Sometimes called “the duct tape of the internet,” Perl is a programming language with a rich history and a colorful founder. It has fostered the growth of the open source movement in unique ways.
In this article, you’ll learn the background of Perl and what its common uses are.
We’ll look at hosting requirements for Perl. In particular, the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.
And I’ll share a few of my personal recommendations for Perl hosts.
What is Perl?
Although Perl is often described as a programming language, it is in fact a relatively large family of general-purpose, dynamic programming languages, which traces its roots back to 1987. The most common language in the family is Perl 5 which launched in 1994.
Perl has been called “the duct tape of the internet.” Here’s an example of the code.
Perl was originally created as a Unix scripting language to simplify report processing, but over the years it has expanded to include numerous features that have little to do with its roots.
Thanks to its parsing abilities, Perl 5 became a popular CGI scripting language in the ’90s and it continued to evolve and encompass more features and modules for a wide variety of uses and industries.
Perl 5 is now used for network programming, system administration and it has numerous applications in finance and graphics development. The current version, Perl 5.21, was introduced in June 2014 and all post-5.10 versions are considered “modern Perl.”
Although the design process for Perl 6 started in 2000, the programming language is still in development. It fundamentally differs from Perl 5 and is supposed to improve eliminate or reduce the learning curve and streamline development.
In this interview, Larry Wall, creator of Perl, discusses Perl 6, future development, and the community surrounding this open source project.
Nevertheless, development of is progressing and multiple incomplete implementations of Perl 6 target different niches, with virtualization being the most common one.
Due to its age, Perl runs on a wide range of platforms, including all known derivatives of Unix, Perl’s native platform.
Support on major platforms such as Windows and OS X is a non-issue. Perl also runs on VMS, OS/2, BeOS, QNX, even DOS, and Amiga.
Module and Script Support
However, hosting must be compatible and offer support for a variety of different modules and scripts.
The extensive choice of distributions, modules and platforms may create issues when migrating, but most problems can be addressed using the ‘make install’ feature, which sorts out libraries, library paths and makes sure everything ends up in the right place.
As far as hosts go, most of them offer numerous Perl modules and CGI scripts, so unless you need something relatively exotic, the average Perl host should suffice in terms of module support.
Most power users are already aware of these limitations, so they usually do not pose a problem.
CPAN, which stands for Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, is a multi-gigabyte archive replicated on numerous servers around the world.
It contains thousands of commonly used modules, extensions, source code and documentation for all of the above. The Task::Kensho module contained in CPAN features a list of recommended modules, making it a valuable resource for hosts and developers.
What to Look for: Perl Hosting Precautions
As useful as Perl is, there are some issues you should be aware of when dealing with a host.
Some of the big issues you might run into are:
Selection of Perl modules
Running Perl scripts from any directory
Updates to other software on the server
Perl Modules and Scripts
Perl hosts offer loads of commonly used Perl modules that will allow you to run various Perl and CGI scripts.
These modules are pre-installed by the host and most hosts do not allow users to add additional Perl modules to their servers. The available, pre-installed modules are usually listed by the host.
One thing to look for in Perl hosting is the ability to run Perl scripts from any account directory rather than being restricted to running them from a cgi-bin folder.
When using different directories, it is important to set all file permissions properly and follow guidelines provided by the host.
Security is another concern, so you also want to choose a host that will employ sound security practices.
Aside from the most obvious security considerations, it is necessary to check how the host handles updates for Perl and Perl modules, i.e. whether the pre-installed modules are the latest available versions and how frequently are they updated.
Demand timely Perl updates from your host
Unpatched vulnerabilities provide malicious actors with a good attack vector that can be employed to compromise security, regardless of what you do on your own – only the host can address this problem.
The sheer number of Perl modules offered by hosts and used by developers poses a risk that a few vulnerable components may linger on the server for a while before they are patched.
Don’t Get Compromised
In a January 2013 survey, Security firm Sophos found that 80% of malicious sites are the “innocent victims of a compromise,” which is a diplomatic way of saying that untimely updates are to blame for many successful attacks.
Make sure that your site does not become another Sophos statistic by choosing a host that regularly updates these components: Perl, PHP, MySQL and other software.
The underlying operating system
Don’t Forget Other Services
In addition, a good Perl host also needs to offer a range of other services and standards that may be needed, including support for MySQL, PHP4, and PHP5, so you’re able to host web applications written in either Perl or PHP.
Benefits of Using a Dedicated Perl Host
There are several benefits with a Perl-focused web host:
Saves time installing Perl
Easy to solve Perl problems
Most hosting environments will be able to support Perl. Since it’s been around for such a long time it tends to run on a wide variety of platforms.
But, if you’re looking to optimize your Perl environment, then going with a customized setup could be the way to go.
Easy Perl Installation
Perl download screenshot
Most dedicated Perl hosts will offer easy installation of Perl, along with various other programming languages. This can help to cut down on time and you know you won’t run into any conflicts down the road with your host not supporting the language.
Dedicated Perl hosts will also have Perl modules you can install with the same method. Plus, the server environment will be custom-tailored to Perl, so you can expect faster performance across the board. You’ll also have a dedicated Perl support team by your side that has extensive experience.
My Picks: 3 Top Perl Hosts
We’ve covered the requirements and common pitfalls of Perl hosting.
Now here are a few personal recommendations for solid, trustworthy Perl hosts.
InMotion Hosting has affordable Perl hosting plans for a variety of website owners. Plus, you’ll get SSH access you can quickly access the Perl module without having to go through the control panel.
There’s also a one-click installer that’ll let you install Perl on your server in just a few seconds. Beyond the specific Perl features you’ll also get a super fast host that runs on SSD servers. Regardless of what web server you choose you’ll also get daily backups, DDoS and other security protection, and a free SSL certificate.
A2 Hosting offers incredibly reliable and fast Perl hosting that’s a solid fit for developers. Your server environment will be supported for the latest version of Perl, and you’ll get free SSH access.
With A2 Hosting you also get access to the fast SwiftStream platform which utilizes optimized SSD servers to deliver lightning-fast performance. You’ll also have your choice of server location, and multiple levels of security protection.
FastComet for Perl
If you want a fully managed and high-performance Perl host, then you may want to consider FastComet. This host has been created and completely optimized for the Perl environment.
This means you get things like a free Perl transfer (if needed), SSD-cloud hosting, daily and weekly backups, an integrated Cloudflare CDN, 24/7 support from Perl experts, and a lot more.
Plus, you can easily scale your server resources up or down without any interruption in service. This level of hosting and optimization might just be the ultimate Perl hosting environment.
What to Look for in a Perl Hosting Environment
Perl will run on most hosting platforms. So, the host you end up choosing will depend upon the extent you’re using Perl to build your website or application.
You still need to be sure that your host is compatible with the various scripts you plan on running, and some hosts will offer better performance than others. That being said, you’ll want to keep the following in mind when choosing a Perl host:
Free SSH access to easily and securely access your server
Multiple FTP account creation and support
Control panel or cPanel access for quick server management
Unlimited bandwidth and hosting, or at least easily scalable
Easy installation of Perl scripts and modules
A dedicated Perl support team
Support for unlimited domains under a single account
Other features in Languages and Frameworks For Programming
Perl is a programming language. It is general purpose, high-level, dynamic, interpreted language. It was created in the late eighties, but since then it has evolved to encompass a number of new features.
It Perl a family of languages?
Perl is often referred to as a family of languages. In a sense, this is true. In particular, Perl 5 and Perl 6 are forks of the original Perl 5. Although the languages are still quite similar, they are distinct.
What is Perl used for?
The number of use-cases for Perl has been growing since it was first released. Today, Perl is used for a range of different tasks, including graphics, networking, system administration, finance applications and much more.
Perl is flexible and can be used for a wide range of different applications.
Does my server need to have Perl?
Perl support on web hosting servers is practically a must at this point. You may not use it, but it is very likely that some program that you use does.
Due to Perl’s numerous industrial applications, widespread use, and popularity, most hosting packages support Perl. All post-version-5.10 versions are usually dubbed “Modern Perl” and that is what you are most likely to get on your server.
What hardware and operating systems support Perl?
Perl is relatively old, so it is compatible with a lot of different hardware platforms, anything from legacy 16-bit platforms to cutting edge multi-core server chips.
The same is true of operating systems; Perl can be used on Windows, OS X, OS/2, BeOS, and even DOS. Of course, since it was designed for Unix, Perl also runs on all Unix-like platforms, including Linux, FreeBSD, Solaris, and QNX.
Are there server restrictions on Perl?
While most hosts offer Perl support across all hosting packages, many shared packages impose a few restrictions.
For example, you get a range of Perl modules and CGI scripts, but you can’t install any of your own. The installed modules should suffice, however, as long as you don’t have some truly exotic requirements.
What do I do if I need a Perl module that my host doesn’t provide?
This is usually not an option for entry-level hosting packages. So if you need a special Perl modules, you may need to upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting.
How important are Perl updates?
From a security standpoint, you should always use the most up-to-date software. Perl is no exception. If Perl is critical to your website, check with your host to make sure they are running the up-to-date language and modules.
If you already have hosting and its Perl installation is out of date, ask your host to update it. If it becomes an issue, you may need to change hosts.
Is Perl part of the LAMP stack?
Originally, LAMP stood for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. However, nowadays the “P” in LAMP often refers to Perl or Python.
How widely is Perl used?
A number of very popular websites and software projects were written in Perl. These include cPanel, Movable Type, Bugzilla, as well as major websites like IMDb, Craigslist, and DuckDuckGo.
How is Perl licensed?
Perl 5 is licensed under either the GNU General Public License 1.0 and above or the Artistic License. Perl 6 is licensed under either the GNU General Public License 1.0 and above or the Artistic License 2.0.
Are Perl 5 and Perl 6 compatible?
No. They are similar in that if you know one you will have no trouble reading the other. But as far as computers go, they are not compatible.
How does Perl compare to Python?
Both scripting languages are used for similar purposes, but they are very different.
Unlike Perl, Python practically forces developers to respect a number of standards, so the resulting code is usually tidier than in Perl. This greater level of standardization also makes Python more suitable for beginners, as it’s more intuitive.
However, Perl is much older, so it has a lot more modules available. In addition to being more mature, some argue that Perl is more versatile and powerful than Python.
About Kevin Wood
Kevin got his start as a web developer. Now he spends his time as a technical writer and poet. His main interests are technology and human potential. When he's not diving headfirst into technical topics, you can find him scrawling lines of poetry and getting lost in the woods.