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What is ISPConfig Hosting?

ISPConfig is a control panel tool suite for Linux hosting. It is free, open source, and highly reliable software. Getting started is as easy as downloading a file, and tapping into a significant support resource when needed. Users can manage servers, websites, Domain Name System (DNS) records, and email on this web-based interface.

Control Panels

Web hosting control panels are online interfaces that simplify the management of server activity. Often, hosts will include a control panel within a hosting plan, or offer one for additional cost. 

Control panels are designed to let server and site owners control their hosted services without necessarily being experts in the field. While just a few control panels tend to be the most widely used among hosts, many others, such as ISPConfig, are available for download and easy use.

If you choose to setup your own server from scratch, finding a server administration tool is ideal. Or for anyone who is hoping to create their own web hosting service or reseller, having a control panel like this which automatically gets setup for a new user - makes for a way in which to define the website configuration for potential customers/users.

A control panel can be easier to use than running applications individually or using the command terminal. Additionally, a control panel will have built in monitoring which allows a message to be triggered in case of server problems or dwindling resources.

Features of ISPConfig

You can manage just one server with ISPConfig, or use it to maintain multiple servers. These servers may be physical or virtual, and used for a personal site or at the enterprise level. Depending on your needs and authorization, you will log in at the email, client,

Depending on your needs and authorization, you will log in at the email, client, reseller, or administrator level. In addition, you can use ISPConfig in one of 20 translated languages. At a high level, ISPConfit is a linux based server control platform with many different tools, here's a high level list of all available features:

  • Single server and Multiserver Management
  • Capable of being installed on physical server or virtual machine
  • Tiered Access Levels for Administrators, Resellers, and Clients
  • HTTP: Apache2 and nginx - web servers for site routing & content hosting
  • SMTP Postfix, POP/IMAP - Email hosting servers - for all hosted domains
  • FTP: PureFTPd - allows file transfer protocol for each hosted site
  • DNS: Bind and MyDNS - this server can run a domain name service
  • Database: MySQL - using the Oracle MySQL database - for each user
  • Virtualization: OpenVZ - allows virtual machines for client sites

How to Install

The system requirements for ISPConfig  cover a wide range of Linux flavors. This includes Debian 5 through 8, Ubuntu 8.10 to Current, CentOS 5.2 to Current, Fedora 10 and 12 to 15, or OpenSuSE 11.1 to Current. If your system runs any of the Debian derived operating system kernals, or any of the other large distributions mentioned, then it will be able to run ISPConfig. (With root privileges provided.)

Installation is for linux platforms, so every version will have it's own installation process - all of which is well documented on the official site. These installs are not "easy" comparable to setting up a single website. Instead, getting ISPConfig up and running will take patience and attention to the details of the instruction. In order for ISPConfig tools to run properly, you will need to have all of the subsequent platforms installed first, so Apache, PHP, MySQL, PureFTPD, BIND, Dovecot, all need to be installed parallel to ISPConfig in order for the server to run properly.

With that in mind - some cloud hosting providers may have "Machine Instances" already prepared - which will have the correct OS and installed software pairs to make an install very simple. Just keep in mind that setting up this platform isn't the same thing as setting up a website, you're setting up a service which will allow other users to create websites on your servers. Setting up ISPConfig allows you to become a Webhost, rather than just using one.

Using ISPConfig

Beyond websites, DNS, and email, ISPConfig provides management for File Transfer Protocol (FTP), MySQLdatabases, cron jobs, shell use, and Internet Protocol (IP). Within these, you can observe website traffic, create and delete email accounts, filter spam, park domains, create subdomains, and much more.

Most of the core "Use" of this service will be in the hours spent in setup/installation. After installation, a fair amount of time will be needed in order to understand how the mechanisms work. This is especially important if ISPconfig is going to be used to run hosting for other users. Creating virtual machines and DNS pointers for users can be made automatic, but require additional setup.

Plus, even if a perfect setup were accomplished, troubleshooting and user support will come up. In order to be capable of assisting users, there is an official manual available. This manual does cost money, which is used to continue developer support for the platform. It's a good investment for anyone trying to use ISPConfig for commercial purposes.

Who should use ISPconfig? Anyone who is interested in setting up their own web hosting service should consider using ISPConfig. Or, setting up a server with ISPConfig will allow for more direct control of a website platform. This puts all service outages into the hands of the ISPConfig administrators and the physical servers in use.

What Alternatives Exist? How should I choose? The biggest direct competitor is CPanel - at least for PHP + MySQL platforms. Hundreds of options are available, across a variety of languages, and geared towards multiple Operating Systems. Selection should be based on the activity level of developers and the technical objectives in mind in regards to multiple programming language support.

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