Welcome to another type of LowEndBox tutorial. What started as a tutorial to install ISPConfig 3 on CentOS 7 has taken a drastic turn. Instead of explaining how you can install ISPConfig 3, let's dig deeper into what is included in this article and why do not writing an installation tutorial. But first, a little history.
In the mid-2000s, I worked at a small web hosting company in Reno, NV. These were the days before the VPS ruled the king. Virtualization was not yet the main one and the only way to put a server online was to build a server with real hardware and install Linux on it. Seeing the need for a budget-friendly way for people to have their own servers, our company took advantage of the obsolete hardware we had on hand and launched a new product: the Bargain Basement servers.
Truly, a low-end box, early 2006. Source: Archive.org
Instead of spending hundreds of dollars a month, we had servers for only $ 29 / month. The specifications were minimal, not much memory, rather weak CPUs and small hard drives. Sounds familiar? The parallels between those servers and what we cover here in LowEndBox can be clearly seen.
How does this relate to ISPConfig? I'm glad you asked! During that same period of time, there were not many commercial web control panels. Plesk and cPanel were establishing themselves. Interworx and DirectAdmin were new, and Virtualmin was still a very early version that was not on my radar.
I noticed ISPConfig when it came to the market in 2005. ISPConfig was simple, lightweight and seemed like a good option for our Bargain Basement servers. And for a time, it was. ISPConfig was good and I enjoyed using it and configuring it for the clients that requested it. However, the newer versions started to get too complicated and we stopped offering ISPConfig in favor of other software.
I left that company in 2008, and in the intervening years ISPConfig did not appear again. Now it's 2019, and the market is almost flooded With incredible web hosting control panel options. My task as a writer for LowEndBox was to examine ISPConfig 3 and help all of you learn how to stick to your LowEndBox server. But that is not what is being written here. What happened?
Digging in ISPConfig
In the old days, the software could be bought in a brick and mortar store where shelf shelves contained bright, colorful boxes with shrink-wrapped packages that usually cost a little money. A table showing the amount of CPU, RAM, and hard disk space needed to use the software was clearly printed somewhere in the box. If your system met the minimum requirements, I knew that the program would run. If your PC meets or exceeds the recommended requirements, then I knew it would be executed all right.
The old habits are hard, and to this day I'm still looking for the requirements for any software that I want to run, including ISPConfig. I also wanted to see the manuals of ISPConfig. The software is as good as its documentation!
I went to the official documentation page for ISPConfig:
I did not see any minimum requirements on the list, but I did see many installation tutorials for several platforms. I researched some of them, and the only minimum requirements found were "Linux and a fast Internet connection". This describes almost all web hosting control panels based on Linux on the planet.
I looked more closely at the various writings on ISPConfig: It requires that Linux be installed, a LAMP or LEMP stack, and more. A much More. This raises an important question: Would ISPConfig be a good option for a small server?
Without being discouraged
The disappointment in the documentation was not enough to stop the process. Was he looking in the wrong places? On the documentation site, a 400 page manual is sold for € 5 (approximately $ 6 USD). It aims to cover all the concepts behind ISPConfig, how to install and update it, and a reference for everything that is inside the administration control panel. Surely is It would contain the information he so desperately sought.
At that time, I had several questions in my mind: What if I wanted to reduce the installed software? ISPConfig could handle it if you did not install Postfix, Mailman, Jailkit, Webalizer, PureFTPd, mod_python, SpamAssassin, Postgrey, ClamAV … yes, it's a long list! Were they just a list of features to make it the "definitive" ISPConfig 3 server? Or were the requirements to make ISPConfig 3 work? I could not say.
And to overcome that issue for another time: one of the packages must be compiled from the source. This is a big red flag for me: my servers need to be updated through RPM or Apt. The software created by hand tends to be outdated due to laziness on my part. I want my server to run my sites, it is not necessary to compile my hands.
I decided that $ 6 was a small price to pay to finally unlock the secrets of ISPConfig. I bought the 400 page manual and downloaded your PDF. I started reading, excited to find all the treasures that until now had been hidden from the sight of dirty pagans who were too cheap to spend $ 6 on a written manual accurately.
Reality takes over, crushes
To fully understand what happened next, let me tell you a short story: When I was a teenager, I once exchanged hours and hours of work for a highly coveted piece of computer hardware: a 250 MB backup tape drive. Colorado. Finally, I could make backups without having to change the diskettes incessantly! I did the work, they gave me the disk. I connected it I made a backup. It seized and never worked again. It still bothers me until today! And even though I only spent $ 6 on this manual, the feelings of disappointment were familiar.
The nuts and bolts of ISPConfig remained a mystery. The minimum viable configuration was not included anywhere, and no amount of Google on the Internet has discovered anything definitive. But we are not the ones who throw in the towel. Who needs manuals, anyway?
Go ahead and forward!
This is how ISPConfig looks when you log in. Screenshot of https://ispconfig.org
Do not fear, faithful reader! We were still decided to offer you an ISPConfig in CentOS 7 tutorial. We installed a new copy of CentOS 7 on our LowEndBox, copied our SSH keys and went to work. I decided to follow the documentation I could find, taking into account the need not to load the server too much. I blatantly discarded most of the software that I knew would get stuck in a small server, and installed ISPConfig 3.
After the installation, I was instructed to go to https: //[server-name-or-ip]: 8080 to log in I went there, but the page did not respond. I checked the server and nothing was running on port 8080. I tried to start Apache and it did not start. I had to correct a configuration error in a file (in this new installation). Only then would Apache begin. Tchicken ISPConfig administration panel loaded.
The towel is pulled in
Conventional web control panels are not exempt from security risks, but at least they run their administrative interface with a completely separate server daemon. ISPConfig, on the other hand, runs the administration control panel with the server's main Apache instance. This is definitely a lightweight, and I applaud that. But it introduces some serious commitments. If your Apache demon falls for some reason, your ability to manage your server is now limited If your control panel is not there when you need it, why do you have it?
It also means that you are running a website that contains the ability to manage your entire server in user space. This is further evidenced by the fact that some entrepreneur has created a WordPress plugin for ISPConfig that allows someone to create and delete email addresses and perform other administrative tasks directly from WordPress. I shudder to think what will happen when your WordPress site is compromised. Not that that always happens …
ISPConfig can be an excellent web control panel for many people, and I definitely appreciate the hard work that your developer has done. However, there are too many important problems. The lack of good documentation, the large number of functions and the reasons mentioned above mean that I can not recommend running ISPConfig on a server that you want to trust.
We may be passing ISPConfig, but we are not finished. There are more web control panel tutorials on the way. Be sure to come back soon!