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Therefore, I was wondering, where should I start if I want to learn about server management and all the associated jargon? I have tried looking for courses / books but can't find anything.
Try switching your desktop over to linux and force yourself to run on it for a while. That'll definitely give you a low risk but very hot entry into linux management. Install a dual boot system, but generally try to stick to linux instead of MS. Then you'll have to figure out what's going on when your numlock key doesn't go on, or your sound doesn't work, or how to set up your network connection, etc.
You can then setup apache et al right on your desktop. Again, low risk way to figure out how to do it.
From there, you can likely start admining your own server - but....find a linux consultant you can count on. I admin my own servers, but have a local company that I still use about once a year.
Short answer is, there's no easy answer and no one place. It's just too complex and too many things involved in a 'linux server'. Jump in and figure it out via hands on experience. Also, make backups and don't do anything you don't know how to undo :).
Try switching your desktop over to linux and force yourself to run on it for a while.
I concur. Trying to learn on your web host is a formula for disaster.
Install a dual boot system
Computers are cheap. Or you have have an old one laying around that may be suitable. If you also have an extra monitor, it can be useful to run Windows and Linux side-by-side. I do that, and use a free program called Synergy for seemless keyboard/mouse integration.
Linux on a home computer with a desktop is not the same as a server with no screen on the end of a network.
Linux on a home computer with a desktop is not the same as a server with no screen on the end of a network
True, but of course there's nothing stopping you from working on a local Linux system in a terminal window in the GUI, or over a telnet or SSH connection from your PC. No, you won't experience network lag, but that's a good thing. :)
It's useful to also learn to use a Linux GUI, and learn to use Linux locally to control your remote site. A local Linux system provides you with a GREAT DEAL more functionality for working with a remote Linux system than does Windows. It is a much more seamless integration.
I think starting with a Linux desktop AND forcing yourself to do admin tasks in a terminal window is a good idea.
After that, you could consider getting a Linux virtual server. They are cheap enough to have one to practice on. I am currently paying £15/month for a user mode linux virtual server. It gives me the same level of control as with a dedicated server, apart from over the initial install of the OS.
Finally you have to pick a Linux distro. I would suggest Ubuntu on the desktop and Debian on the server. They are very similar (Ubuntu is a variant of Debian).
This is a very pertinent point, and therein lies the root of most people's problems. I can't remember the last time I actually touched anything to actually do with 'linux' as an operating system on my servers. The problem is administering apache. or some library function. Or mail. or the firewall. or some other random server application. General linux admin doesn't come into play, and seems to only involve things like checking disk space and watching processes occassionally.
That's also why it's difficult to get a decent answer to the OP's question.
I don't know whether to just laugh or cry at the moment lol. I've spent a week messing around and have got no where for my efforts, it's sodding impossible to setup.
I'm running CP+ interface, so if anybody has any good resources that I should check out I'd appreciate it forever - this is the other thing, what little help you can find on the web requires a level of knowledge of Linux far far above my head.
I'm back off to a dark corner now to sit in a ball and cry like a baby lol.
Depending on your project of course I'd say 5 work days playing around with your dedicated machine at home (preferably a used old computer) would be enough untill you can move on to your own dedicated server hosted somewhere.
don't do anything you don't know how to undo
The trouble is you don't always know in advance. I was applying some performance tweaks to a few configuration files on my last Kubuntu install and wound up with a totally unusable system due to a "Read-only filesystem" error of some kind. Result is that I can't edit the config files to be the way they were before. Nobody seems to know how to help me so I think I'm going to have to start clean...
Knowing how to manage Apache, or MySQL, or PHP, or the other major server apps on Linux is only a very small part of managing a live, production level server (and the easiest part). Heck, a good control panel will do that part for you. There are third-party Linux server management companies around the net... just Google for 'em, and see what kinds of things they do, and then ask yourself if you're ready to do all of those things yourself, 24/7. If you aren't (and if you don't already know all of those things, then you really aren't), then you need to either find a managed server, or hire a third-party service.
Heck, I just went through this myself. I've owned and managed colo servers since 1999, but since they were always Windows server boxes, I did the management myself (except hands-on things I had to use the datacenter for). But I recently decided to switch to Linux, and even though I've managed servers for 8 years, I didn't hesitate to hire fully-managed service to go along with my colo box.
You should still learn all you can about Linux server management (I'm doing that myself), but don't trust your business security and uptime to how fast you can look something up in a book and fix it.
My $.02 :)
<add/> Oh, and to answer your actual question (rather than just give my all-knowing, wise advice ;) there is a good thread on another forum where the topic is "Which book for an admin class?" You could Google for it, but here are some of the suggested books:
Linux in a Nutshell
Linux Administration Handbook, Second Edition
Linux Server Hacks
Linux Server Hacks, Volume Two
The Practice of System and Network Administration
I'm off to check into those myself! :)
[edited by: Bluesplinter at 6:07 pm (utc) on May 11, 2007]
This may restrict what you can do a bit - they will probably only support certain distributions and configurations - but unless you want real bleeding-edge stuff it shouldn't constrain you much at all.
I'm a professional Linux system administrator myself, but if my web sites were big enough to warrant a dedicated server I'd probably still get someone else to manage it for me. What happens if there's a major security bug found while I'm away for two months, for example?
I found a dedicated host that had a nice control panel that let me add users, domain names, etc, so I could do routine tasks.
Then you just learn the rest through Google. If you know how to connect through SSH, you'll be able to stumble your way through completing various tasks. Each task you complete adds a little more to your skill level.
There are terrifying times when you do something and Apache won't restart, but a good control panel will have scripts you run to rebuild Apache and get it working again.
The problem with books, or installing a local Linux environment is that you don't know where to start. There are just too many options, too many configurations, too much to learn. You feel like you're spinning your wheels.
What you might want to do is find a good host that will provide services on an hourly basis. If you bork your server, they can help you get it back running.
But there's nothing like a hangin' at dawn to focus a man's mind. Start down this road, and you'll learn Linux... and there's no greater power than knowledge and self reliance.
Start with a managed service and go from there.
Even though I have good linux understanding and can do a lot from the command line, there are still some things that I need the hosting company to do (kernel upgrades, trouble shooting difficult issues).
Also consider that it takes a lot of time and what is your time worth vrs doing other things for your business.
to learn, the most important thing imo is to set up a home pc (any old box) with exactly the same distro and version that you want to use online. after you have installed this distro take away the monitor and only connect via ssh (i use putty) - this puts you in exactly the same mode as when remotely connecting to the server.
the rest is playing and practice - it won't take long before you get confident enough to move to a live server. blue splinter gave some excellent book tips - nearly all those books are within arm's length of my desk (especially the server hacks ones).
just take the plunge! (and learn vim ;)
So, switching from (whatever kind of) managed service to a dedicated server involves not just software, but also planning for hardware outages, file backup infrastructure, disaster recovery (complete data loss), etc..
It gets even worse when you just rent rack space, and build your own servers. Think about spare components, insurance (imagine your servers power supply blows up, and breaks the server below your box, too), etc.
[i'm managing 4 servers, and currently trying to remotely fix a b0rken disc in a RAID 5 array.. ]
if you realy wants to laern linux do it like i did.
take a old pc, search a howto and install the server. setup an apache(its really simple),setup mysql (even simpler) and proftpd ,now you have a working webserver!
next setup would be a mailserver. postfix,sendmail or qmail. all are very COMPLEX (mailfilter, smap filter open relay...)
For sending out our monthly newsletter I needed an SMTP I could trust - our primary web host will not relay 2,000 emails and I do not trust our local ISP as they get blacklisted. I set up a VPS which uses Centos/Cpanel/WHM primarily to be a dedicated SMTP server. This VPS has let me explore alternate provider as a backup (you never know).
The host I selected for the VPS has options for upgrades for increased memory or disk space and includes options for sharing the managed server with one other account or going solo.
This type of option lets you start exploring managing a server using CPanel for $50 a month and moving to an account with more resources or their dedicated server when you are confident and more experienced.
I picked up an older AMD system with a 60 GB hard drive in it from a family member. I had some memory lying around as well is an additional network card. I downloaded Ubuntu and Fedora core 6 to try them both out. I ended up going with Fedora core 6 with an installation of Webmin. I put the machine in my closet and tried to only access it either via SSH, FTP, or Webmin. I still wouldn't set up my own dedicated server in a place I didn't have physical access to it but I'm a much more comfortable Linux user today and have a much greater understanding as to what the NOCs are doing when my managed servers require upgrades or patches.
I can tell you one thing not to do and that is to set up your machine using the username "root" and the password "123456". I did that lazily when doing my first install along with the box hooked up to the Internet. Within 24 hours the server was hacked, someone had changed passwords, and new user accounts were being installed on the machine. I know some people will find it funny but it was a great lesson for me as to how quickly security can be breached.
So when my ISP said I needed to move to a Dedicated, they said they would be there for me. And they were, and have been. I listened to their recommendations, and installed FreeBSD and Apache, because that is what they ran. But I installed it. I screwed it up, they showed me where I screwed up, and I reinstalled it. Basically, I learned by doing, but with their supervision. I pretty much copied therir configuration when I started... as I learned more of what I needed, I went my own way. As I wanted more, I learned more and more how to do it on my own (Well, my own, with Googles help!) Now, it has been 6 months or more since I even had to talk to a tech there.
Got a couple Unix/FreeBSD books along the way, and that helps, too.
But I would just find a good, friendly and helpful local ISP that will help you along. It is possible to learn.... but you have to experience some before you even know what you want or need.
BTW, I have found Webmin to be very helpful... but it is very powerful, too. LOCK THAT PUPPY DOWN HARD!