Server Administration Tools: Best Hosts and Options

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Find hosting with these features in Server Administration

Some hosting companies, especially shared hosting providers, don't want you doing any server administration work yourself, and they may even make it difficult for you to do so. Other providers open everything up and expect you to manage your server yourself. Each way serves a re particular kind of web hosting customer, and your personal preferences — along with the type of project you are working on — will determine which direction you need your hosting provider to lean. If you need serious server management capabilities beyond those provided in a typical web hosting control panel, look for some of these server administration tools and features.

Access Logs

On a web server, there is a log made of every request handled by the web server, and their results (error, OK, blocked, etc.). The ability to see these logs, and to configure what information gets logged is a critical part of managing a web server.


Every website needs to have regular backups of both the codebase and the database. An ideal situation is to be able to configure how often backups occur, how many are stored, and how long they are kept. Automatic restore from backup is also critically important.

DBO Access

DBO stands for database owner. This is a user that has full permissions in a database to perform any actions on th database. If you have dbo access, you are completely in control of the database, and can run any operations you want directly on it.


File hosting simply refers to the ability to store files on your hosting account. More specifically, it is the ability to store files not directly related to your website. Many shared hosting providers specifically disallow using their service for non-website related file hosting.

File Manager

The traditional way to manage files on a remote server is through FTP access, using a local FTP client. Many web hosting providers also have browser based file manager tools, which mimic desktop tools like Finder and Windows Explorer.


This is a PHP-based file download gallery which was originally developed by PHPArena and has been discontinued.

Password Protected Directories

If you are using your hosting server for private file hosting, you will want to make sure you have the ability to password protect your directories. This can also be used to limit access to HTML pages in a a regular static website.

Raw Files

Raw Files are image files as captured by a camera's sensor, not processed into a usable file format like JPEG. This can be compared to undeveloped film. Because they are fairly large, and not usable directly by websites, some hosting companies (those that prohibit non-website-related file hosting) will specifically disallow the storage of raw image files.

Shell Access / SSH Access

Shell access, or SSH (secure shell) access, is one of the most important server management features. A shell is the command line, or terminal. Having access to the command line of your server means that you can install, configure, and manage software and files directly on your server.


SolusVM is a virtual machine utility, allow VPS customers to deploy and manage virtual servers. It can be used to provision OpenVZ, Xen and KVM virtual machines.


suPHP is an Apache module that allows PHP scripts to be run with the permissions of the script's owner.


Video hosting requires a great deal of both storage and bandwidth. If you plan to stream videos, and not just offer them for download, this will require specific software tools as well. Some web hosting companies specialize in video hosting. Others, especially shared hosting providers, specifically disallow it.


A cron job is a scheduled process which executes automatically on the server. A crontab is a special file (cron table) which manages the scheduling of cron jobs. Some web hosting providers give direct access to user or server level crontab files. Others do not give direct access to the files but rather provide a graphical interface for setting up cron jobs. With shared hosting, you will only be allowed to set up user-level cron jobs, and not all shared hosting providers even allow you to do that.

Custom Error Pages

You can set up error pages (404, etc.) within a content management system like WordPress or Drupal. However, you may want to simply publish an error page directly — for example if you aren't using a CMS or haven't set it up yet. If you want to do this, you will need a hosting company that allows for custom error pages.

DNS Zone File Editor

If you need to edit the DNS records for your site — for example, to associate the MX record with a third party email service like Google Apps — you will need to have access to a DNS Zone editor.

Anonymous FTP

Anonymous FTP is way of giving users access to files on the server via FTP without requiring the users identify themselves. This can create a serious risk of security breach and is disallowed or discouraged by most web hosts.


FTPS is an extension of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to support SSL security encryption.

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Adam Michael Wood

About Adam Michael Wood

Adam specializes in developer documentation and tutorials. In addition to his writing here, he has authored engineering guides and other long-form technical manuals. Outside of work, Adam composes and performs liturgical music. He lives with his wife and children in California.


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