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How to remote control debian webserver
Remote control debian webserver

 3:02 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ive ordered and gotten a debian dedicated server from my host. But it appears my webhost does not have a GUI through which I can manage this server. They told me I need to use SSH and perhaps a program like Putty to mange the server. But this wont work for me, because I have to do everything from the commandline. I really need some kind of GUI through which I can create domains, install scripts, see the files on the server and manage the server as a whole. Can anyone point me in the right direction of a software program I can install on my winxp home PC at home through which I can manage my dedicated debian server at my host location? Preferably free but if not that is OK to.



 3:22 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

You could try Webmin which is free and has been around for years. Trouble is, Debian removed webmin in the current release (Etch) as they considered it too buggy. You may have some luck installing the version from "sarge" (the previous Debian stable version):


I found some references to a free replacement called cipux, but with a comment that the security level of that program was "scary" - so perhaps not a good idea!

Otherwise, there are several commercial (non-free) control panels available - cPanel is probably the best-known, your hosting company may be able to install it for you on request.


 3:31 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks, I will look into it. Have also asked my hosts if they are willing to Install Plesk or some other cpanel to work with. But I dont think they will. Do you know of any software with which I can manage the server from home? So not webbased but windows based?


 5:08 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Have also asked my hosts if they are willing to Install Plesk or some other cpanel to work with. But I dont think they will.

That's because they are fairly expensive to license. So, just get a license and install yourself - though you'll pay quite a bit more than you would through your host if they had it available.

I'm a bit surprised at a host that doesn't offer a control panel, though. Who are you using, Paleolithic Hosting? ;)

Do you know of any software with which I can manage the server from home?

Yes. It's called Linux.

Using a Linux desktop, rather than a Windows desktop, gives you much tighter integration without your website. But, still, it would take a bit of work.

An example of the kind of integration you can easily install: install the FUSE filesystem 'sshfs'. You can then mount your website's filesystem through an ssh connection, and you will see your site's files in your local file hierarchy. Any Linux program that can work with local files can then work with them - e.g. editors, file browsers, development tools, etc. etc. etc.

In theory, you could install the X libraries on your server and run GUI programs on it and have them display on your desktop. However, X doesn't run real well over the web, and is a huge resource hog that you don't want on your web server. So, scratch that. But I thought I'd throw it out and explain why it's a bad idea. (You can get an X server for Windows - but it's still a bad idea...)

Quite a number of GUI configuration and maintainence tools can be pointed at a non-local server. Some of these are available on Windows. An example would be the MySQL Administrator and MySQL Query Browser that are optionally available from MySQL. These are available in both Windows and Linux versions. You can use them to browse a remote MySQL server, and you can do so securely through an ssh tunnel.

Another example are some of the GUI tools available for configuring IPTables firewalls. Most of these can be used to remotely administer the firewall on a different server.

So, you can probably find at least bits and pieces of what you need as local GUI programs that can connect to your server remotely.

The web-based administration packages seem to work well for most. What is your objection to them?

I think at least one person has mentioned here that they've put together their own remote monitoring and configuration system that uses local programs to access their site(s) over ssh. Maybe they will chime in and refresh my memory. That perhaps is the ultimate way to do this - something tailored to your own specific needs. However, that would require quite a bit of Linux and webserver knowledge, and some programming ability.

Perhaps some searching will find a comprehensive GUI package for over-ssh website administration. But I think you're more likely to find it for Linux than for Windows, because under Linux it could leverage a lot of existing tools that already come with Linux.


 5:57 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanx Jtara,

I think i'm gonna have to work with a Linux box anyways soon. I will try what you told me when I get to that. In the mean time I have downloaded and upload webmin. But I think I have uploaded it to the wrong folder. I get this error when I do 'apt-get install webmin'
Package webmin is not available, but is referred to by another package.
This may mean that the package is missing, has been obsoleted, or
is only available from another source
E: Package webmin has no installation candidate
Can you see what I do wrong? Where does webmin need to go? I put it in a folder called webmin in the 'etc' folder on my server.


 6:03 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

To be frank Linux can be controlled using ssh client from Windows. Webmin is webbased software for doing all sort of things.


 9:15 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

To be frank Linux can be controlled using ssh client from Windows.

Well, that will give you a login shell. But the poster wants more than just a login shell - he wants nice GUI administration.

One thing to watch out for are control panels that want your web server configured "just so", and offer little flexibility.

I use DirectAdmin, but have to be careful not to run certain functions in DirectAdmin, because then it will overwrite my modified Apache config files. While they give you some "hooks" to put your own configuration in parts of the config files, it won't allow you to do everything, and there are parts of the config files that they have no hook for.

I beleive that DirectAdmin wants to install your whole LAMP setup for you, in their own unique directory hierarchy. I'm a little vague on this, as it came pre-installed by my host. But some things aren't where you'd expect them to be, and it always seems to be DirectAdmin that is the culprit.


 9:21 pm on Dec 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

I know this doesn't address the question but I would advocate that you learn to use command line.

It will come to you slow, but after using it you will become much better at doing what you want and will be in more control of your world.

Like it was mentioned some of the interfaces are just plain buggy. You can't be reliant on a GUI because if it stops working or something goes wrong you will have no idea why or where to go to fix it.

It took me a while but I got it which means anyone can.

Once you can use command line, you can get a telnet shell on your cellphone and restart your Apache and all sorts of stuff from your phone... I remember the first time I queried my DB from my cell-phone, changed a script, and restarted Apache, still makes me smile.

[edited by: Demaestro at 9:24 pm (utc) on Dec. 11, 2007]


 9:10 am on Dec 12, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanx Demaestro,

I probably will pick up how to use the commandline in the future, but I have the server now and would like to start using it right away. Therefore I'm trying to find a GUI.


 7:06 am on Dec 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I suggest you either install Plesk or cPanel yourself or,

1) Get a file manager and other programs you need (e.h. text editor, perhaps an HTML editor) that can open remote files over ssh/sftp. Lots of Linux software can do this, I assume Windows equivalents exist.
2) Install software that provides "GUI in a terminal" like sysv-rc-conf and aptitude.
3) learn a minimum of command line stuff. It is not as difficult as you think: there is plenty of documentation and step by step howtos.

This solves your problems apart from GUI server configuration.

Another way would be to install Linux GUI software and install an X-server on your Windows PC to use it remotely. It might be usable over the net with compression (NoMachine NX), but I have never tried it.

I get the impression that your problem is really that running a web server is a lot of work. If you are making the jump from using a shared host, all the admin is now your problem. Every piece of software that has to be installed, every configuration problem, every security update, every security breach is your problem. There is a lot to do and a lot to know and a GUI only solves part of the problem: the only solution is to pay the extra for a managed server. That is why I have only had my own server on and off: if I can manage with shared hosting I will - even though good shared hosting is the same price as a VPS and a good fraction (per site!) of the price of a dedicated server..


 6:27 pm on Dec 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi everybody, I would just like to update you. I manages to install webmin and virtualmin on the webserver. Now I can control it through a browser screen. Works like a jippy. Thanks for all your help.

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