Debian web and email servers with/ without a control panel.

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Debian web and email servers with/ without a control panel.

Postby kedaha » 2016-04-07 09:30

I'm writing this just to share my thoughts with anyone interested in server configuration and would welcome any comments about the pros and cons of using hosting control panels.
Of the options listed at HostingControlPanels I've only tried webmin and IspConfig but, on reflection, have decided not to use them - or the others - for web and email server configuration, although I don't entirely discount using one in the future. The first reason for not wanting to use them is that they're not included in Debian's main repository and the second is that, in the case of the latter, new versions of software like, for instance, wordpress get installed instead of official packages. I can see why panels are popular because the tasks of manually configuring the official, stable versions of packages such as wordpress and postfixadmin aren't so easy. The same goes for things like configuring virtual hosts which also isn't so easy compared with doing it via a GUI interface but I was lucky to find some good, clear guides.
While some control panels may be very good and facilitate administrative tasks, I've not found any in Debian's main repository so I'm not too keen on installing packages which, by definition, haven't passed from experimental via sid and testing to stable. Similarly, most of the guides one comes across for installing, for example, postfixadmin, which provide a useful GUI, don't recommend installation from the official repository but recommend "downloading the latest tarball", extracting it somewhere and continuing from there. This I consider also goes against the rationale of a Debian server which, for stability and security, should really only include official packages with the advantage of using tried and tested software and receiving only security updates rather than the latest "features."
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby GarryRicketson » 2016-04-07 13:05

While some control panels may be very good and facilitate administrative tasks, I've not found any in Debian's main repository


This is a pretty long post, so I did not read all of it, but yes there are not any "control panel" type programs in the Debian respositories.
I ended up using AJENTI
with NGINX, (nginx is in the debian repos).
Similar to the OP, I had searched and also asked here on the forum, after trying several others that show in searches, and a couple that also were mentioned here, and not 1 worked well,nor installed smoothly, finally Ajenti
was the only one that installed easily,/smoothly and now over a year later still runs
fine, occasionally there are updates for it, and they usually coincide with the security updates for Wheezy, but they all ways go smoothly.
Ajenti is the only 3rd party software I have installed on my system, same as the OP , I
try to stick with only packages that are in the Debian repository. But if one wants some kind of control panel for their server that is the only option as far as I know.
Ajenti turned out to really be the only one that worked and installed with no problems.
The others, the problems started when installing, and I never was able to get them working. Ajenti basicly worked right "out if the box".
On the mail server side of it, I have never had any interest or desire to setup a mail server so I don't know.
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby dilberts_left_nut » 2016-04-07 13:16

I've developed a dislike for "control panels" and the abstraction they engender.
It really is much easier to adjust the conf files directly.

I've used webmin and postfixadmin and had a brief look at ISPconfig - I thought they would be "easier" to use, but tbh, it just made it harder to understand what was really going on.
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby kedaha » 2016-04-08 21:43

Thanks for your replies.
GarryRicketson wrote: I ended up using AJENTI
with NGINX, (nginx is in the debian repos).

I see you have installed Ajenti on old stable so I was curious to see if it would work for jessie on a server I use for practice but it didn't due most likely to the some issue as reported in Ajenti not working in Debian Jessie. May I ask you what you use Ajenti for?
dilberts_left_nut wrote:I've developed a dislike for "control panels" and the abstraction they engender.
It really is much easier to adjust the conf files directly.

I know what you mean. I don't know about nginx but virtual hosts, for instance, may be set up easily as described at how-to-set-up-apache-virtual-hosts-on-debian-8/.
dilberts_left_nut wrote:I've used webmin and postfixadmin and had a brief look at ISPconfig - I thought they would be "easier" to use, but tbh, it just made it harder to understand what was really going on.

I think postfixadmin installed from Debian's main repository is useful so that users other than oneself can log in by means of a little panel, if necessary, to change their email logins/passwords. It also saves time. Finally, I find phpmyadmin quite useful too.
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby GarryRicketson » 2016-04-08 22:53

by kedaha » May I ask you what you use Ajenti for?

That is a good question, actually I am like D_L_N, and do not like nor feel the need for
a "control panel"
Post by dilberts_left_nut » 2016-04-07 07:16
I've developed a dislike for "control panels" and the abstraction they engender.
It really is much easier to adjust the conf files directly.

I did end up installing "ajenti" on a "local host" server, mostly just wanting to explore or experiment with them,, or at least one,.. similar to what it sounds like you are doing in the original post,
Post by kedaha » 2016-04-07 03:30
I'm writing this just to share my thoughts with anyone interested in server configuration and would welcome any comments about the pros and cons of using hosting control panels.

I really did not come up with much for the "pros", and the "cons", Well to start with they seem to slow everything down, they also make everything more complicated, to me.
I was not aware of the problems Ajenti is having with Debian Jessie, or vice verse, Debian Jessie having problems with ajenti. You are correct, I am using Debian wheezy, or "old stable", as my main system, I also have some even older versions of Debian , actually going as far back as Debian 1.1, but that is another topic, mostly "nostalgic" I guess,...
Any way, back to, "May I ask you what you use Ajenti for? " when I do use it, I mostly use it for the file manager it has, I do kind of like that.
At one time I was thinking about setting up a server, and providing some "private" hosting, for just my family and a few friends, actually my kid and some of his school friends, the idea was to give them a "site" or a "host" they could access and log into , and start building a website, etc. Since most if not all "hosting" services do use a "control panel", and it seems like probably most normal people need the "GUI" that is offered with a control panel, that was what I was trying to do, personally I do not like or use them. For example the "hosting" I do use for my websites, they have a "control panel", off hand now, I don't remember which one they use, because I never use it,
I use the ssh access or sftp , depending on what I need to do.
On my "localhost" the same, I just use the terminal,and ssh and access the files from there,.. similar , I find the "DE" (desk top environment) more cumbersome, then use full.
Some one here once commented , to another member,"Don't pay attention to Garry, he is old school", at least that is what the quote said, but after all said and done I am much more comfortable with a simple command prompt, and I type in the command, telling the computer to do exactly what I want, much more comfortable with that, then floundering around in some GUI, trying to find some obscure Icon, or menu selection that might do what I need to do.
Even with a good file manager, I still think it is easier to locate directories,and edit conf files , or any other files using the "ls" and "locate" or "find" , and then do the edit with the editor on prefers.
Guess I am kind of drifting off topic, but in a nut shell, I don't really have much use for a "control panel", why I installed one , is almost a mystery to me, I guess I just wanted to see if it was better or easier, and it wasn't, so now I have it installed, but never use it, my kid and his friends kind of lost interest,..and are happier playing games on Xbox.
but that is another topic.
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby kedaha » 2016-04-09 08:16

Thanks for your reply.
GarryRicketson wrote: I did end up installing "ajenti" on a "local host" server, mostly just wanting to explore or experiment with them,, or at least one,.. similar to what it sounds like you are doing in the original post.

I have two servers: one - with a view to production - is a full, dedicated server provided by a company which I connect to via ssh. A server panel called "Plesk" is available but I have not installed it because I only wish to use official Debian packages and the other is a headless "home server" in my office which is connected to the internet and which I've configured to use remotely via ssh so I can do things with it from home too before doing them on my main server. So as to minimise running costs I use the raspberry pi 2 running Debian - not Raspbian - as detailed at Debian Jessie on Raspberry Pi 2, using a memory stick as a hard drive, but I'll post about that when I get round to it in another topic.
GarryRicketson wrote:At one time I was thinking about setting up a server, and providing some "private" hosting, for just my family and a few friends, actually my kid and some of his school friends, the idea was to give them a "site" or a "host" they could access and log into , and start building a website, etc. Since most if not all "hosting" services do use a "control panel", and it seems like probably most normal people need the "GUI" that is offered with a control panel, that was what I was trying to do, personally I do not like or use them. For example the "hosting" I do use for my websites, they have a "control panel", off hand now, I don't remember which one they use, because I never use it...

While a server systems administrator should ideally use the command line - though I suspect many use gui control panels - normal users who use Windows have to interact with their website with simple GUI configuration tools; hence my interest, for example, in making, at least, postfixadmin available to them.
In my view the ideal web and email servers - in the interests of security and stability - should only include official Debian packages and not "outsource" package installation and updates to scripts executed by third-party control panels; this is likely the main reason they cannot be included in Debian repositories; they evidently don't comply with Debian requirements.
Finally, the widespread practice of downloading some tarball, extracting and installing is contrary to "the Debian way" of doing things; it defeats the purpose which is to use official packages. But there are countless guides out there which advocate this procedure for packages like wordpress and postfixadmin and many others. And server panels also use scripts to this effect resulting in more and more updates rather than the stable and reliable packages provided by Debian. Server configuration is time-consuming and is by no means "a walk in the park" hence the popularity of GUI alternatives. But I've come to the conclusion that manual configuration is the best method; it provides maximum control and minimises subsequent administration.
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Re: Debian web and email servers with/ without a control pan

Postby dryden » 2016-05-20 13:20

You realize WordPress is going to try to update itself to the newest versions and will often do so automatically (given a certain major release) unless you explicitly turn that off, right?

And mostly these are also security fixes.

I mean, sometimes Debian stable (or equivalents) is also referred to as "Full of security holes and outdated software, and not stable or secure at all". For example, if you have a Wordpress 3.9, it will not automatically update to 4.0 (or currently, rather 4.5 or something of the kind) but it will install automatically all minor updates in the 3.9 range.

I know WordPress is packaged as version 4.1 (in Debian 8) but if you go to a control panel of a regular installation, you will find......

That it wants to update to 4.5.2. I guess this has been disabled in the Debian installation. My own site still runs 3.9.12 because I have not had the benefit yet of upgrading (and having to deal with all the new stuff). And I have a plugin that I might be using, called SitePress (WPML) that used to be free, and now it is for-pay, and I don't need any extra features, and the old feature that were free, now cost like €70. And that's a one-year license.

For an "unlimited" number of websites. What the hell. But that aside. Anyone really using WordPress might not want a "stable" package anyway. ?. Just saying that to me it is obvious that people would recommend installing WP from tarball. Unless your WP installation is not any important to you, you would probably not have much benefit from a "stable package". Even if it flies in the face of Debian Stable. The same applies e.g. to Wine.

The Wine version packaged in Ubuntu as well as in Debian is vastly outdated. 1.6.2 in Debian 8, and 1.6.2 in Kubuntu 16.04. The same. If you install PlayOnLinux, it will download its own Wine versions for you and now suddenly you have 1.9.5 or something of the kind.

Moreoever, you can install as many versions as you like! :p. I know it doesn't feel very solid, but it kinda works for that platform. I can tell you the Wine developer/maintainer recently complained about this on several public lists. Wine is not getting packaged, apparently.

So it is a bit of the same issue.
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