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Web site admin

Those of you who are familiar with the nuts and bolts of administering a Web server will know that it is a complex business. For this reason most people tend to use some form of administration software, for example WHM/cPanel or Plesk. This makes it a lot easier to add new virtual domains to server, modify e-mail users, check disk space usage and regulate bandwidth used.

I have used cPanel for some time and it serves its purpose well, however, if you are managing you own server it is not cheap.

I have recently been experimenting with Webmin and Virtualmin and, so far, I am impressed for the following reasons:

  • The packages are available as GPL and hence you can play around with them before deciding whether you wanted to use them or not.
  • A paid-for version is also available which included more features and support options. It s not expensive, at least not when compared to cPanel
  • Provided you have a supported operating system, the software can be set up easily using a shell script provided by Virtualmin. I initially setup the system on a spare machine in my office and then created an instance on  a Linode VPS using Centos 5.2. Things worked pretty much out of the box, with the exception of e-mail that required some fiddling around with. If I had a couple of small criticisms of Virtualmin so far, they would be that some of the basic e-mail setup could be easier and the site forums are not particularly active.
  • Unlike cPanel which seems to have its own abstraction layer of settings and files, Virtualmin sets up the underlying files. This means that if you removed Virtualmin everything would continue working (apart from being able to administer the server using Virtualmin, of course).
  • Virtualmin is committed to educating its users. This means that by using Virtualmin you should, in theory, know more about Web hosting and Linux administration.

I am still busy tweaking my setup, but the experience has been rewarding so far.