth it.

    I haven't used the other, so I can't comment on it. CPanel works fine though for those who don't develop and just need to tweak a few things
  • I think I'll write a user web hosting panel. So tell me what you think it should have, but without referencing any existing panel or service ... i.e. just decribe it directly. But if you think there's already one out there that fits your needs exactly, then why would you reply here.

  • I have to agree with NooT here. I've been running Plesk for about two weeks now with around 50 domains on it, and about 1000 email accounts. After some intitial flukes (mainly due to me being too tired to see straight, after NorthPoint pulled the plug on our DSL), the box has been running like a champ.

    The tech support people at Plesk are the best, they really went over the top to help us out. It is nice to find someone who will actually return your call, and know what they are talking about when they do!

    Also, most of the configs are stored in MySQL on the back end, so if you absolutely __can't__ stand working with the gui, you can >probably< work with the system from the back end. Just make sure you know what you are doing. This way, the front end users can still add emails, etc. through the gui, and you can do stuff with perl::DBI if you want. Although I'm pretty sure this would void any warranty they have :)

    All in all, it is a great system so far...

  • I am using Plesk's Control Panel and its not bad. It a completely simple interface for setting up email accounts, web users, etc... I would prefer shell access, but oh well...

  • Csoft.net is run by a bunch of losers. I fell in love with their service at the beginning. They even quoted me on their web site. But a year later (around mid-Y2K), their services have turned for the worst.

    Their accounting system is a mess. My account expired and they claimed they've emailed me, which I know they didn't. They lied. What's stupid is that I gave them my credit card number online but the csoft morons still wouldn't get my account activated. So I emailed them, and they gave me the run-around (e.g., need to reapply for a new account). What does it take me to get them to accept my money?! I couldn't bother trying to track down a their sales department after sending a couple of emails.

    So I ditched the stupid fuckers. BTW, I have clients that are now getting their accounts mixed up. Dumb csoft fucks can't even count money. They should learn accounting.

    I'm in Canada, so if they keep fucking around, I'll call the consumer affairs in Quebec.
  • I agree absolutely. I supose I didn't get this across before, but we operate similarly. Everyone gets access to their CPanel3 Control Panel, and those clients who request it get access to the shell.

    Take care,

    Brian

    http://www.assortedinternet.com [assortedinternet.com]

  • Being a long time consumer and now provider of web hosting services I've found that you just need to have shell access available.

    I've never even considered hosting on a service that didn't offer shell accounts - in fact, when I started hosting my own websites there really weren't any HTML Control Panels. You had to do everything yourself. Now with Control Panels there is an option to do it through a GUI, but for a lot of things you still want/need to do through a shell. There is only so much a control panel can do, and where it falls short, there is always the command line.

    Having said that though, control panels like CPanel3, Cobalt Raq's CP, Webmin, etc are great for doing a wide variety of common tasks. Adding users, subdomains, viewing logs, file management, statistics, etc. Doing it through a GUI is nice, fast and far easier for the vast majority of users. So now we use and offer CPanel3 since it generally makes life easier.

    I definitely believe that having both is preferable for power users. For less experienced users, they will probably only ever use the Control Panel, but should they want to use the shell, it should be there.

    Brian
    http://www.assortedinternet.com [assortedinternet.com]

  • And since Jumpline has been mentioned:
    They're hosted by Alabanza, and the CP and all that other UI tuff that you see was developed completely in-house by Alabanza. It's also not OSS, although the platform that it runs on is.

    I don't speak for my company, they have no idea I'm posting this, and if you can guess who I work for from this disclaimer, you need some help (and no, it ain't Jumpline).
  • PHP-Nuke is decent slash ripoff (i use it), but its not a webhosting control panel
  • Not everything there is under the GPL. Do not automatically assume something is GPL'd. Apache is released under the Apache License which sallows for binary releases undercertain restrictions. MySQL is under its own license as well. Therrestrictions vary according to what you want to do with it. Some older versions are under the GPL though. Qmail as far as i know has some controls on how you distribute it but its not gpl per so(I could be wrong here). ProFTPD is under GPL though.
  • Hi

    I'm Vince from Site5.
    I'd just like to add a few things ...
    Site5.com are one of only 2 hosting companies in the world who have access to the Cpanel3 source code. (Our CEO is on the Cpanel3 development team). And to my knowledge, we're the only company outside of VDI.net's datacenter that can offer Cpanel3/WHM for free to our dedicated and colocated customers.

    So if anyones looking for a Cpanel3 server, we can help you out. :)

    Feel free to contact me (vince at site5.com) for more information.

    Regards,
    Vince.
  • HostRocket use Cpanel3, probably with a theme.

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • If someone has a legitamate need for shell access, they can contact us and say so, and we'll enable it for them.
    I'm not saying shell access should *never* be granted, I'm saying shell access should be granted *after* some contact has been made with the client.
    Sorry for being security concious. Oh. Wait. No. I'm not sorry. :)

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • Well, when something like this is posted, and you have inside information and good contacts, it doesn't hurt to spread the word. :)

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • We have a decent amount - I'd say we're medium sized.

    I'd say less then 10% of our users use the shell, and not many of them use it every day, so I'd estimate around 100 ICQ pages / day / 2000 users.

    Quite managable.

    Plus, we can make it alternate between members of staff, and distribute the pages evenly.

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • Supposen your machine DOES get compromised, do you think knowing any users which were using a shell at the time on the machine would help you with your investigation?

    We also state in our TOS that while a user is on the system, we can monitor their actions.
    It helps to know when users are actually logged on, if you want to do any active monitoring.

    It adds to the picture of system usage. When grouped with resource usage, login frequency and duration, you can figure out patterns in user behaviour, which can also be helpful when trying to track down system compromise.

    I just feel it's better to be prepared then to get caught with hot grits down your pants. :)

    Plus, sometimes people will request a shell account when their domain name is very suspect - Recently, 'allripped-fxp.com' requested a shell.
    It's nice to know when they're logged in, so I can actually take a look at what they're doing, and determine if the reason they requested shell access is truthful and doesn't violate TOS.

    And anyway, every little helps.

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • I agree and disagree.
    Leaving shell access available for everyone who signs up is just begging to be screwed with by the script kiddies of the world.

    I'm a system administrator at site5.com (we're on the Cpanel3 development team) and we wrote a shell wrapper that denies access to the shell unless it's specified as an option in /var/cpanel/users/username. It also notifies us via ICQ pager whenever anyone signs into their shell account.

    We're also thinking about modifying bash to make it do chroot()'ing to the users' home directory.

    Blindly offering shell access to any customer that signs up, without any kind of administrator contact, is very shortsighted IMHO.

    Regards,
    Vince.
    (vince at site5.com)
  • Post links to all of the control panel companies on slashdot and see who's sites stay up.. right now both of these sites are having issues.
  • by hattig (47930) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:44AM (#276564) Journal
    Webmin and vhost might be suitable, I forget the URL for webmin, but vhost:

    http://www.chaogic.com/vhost/ [chaogic.com]

    Updated today on Freshmeat. These tools are more for the administration side than the user side of course, but what do they want in a front-end? Maybe a web-based template based website creation tool? Web based email for their domain name? You are asking for an answer to a vague question...

  • One of my hosts, http://www.site5.com [site5.com], use CPanel 3.7.0-STABLE Build 314 and NetAdmin 1.3-STABLE Build 293 on their site management pages. I can sort out email (POP, webmail, forwarding, etc), subdomains, users, error pages, backups, ftp accounts, MIME types, mySQL (via phpMyAdmin), cron, and quite a few other things too. I've found it very easy to use from an end-user point of view :)
  • I had a dedicated server with Plesk preinstalled a while back, so I figured I'd make use of it. And for a while, it was pretty good.

    The problem, though, is that if you ever want/need to edit any configurations by hand, Plesk will make your life hell. It stores configuration information in its own files, and overwrites the real files with that when you change anything. You can edit a few of those files, but IIRC, they're added to the end of the conf files. So, if you want to mess with Apache's conf, you'll be having to fight Plesk for the rest of your days with the server.

    Of course, if you can live with the fairly limited options that Plesk offers, you're fine.

    The other thing I didn't like about Plesk is that it moves everything around, putting all the program files, conf files, and data under /usr/local/plesk. For example, your website gets put in:

    /usr/local/plesk/apache/vhosts/hostname/httpdocs/

    And your BIND files?

    /usr/local/plesk/named/

    So, if you plan on never touching the conf files yourself, you can live with its limited options, and you don't mind things being moved around, you'll be okay. Otherwise, stay away.

    --

  • Yes, well, for someone who wasn't familiar with editing the conf files for a few of those packages to begin with, it made things very "interesting" when half the steps in the directions I'm trying to follow were wrong.

    Maybe I'm just biased because it made trying to administer my server a hellish task, having to work around Plesk instead of just with-or-without it.

    Or maybe web-based interfaces just don't like me, since Webmin wrote me some BIND conf files that were just plain wrong...gave up on that one, too. The plus side is I can now configure Apache, BIND, and qmail all by hand.

    --

  • Are you Karma whoring or just trolling with that same lame line?

    Rob Becker, didn't write that he had "absolutely no Linux experience" in his ask Slashdot question. It was Cliff who wrote that in regard to his skepticism about products claiming that users need no Linux experience.

    There, are you happy? You trolled me into explaining the obvious.

  • Plusmail may be worthy of an Ask Slashdot of its own. <p>Although a ton of hosting companies advertise Plusmail scripts as a feature, have you ever tried to find information on purchasing Plusmail for a system? Can anyone point to a web site for the company that writes/sells/markets Plusmail to web hosts? Reasonably thorough searches I have made have been uncuccessful.
  • i've noticed a lot of people pumping up all kinds of products; free ones, proprietary, and even a bunch of asses advertising their own hosting provider [internetconnection.net] (couldn't resist, but at least i admit i'm an ass.), but the question of whether there are similar projects out there...

    webmin and similar products don't count, because if you don't know unix, you shouldn't run it, let alone administer it, LET ALONE THAT, and try and run a business using it.

    web hosting is a business. no mather which way you look, and while I have found several (many of the ones listed elsewhere on this page), most tend to coerce you into using their hosting solution(tm), instead of bending to your system.

    if you're serious about doing web-hosting, build a platform. take redhat, or debian, or solaris, or whatever you like/know, and build your system. use whatever components you feel comfortable with; but don't worry about a gui. make shell scripts for your timid users. writing a few dozen perl/shell scripts to help out users is a good idea(tm), and if you absolutely want a web-based interface, it's a simple matter to write some web-glue for that.

    truth here: if you think you can build a successful web-hosting company _without_ spending time on it (e.g. purchasing your components), you've definately got another thing coming, and you will run into it sooner or later.

    so take my advise, give the users the capacity for control first, then make your own damn pages to actually make it easy on them. any other route spells disaster for the future.

    and as a closing note, i *hate* all those 3$...5$...10$ hosting providers with a unprofessional-looking website, and some shoddy NT/IIS based or Redhat+RedhatServer(blah) garbage (hacked in five flat. guaranteed), and expect to stick around. all they do is waste people's time... and if you fuck up early, you'll make it harder on yourself in the future.

  • I didn't see anything that really did everything I wanted (web interface, manage websites, nameserver records, FTP accounts, shell accounts, email accounts, aliases, mailing lists, and databases), so I rolled my own for BrightNIC [brightnic.com]. Wrote a web interface using PHP on the frontend and Perl scripts on the backend, with a MySQL database in the middle of it all holding all the configuration information. And it's my hope that I've abstracted it from the actual systems far enough that you don't really need to know too much to manage things.

    Unfortunately, it's so customized and woven into my hosting system, I don't know that I could ever pull it out into a package that other people could install and use. But it works for me.

    -Todd

    ---
  • I don't know about the license, but from a user perspective, Plesk seems like a decent product. My hosting service sweethomes.com [sweethomes.com] uses it to allow cheapskates like me to run their $10/month sites without giving out shell accounts. For the level it seems targeted at, mostly smallish and personal sites, it seems to work pretty well. I would rather have a shell prompt available, of course, but for the price I really can't complain.
  • Actually, the editor said "absolutely no Linux experience". The poster didn't mention anything about the skill level of his users.
  • by stix (66531)
    I took a look at Plesk recently and found something rather disturbing. It installs it's own versions of Apache, MySQL, Qmail, and ProFTP. This doesn't sound too horrible until you find out that they don't include the source code at all, Just the compiled programs. I don't know about you, but that scares the crap out of me. I think that "Control Panel" software should work on any version of the daemon software, not just the one that it installs for you.
  • From a user's perspective, the hosting crew at Pair Networks has a nice control panel. You might poke around their setup, though I bet it's hand-rolled:
    http://www.pair.com/pair/support/mypair/
  • Did anybody actually maintain the BB installation after you left?

    I had it running at the last three companies where I was as well, but after I left nobody kept it's hand on it, and now it more or less died...

    My current employer though would rather spent 250.000 on BMC than use BB... Well, it took me a day to roll out BB on all my boxes and it's working... BMC is still trying to figure out WHAT they actually have to monitor .
  • > Why's this post moderated higher and placed above an earlier post that provided an actual link??

    Because the earlyer post was posted by an AC, so it started at score 0, rather than 1. Both were moderated up as informative, and thus ended up with scores 1 and 2.

  • http://www.webmin.com/

    Pretty hard URL to remember huh? (JK =P)
  • ugh. Please don't use that word.
    Csoft
    I'm a current csoft customer, and I routinely experience outages of greater than 1 hour, with no notice or explanation posted (in fact, they rarely admit to an outage unless it lasts the whole day.)
    The concept is cool, and I like the amount of control that csoft offers (csoftadm rocks), but all in all, csoft sucks.
    A quote from their current motd:
    Until users are moved to the new servers, complaints go to /dev/null.

    Nothing like telling your customers up front that complaints about their network will fall upon deaf ears.
    Anyone know of anything like csoft that actually works?

    -jerdenn
  • And, the community of Brothers kick ass.

    I've been on the mailing lists for a long time now, been with BB since pre 1.2, if I remember right. It really does a great job without annoying extra bloat, even if it does page me at 3 AM because Cold Fusion on NT has choked on another chicken bone. :)

    Another great thing about it is the extensibility - if you can write a simple shell script, you can make a custom test. Or perl, or C, or whatever tickles your fancy. Or just download a premade contributed extension from www.deadcat.net.

    Finally, the authors, Robert-Andre and Sean, are also probably the most approachable guys I've ever met on a mailing list.

    But yeah - it's not really anything to do with webhosting control panels. :)

  • ...When we bought our Raq4r it was over $4k. Probably cheaper now...

    Yep - lots cheaper. From the Cobalt website [cobalt.com]:

    RaQ4 (64MB RAM/10GB HD/single Ethernet) is $1499
    RaQ4i (256MB RAM/20GB HD/Dual Ethernet/SCSI Port) is $2699
    RaQ4r (512MB RAM/2 30GB HD w/RAID1) is $3599
    (other SKUs with different RAM/HD configs change the price as well)

    These all use commodity PC-100 DIMMs, so you can do your own memory upgrade to the 512MB max pretty easily (of course your own memory isn't covered by the warranty, but...)

    They are more expensive than a white-box general purpose server, but it comes back to "everything you need is pre-integrated" so you can literally have it online within 10-15 minutes of opening the box without having to be a Linux "guru". That's what the slight premium in price is all about...

    Put 50 domains on a RaQ4r at $40 a month each, and it's paid for in 2 months. And that's without charging extra for bandwidth, backup services, etc, which most every ISP does anyway...

  • ...(run a version of RedHat with exploitable BIND etc.)...

    The BIND patch has been available since Feb 6

    ...command line administration 'voids your warranty'...

    Command-line administration does not necessarily void your 30 days of free telephone support, and absolutely doesn't affect the hardware warranty. If you don't touch things provided in the GUI, you're ok. And some things, like Interbase, have to be set up from the command line. Third-party apps which don't overlap/replace/affect supplied services don't alter warranty support in any way (Real server, MySQL, etc).

    Free support isn't provided for every possible end-user kludge-up of the Apache/Sendmail/etc config files... but does anyone provide free support for things like that anyway?

    Cobalt server appliances are just that: appliances. (How many of you fiddle with your microwave to get better/different performance out of it?) If you are totally into complete customization of every detail of your server, then a general-purpose server is what you want.

    Server appliances (not just 1U boxes with an OS on them!) are for people who don't want to spend the time finding/installing/configuring Apache, sendmail, FTP, etc. They just want a few basic internet services to work, and be easy to understand. Cobalt appliances are probably not the best solution for the average Slashdot propellerhead...

  • Yes. I ordered a RaQ3, and it was connected while I was away on holiday. The first day back from holiday, I hooked up to it, and the first thing I did was go to the Web Admin interface to look around.

    It was all chugging along nicely, so I went to get a drink. I came back and went back in (to install security patches, ironically), and I'd been H4X0R3D. 6 days after the server came up.

    I caught it in time, though, and managed to salvage it. Only a web defacement, thank God. Good job, as the support at my ISP (www.tele7.net) is crap.
  • ...if you can get it installed, which takes mroe than a little linux experience. But if you're going to be setting these up for the clients and you're obviously a programmer, it should be no problem. You can find more about webmin at: http://webmin.pucpr.br/webmin/ [pucpr.br]
  • I had a good experience using Domain Console [domainconsole.com]. Simple, straightforward, and useful for basic hosting services. I used it for MirPool.com [mirpool.com], a little contest where users guessed where Mir was going to fall.
  • though now that I'm on OS X, that cute little control panel is going away from the Mac.. buh bye, control panel!

    Oh.. you're talking about THAT kind of control panel. ;-)

  • I haven't used e-smith (www.e-smith.com), but it is a full web based server solution ala cobalt RaQs, and all open source, bring your own hardware (BYOH). Zope (www.zope.org) is another option, but that involves using zope through and through, which may or may not affect your customers.
  • Just thought I'd chime in and say that I'm writing a Webmin module that will do all of these things (even allowing delegation of some things down to the client). Webmin already can provide a lot of neat stuff for the web hosting provider, if configured very carefully. I want to take the planning part out of the picture and make it fully automated, such that an administrator will simply enter a domain name, and everything else will be set up correctly--permissions, accounts, virts, mail aliases, etc.

    It's for a new hardware product that we're developing, but it is free and GPL'ed.

    Anyone with an interest in getting involved in development please email me (perl knowledge required). Apache virts work, users are created, and home directories are made, in the modules current form. The rest of the picture is adding a new Webmin user (with correct permissions), DNS, and Sendmail. Someone today recommended adding MySQL and PostgreSQL users, so it's on the todo for a later version. I haven't put up a website yet, but I'll do so immediately if other people want to get involved.

  • I don't know who makes it, but a hosting company that I'm looking into has a nice control panel. They even have a live demo [hrws1.net] setup. It will even allow you to make cron entries.
  • I've had a chance to play around with the Plesk interface, and I have to admit it's pretty cool. It's user heirarchy allows the serveradmin to manage the box, but site-specific functions can be delegated to the siteadmins.

    I especially dug the console for BIND, so your users can manage (and possibly mess up) their own DNS records. They have demo up on their site, I think.

    If you're into serious large scale deployments, you can get Plesk pre-loaded on Crystal's [crystalpc.com] super small RIA appliance. [crystalpc.com]
  • My company does a lot of ASP work for smaller clients, who don't want to pay 400.month for a dedicated server, so we've found a few shared hosting places that have NT and ASP support. The best one by far is Intermedia.NET (www.intermedia.net [intermedia.net]). If you go to their control site (hosting.intermedia.net [intermedia.net]) you can use their demo account to try out their control panel. It does about 75% what the IIS control panel does. Intermedia's shared hosting is about as good as your going to find, and they apply patches and bug fixes relatively fast. If you can stand to run on Microsoft, give these guys a look.
  • I tried various open source AND commercial products. The only way you're truely going to find what you want is to code your own. Any other solution you find is most likely going to require you to have special directory structures, user/pass formats, use a specific mail server, etc. Most users simply want to modify email accounts. QMail has a few great control panels available for it. This may be a great option if that's all you need. I recently sold my hosting company and had developed about 1/2 of a control panel. The only fully functioning part was e-mail control. I can say that with PHP, MySQL, SSH, SuDo, and some very basic shell scripting, it is very easy to code your own. Any commercial product you use is going to tie you down. Any open source project you use is going to tie you down to hacking at existing code if you want to make changes. But if you code your own, you have infinite flexibility. Code your own while you still can. And, my opinions of the RaQ's is that they are unnecessarily expensive, don't perform well with more than about 100 sites on one, and the control panel is very very slow. I just left a company that exclusively used them for hosting, and everyone there who thought they were cool at first considered them worthless towards the end.
  • As I understand the question, the poster is looking for a web-based administration tool that allows a web-hosting customer to control the particular parts of services that users are typically allowed to control. Such configurables typically include the following services, restricted to the user's particular virtual domain:
    • E-mail forwards
    • Pop account creation/deletion
    • Default pop account designation
    • Autoresponder configuration
    • URL redirects
    Does Microsoft offer such a utility that is well-suited for a webhosting facility? Am I missing something?

    Either I'm ignorant, or you're what they call a reactionary.

  • What interesting timing, me and a couple of other developers are just finishing a control panel/ISP management system from hell for the company we work for [inspace.net] to use, it is going live next Wednesday. I dont want to say how long we have been working on it, its almost embarassing.

    The system consists of many components. Its core is a cooperatively multitasking daemon that manages all activity. Any requests for service modification (customer addition, plan addition, service configuration) come in via XML. These requests typically originate from either the end-user control panel or the reseller control panel. The daemon checks to ensure that nothing odd is going on (like a zillion requests for service modification in the last x minutes), breaks the XML down into subpackets destined for the appropriate servers. For example, one incoming hosting add request will require a packet destined for the DNS server and another packet destined for the hosting server. When translating the packets, the daemon also transactionally updates the postgres database. If all packets translate OK, the data commits. The daemon then establishes a connection to a second, forking daemon which examines the subpacket and connects to the indicated server and issues the XML to a script on that server. The nonforker also runs internal events that monitor the status of the provided services. The whole thing is a little more complex than that, but you get the idea. The system also handles all billing and accounting.

    The system offers several advantages over a traditional control panel. The most obvious advantage is that the customer manages all of their domains from the same login on the same control panel, regardless of what hosting servers those domains may be spread across. The second advantage is with the central server being aware of every request, it can monitor request processing statistics, which results in enhanced security and reliability. The maintained database is substantial enough where if one of our hosting or DNS servers went down, the customer configuration could be regenerated from the information in the management system database (this was not the intent, but a byproduct).
    Anyways, to answer the original question, the type of control panel solution really depends on the scale of the internet service operation.

    Maru

  • ===
    It also notifies us via ICQ pager whenever anyone signs into their shell account.
    ===

    Guess you don't have many customers?

    maru
  • ===
    Quite managable.
    ===

    I guess, but I don't see what useful purpose it serves, aside from satisfying that big brother-ish need that some sysadmins have. If the system paged when a user exceeded some sort of resource limit, then I would mark it as useful. But what good is knowing when a user logs on? Are you looking for excessive logins? What sort of problematic activity can be detected by solely tracking when users log on?

    Maru
  • I'm the primary developer for a product called ISFree [terrabox.com]. It's 100% GPL'd code. System independant. AND it will function from a text browser, or a GUI. We don't use Java, or ASP, or scripting.

    I've been through several ISP management software suites and found them all to be lacking in one of several critical areas. Stability, Security, Usability, or Portability.

    I'm looking for some more developers to join the team to develop ISFree. I've been getting quite a bit of attention from the release on FreshMeat.net.

    If you like what we are doing with it please feel free to join the mailing lists(isfree-dev@lists.terrabox.com) [mailto] or check us out on Openprojects.net IRC network in #isfree.
  • by Nik4 (125512)
    I have tried: http://www.ensim.com/products/sxc.shtml this product makes provisioning and management a breeze! def take a look.
  • A control panel such as this is hard to make generic for the simple fact that everyone's server configuration is different, some host NT, other Linux and we primarily use FreeBSD, so how do you write a control panel that interacts with all of these different hosting platforms? That is why your not finding a suitable solution. Besides most hosting companies like ourselves tend to develop our own solution to the problem and then why would we give away our proprietary control panel after spending countless of dollars and man hours working on it. You are asking the impossible really. If your new to the webhosting business then be prepared to spend a lot of hours developing and honing your business. There is no "quick fix" just lots of hard work and long nights programming little niceties for your customers benefit.

    Some things you can find on the web and integrate or make your own, but most of these solutions at least require some cosmetic alterations and minimal configurations.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • I have a hard problem with products that claim to do administration and that the users need "absolutely no Linux experience".

    Seriously. If you want a no-brainer solution, just use (gasp) Microsoft products. They have spent billions making sure that your mom can do this kind of stuff! Lets focus on using the right tool for the job, instead of smushing one product into every conceivable nitch.

    Not a troll or a flame, just pointing out the obvious. Otherwise I'd be an AC. :)
  • Sphera [sphera.com] is another commercial system, along the lines of Ensim, I believe. I've been at presentations for both, though I've used neither (rolled my own, starting 6 1/2 years ago before there were any other choices available).
  • Have you seen monster controls? It's what CIHost [cihost.com] uses. It's nice :)
  • As long as a webhoster gives me the option of not using the "control panel" then I prefer to use one. (Oh the paradox!)

    If you're running a site on your webhoster's machine (i.e., not leasing a rackmount or something), then why be afraid of the pretty interface? Besides which I can maintain my sites while I'm at work (when it's slow, of course).

  • Agreed. I've got BB down to where I can stand up a new version in 6-8 hours. We're sending two techs and a clueless manager type to Unicenter training for 14 classes so they canlearn how to get things running. BB is a) freeware (By and large. If you're reselling the monitoring capabilities, they charge a license fee, but if you're using it for your own internal network it's free.) and b) Easy to use, extend, and understand. http://www.bb4.com
  • If you need a "small slice" of the server and full root access to your box - check out beta.sw.com.sg. There can be nundres of hosters on one physical box and still each one of them can have his own root (not affecting others), config files and his own Apache... Sorry if it sounds like an Ad..
  • I work for WebshowHost.com, I am basically the chief architect for our web-based control panel system. In other words I have pretty much wrote a control panel from scratch. It is not done yet, which is why you won't see to much mention of it on our site. I have jsut got farenough to start beta testing it with some local developers, however if anyone is interested in checking it out and offering suggestions please drop me a line at [mailto]


    The system is built using PHP 4.0 for the front-end, several MySQL Databases and several PERL based daemons that do the actual system level work. The Control panel handles an intitial customer bill, then lets our home-grown accounting package track the billing from then on.


    WebSHowHost is very open-source friendly, and I have already had discussions about releasing our package as GPL with the partners who thus far have been very open to the idea.


    I like building this application to building my dream house. I have tried to put in all the "extras" to make it well suited for me, and other developers like me.


    I hope to have a demo on-line within the next week or so. Visually it is pretty spartan now, and the navigation isn't as intuitive as I'd like. So in other words it needs some polish. I also need to make it a bit more generalized, so it more flexible in other situations.


    The neat thing about the aritecture is the "auto-form" code I worte to provide an abstract method of generating HTML forms for mySQL databases. Each form is defined by a n assoiciative array so visible fields can be turned on and off ddepending on the situation. Updating and Insert is as easy as passing the array to a specific function, so adding field to the database the html form automatically reflects the change, making the tool very easy to customize, because you don't have to change a lot of static forms or modify any sql statements to add fields. I have been meaning to release the auto form code for a while (since I orginally developed it for another independent project, but have been to usy to get to it.) Anyway please feel free to drop me a line if your interested in talking about this.


    -Brandon (MS2K)

  • **DUMB ASS ALERT** I can build an entire site but can't even post to slashdot without fscking up the post it looks a little better below:

    Also, my correct e-mail is bphillips@webshowhost.com [mailto]

    I guess I be a little more patient next timewith waiting for the preview to finish loading.

    -- REPOST FOLLOWS: ---

    I work for WebshowHost.com, I am basically the chief architect for our web-based control panel system. In other words I have pretty much wrote a control panel from scratch. It is not done yet, which is why you won't see to much mention of it on our site. I have jsut got farenough to start beta testing it with some local developers, however if anyone is interested in checking it out and offering suggestions please drop me a line at

    bphillips@webshowhost.com

    The system is built using PHP 4.0 for the front-end, several MySQL Databases and several PERL based daemons that do the actual system level work. The Control panel handles an intitial customer bill, then lets our home-grown accounting package track the billing from then on.

    WebSHowHost is very open-source friendly, and I have already had discussions about releasing our package as GPL with the partners who thus far have been very open to the idea.

    I like building this application to building my dream house. I have tried to put in all the "extras" to make it well suited for me, and other developers like me.

    I hope to have a demo on-line within the next week or so. Visually it is pretty spartan now, and the navigation isn't as intuitive as I'd like. So in other words it needs some polish. I also need to make it a bit more generalized, so it more flexible in other situations.

    The neat thing about the aritecture is the "auto-form" code I worte to provide an abstract method of generating HTML forms for mySQL databases. Each form is defined by a n assoiciative array so visible fields can be turned on and off ddepending on the situation. Updating and Insert is as easy as passing the array to a specific function, so adding field to the database the html form automatically reflects the change, making the tool very easy to customize, because you don't have to change a lot of static forms or modify any sql statements to add fields. I have been meaning to release the auto form code for a while (since I orginally developed it for another independent project, but have been to usy to get to it.) Anyway please feel free to drop me a line if your interested in talking about this.

    -Brandon (MS2K)

  • I work for Wirex [wirex.com]. Check out our Immunix ISP Appliance Server Software [wirex.com]. We think our interface is very easy to use; we built in some mini-expert systems in the form of "wizards" (yes, like them :-) so that the web interface is more intelligent than just filling in fields that would otherwise be the content of conf files.

    The appliance software is integrated with Immunix [immunix.org] which is a security hardened Linux distribution. Security hardening is important in a web-managed appliance, precisely because the web interface (and the users that accompany them :-) don't have the smarts to address security issues in a timely fashion.

  • The company I work for insists that we use Plesk to add new virtual hosts.
    Dont get me wrong, plesk is a fairly decent tool, but its not even close to being a replacement for a few well designed perl scripts run by the admin himself.
    Plesk makes -extremely- dirty config files, nearly unreadable except to itself.
    Just keep that in mind when you use it, dont expect to go through you config files later after Plesk gets done with them.
    Systems Administrator
    Servu Networks
    http://www.servuhome.net
  • I personally hate things like this.

    Making administration easier by hiding the "gory details" of what's actually going on has a tendency to reduce the knowledge needed to properly administer a system to nearly nothing. What you end up with is people who setup a system and then call themselves SA's or something of that ilk, when in reality all they know how to do is fill in a few fields and click some icons.

    This is probably the single most irritating trait of most NT/2k administrators (and increasingly, linux/unix admins) - they know what to do with their admin tools, but the majority have no clue as to what their actions are doing.

    I'm a CLI jockey - i like to know what is happening and why, so if something breaks i can have some idea as to what is going. i like to know the capabilities of my tools, so if i need to do a non-standard config, i know how to do it. only after i have a solid understanding of what a particular tool does do I look for a quick and easy, point and click interface to it - but i always check the end result at the command line.
  • actually, i prefer to walk backwards with my eyes closed relying on the way the hairs on the back of my head move for direction-finding and speed sensing.
  • ISPMan ROCKS! Requires Apache (of course) OpenLDAP, Cyrus IMAP, Postfix, and ProFTPd. (All/most of which are best of breed.) Handles centralized web-based authentication of FTP, IMAP, and SMTP users via LDAP without need for /etc/passwd. Also a separate web-based control panel for users, and a customized version of IMP for webmail based users.

    www.ispman.org [ispman.org]

    Atif (the author) is very clever, very responsive, and ispman works very well and has been tested on Linux and FreeBSD.

  • I was searching for the same thing today found this one: http://webcp.can-host.com/ Also do a search on http://sourceforge.net I found some webost panels wandering around there too!
  • You need to go read the GPL and then understand that even if what the poster said is true that this is not a violation of the GPL (besides only one of the things he named is under the GPL) but in any case this may be a violation of the GPL but that would depend on *many* details that we don't have.
  • Actually, I have run into the same problem that the poster has in that I, too, have also started a small dedicated server company with several others. Since I know PHP, I'm pretty much going to be coding most of the stuff from scratch, and some of my other projects include a banner affiliate system that will allow you to pay people to host banners on their pages and keep track of things such as clickthroughs, etc.

    BTW, while I'm planning on making the affiliate program availible for a small charge (about $30 or $40), I think I'll be using the GPL for the control panel program once I get aroudn to writing it.

    Now, a shameless plug: my hosting company is Synergy Global Networks [synergyglo...tworks.com]. They specialize in a no-TOS hosting plan, which would take a court order to remove your site.

    There, I'm done whoring myself.

  • The Linux one I like to use is the one my main hosting service uses. Its called Plusmail and is used on I-Denity.com [i-dentity.com].

    Of course you could go with the server/web admin that Xitami [xitami.com] offers. My 2 bits.

  • CPanel3 because it's site is more resiliant to the /. effect. And cause they got a chick on their page.
  • Seems like plesk isn't that good as there site seems to have been /.'ed. But here [google.com] is the google mirror if you want to check it out.
  • Csoft has a custom made command line control panel that is run from the shell. According to the tool they are opensourcing the next version, so you can question them on the status. It controls mail/DNS/mysql amoung other things. csoft: http://www.csoft.net commands for csoftadm: http://hail-eris.com/~nekhbet/cadm/cadm.html
  • There is a nice one called 911 that let's you do alot from a browser interface. Web2010.com uses it on their Unix hosting accounts. It's pretty easy... once it's installed you just hit http://www.mydomain.com:911, authenticate, and you can add and delete mail users, forwarding, etc. Sorry, no URL. Maybe someone else can supply it.
  • This might not be exactly what you're looking for, especially if you've chosen an OS - I, of course, mean Linux distribution -but how about "e-smith"? (www.e-smith.org).

    It must be one of the easiest distributions to set up and administer; although if you know what you're doing you'll be a bit frustrated with always having to use the GUI.

    I set a couple boxes up for total beginners, and I mean real beginners, not IIS/Windows refugees. The people I set them up for have hardly ever called me with questions. (Setting up FrontPage extensions is a PAIN though, so if one needs that c)



  • Their control panel is ok, but their service is really bad. I was a customer of theirs for 3 years and they where going force me to pay more money for a lower account. After quoting their own contracts on how they couldn't do this, they wouldn't back down so I canceled my account. I found a MUCH better host with a better price and more features.
  • despite the similarity in name to FreeBSD it's a kickass web control panel thing.

    lots of power to the user, the best I've seen yet.

    Of course, 'no previous Linux experience' doesn't really come into it so it might not be for your client - but for cheap virtual hosting for geeks its unbeatable.

    for an ISP that uses it, check out www.dsvr.co.uk (very good, fast, reliable).

    excellent stuff!
  • damn the temptation to skip the preview button... the FreeVSD web site is at www.freevsd.org damn my laziness in not making that a real link...
  • >They specialize in a no-TOS hosting plan, which would take a
    >court order to remove your site.

    Since it's a little late for an April Fool's joke, I'll bite...

    When you say no-TOS, do you mean there's no terms of service / usage agreement? The client just agrees to pay the bill, with no restrictions on content? Part of me loves the idea and wants to find out more, the other part of me thinks you're opening yourself up to a shitload of legal problems (not to mention being RBL'd the day you open for business). In any case, I'd appreciate some clarification - visited the site to get more info, but it's still in the works, I see :)

    Shaun
  • The poster said he has "absolutely no Linux experience". How do you think he is going to use Comanche!!??
  • If you really want a good control panel backed by a great company and low cost then you should check out Ensim WEBppliance LS [ensim.com].

    It is the only Virtual Hosting control panel on the market designed strictly for the Novice Web Hoster.
    Check it out.
  • ...(run a version of RedHat with exploitable BIND etc.)...

    The BIND patch has been available since Feb 6

    Yes, a patch - if you sign up for dedicated hosting from most places, you'll probably start with a fresh install and an unpatched BIND. Since most people going for RaQs don't know much about being a sysadmin, they will be h@x0r3d within days. (I get on average 6 or 7 attempts a day against the 'known insecure' services, aka sunrpc, lpd, BIND every day from skript kiddies).

    A large chunk of the traffic on the Cobalt Users mailing list is "Help! I've been hacked" from RaQ3/RaQ4 users. Not really Cobalt's fault - they weren't to know when they shipped the software - but if you're getting a RaQ it's something you need to know so you can fix it before the kiddies get in. Since BIND can run happily as a non-root user, I'm surprised that Cobalt's (and RedHat's for that matter) distro doesn't run it as a non-root user. My motto is "if it can be run as non-root, then it's going to be run as non-root". Any good distro should avoid running stuff as root that doesn't have to be run as root.

    Cobalt server appliances are just that: appliances. (How many of you fiddle with your microwave to get better/different performance out of it?) If you are totally into complete customization of every detail of your server, then a general-purpose server is what you want.

    I agree - but the only reasonably priced dedicated hosting tends to be CobaltRaQs, so a lot of people who don't need just an appliance get them. They can be customized and improved. In fact, if you have a RaQ2, you need to do some of that if you want to be able to run things like MySQL (the shipped glibc is broken).

  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Friday April 20, 2001 @11:19AM (#276629) Journal
    It's probably too late now (since you probably already have the hardware), but CobaltRaQs have nice web-based admin software. The downside with the RaQ is that they are not secure out of the box (run a version of RedHat with exploitable BIND etc.) and Sun expects you to never use the commandline (in fact they say that commandline administration 'voids your warranty'. Bah, I do it all the same - it's the only way to secure the box!)

  • Yeah, everybody knows that the only possible use of the unix shell is for is cracking, Mr. "suidrewt.org".
  • the last time I saw it you couldn't add pops from their. CIHost is really disorganized. THey had a POP request page, and after no replies, I sent them an email, and after a week or so I get a reply asking for the URL to the page.

    If you don't know already, most hosting companies suck and/or are in debt.

  • Not that I am critisizing you, but when a pro-Linux person says:

    why would we give away our proprietary control panel after spending countless of dollars and man hours working on it.

    There is something wrong.

  • I haved used the Plesk Control Panel since version 1. It works great for what it was designed for. If you are just doing webhosting and need to create domains and email accounts quickly and easily it will do it. If you want to change anything, get some coffee and a programing book because it is not easy. They are now upto Version 1.3.1 with PHP and Mod_perl. This is the first version I would recomend people useing for complicated domains. The support people at plesk are great, they pass almost any idea you give them onto the developers so it can get in the next version.
  • by MemexMutex (411069) on Friday April 20, 2001 @10:49AM (#276645)
    I've started using Comanche and found it to be very powerful. You can check it out at: http://www.covalent.net/projects/comanche/ It's open source, XML-based and looks to be pretty easily expanded, if you have some Tcl/Tk, Perl/Tk or Java experience.

How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else. -- R. Buckminster Fuller

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