Advice for pending virtualmin convertee

Hello all,

First, where I’m coming from:

My hosting experiences include a mix of cpanel reseller, dreamhost shared, and a Virtuozzo cpanel VPS. I’ve grown to hate cPanel for all the things that Virtualmin is not. I can’t say I know much about Linux in relative terms, but I’m resourceful and comfortable enough (have compiled a gentoo desktop box, and have had a round through with setting up and securing the Virtuozzo cPanel VPS) so I feel prepared to tackle an unmanaged setup.

I’ve read through all areas of this site and find that you guys follow the kind of design/development philosophy I favor, and have a community personality that I love. Xen and Virtualmin just seem to click, fit my style. I’ve researched just about all the options out there and keep coming back here.

I casually host around 10 clients (1-5 email accounts each, low content sites tho some are setup with php/mysql CMS and/or gallery tools) who as far as I can tell never touch their control panels, those that are even aware of the option. I also have several domains of my own that I run various tools on (expression engine, pixelpost, activecollab, scuttle, wiki, svn, etc). So basically server interaction - including client accounts - is all me, so I’m not really concerned with client cp friendliness. But since I will have clients on it I do want to be stable and nicely integrated. That in mind, my goal is to get things right as possible the first time, so to that end…

Questions:

1. Ideal distro? [color=#000080]I like Gentoo but given the Virtualmin support list I lean towards Debian – is there any particular reason I should consider CentOS vs Debian or are things about equal there?[/color]

2. Ideal packages? [color=#000080]Email, FTP, etc and supporting packages… what combo seems to be the most efficient and stable (relative to the above question)? In particular I’ve noted a few issues in the forums with mail server, clam AV, etc so I’m looking for what seems to be the most reliable combination between distro and packages.[/color]

3. I plan to start with Virtualmin GPL and then update to Pro as budget allows. Any caveats to this?

Those are my main questions (at least that I can remember at the moment), tho I have a couple other curiosities as well:

4. How granular is the php version setting, per domain only, or can it be set per subdomain? I ask because I have a domain name I tend to do testing under and find it convenient to be able to set a subdomain for each app and the apps preferred php version.

5. Finally, any particularly recommended Xen hosts? I’ve been through the WHT forums, but the signal to noise ratio there is pretty bad. I have Slicehost in mind but would like to have some others to compare with. Slicehost’s 512 Slice is what I’m comparing to – 512MB ram, 20gig HD, 200GB bandwidth. Fit’s my budget of $40/mo, ram and HD space seem decent (more ram is always a plus of course, but this seems pretty standard for this price point), wouldn’t mind more bandwidth tho.

Thanks! Any comments or suggestions from the community here are appreciated.

-Gabe<br><br>Post edited by: spazzwig, at: 2007/09/13 07:13

1. Ideal distro? I like Gentoo but given the Virtualmin support list I lean towards Debian -- is there any particular reason I should consider CentOS vs Debian or are things about equal there?

Both are great server operating systems. I think I actually like Debian 4.0 a bit more, but CentOS 5 is also fantastic. I can’t complain about either in any meaningful way. Debian has a larger package selection, which probably makes it the winner, in my mind. (And since you’re going with a vps, rather than a physical server, the really nice Xen virtualization support in CentOS is irrelevant.)

2. Ideal packages? Email, FTP, etc and supporting packages... what combo seems to be the most efficient and stable (relative to the above question)? In particular I've noted a few issues in the forums with mail server, clam AV, etc so I'm looking for what seems to be the most reliable combination between distro and packages.

We setup:

Postfix
Procmail
ClamAV
SpamAssassin
Dovecot

All work fine, and I’m not aware of any strong arguments for other choices. We do support sendmail and qmail, but I can’t recommend qmail–it’s a maintenance nightmare because of all the patches from disparate and (occasionally) questionable sources. Given that Postfix is as fast, efficient, and secure, as anything out there, I can’t think of any good reason to make life hard by going another path. If you’re really familiar with something else and really like it and know how to maintain it, then by all means go for Sendmail or Qmail. But if you don’t know, stick with what we’ve chosen for our defaults.

The “few issues” you’ve seen are just a fact of life. We’ve got nearly a thousand Virtualmin Professional installations and tens of thousands of Virtualmin GPL installations in the world now. Folks are bound to run into problems. It’s a miracle we don’t see more problems than we do. (I believe the miracle is named Jamie Cameron, but that’s just conjecture.) :wink:

3. I plan to start with Virtualmin GPL and then update to Pro as budget allows. Any caveats to this?

Not if you go with one of the supported platforms and use the GPL installer. The upgrade should be very smooth if you go that route.

I’ll also mention that if things go wrong during an upgrade to Professional, we are happy to drop in on your box and correct problems in person.

At this point in our history, problems are usually very minor and easy to fix (though we may not immediately be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it…we usually have to poke around a bit, if something does go wrong…the "common failure" paths have mostly been fixed, so now all we see are weird cases where we have to look around a bit).

4. How granular is the php version setting, per domain only, or can it be set per subdomain? I ask because I have a domain name I tend to do testing under and find it convenient to be able to set a subdomain for each app and the apps preferred php version.

Domain and Subdomain are merely names, and don’t really have any relation to PHP versions in Virtualmin. But to answer your question: It is extremely fine-grained. You can have a custom version per-directory, or per-server (or sub-server).

5. Finally, any particularly recommended Xen hosts? I've been through the WHT forums, but the signal to noise ratio there is pretty bad. I have Slicehost in mind but would like to have some others to compare with. Slicehost's 512 Slice is what I'm comparing to -- 512MB ram, 20gig HD, 200GB bandwidth. Fit's my budget of $40/mo, ram and HD space seem decent (more ram is always a plus of course, but this seems pretty standard for this price point), wouldn't mind more bandwidth tho.

Sounds like a pretty good price. I don’t have anyone in particular to recommend. We like the guys over at Joyent/TextDrive, and their “Accelerators” are pretty good, but they’re Solaris Zones. (They do come pre-installed with Virtualmin GPL, though.)

Be sure to ask them if they plan to offer Virtualmin on their systems in the future. (We’re beginning to work on being available to folks for “free” by having it subsidized by hosts who can buy in bulk…and allowing folks not to have to install it themselves.) :wink:

Hope this helps. Feel free to grill us some more if further questions arise.

Perfect, that was exactly the type of breakdown I needed. Thanks! :slight_smile:

Debain 4 + Virtualmin defaults suits me fine. Glad to hear it about PHP granularity… was pretty sure that’s how it works from the system point of view and happy to see a control panel that doesn’t limit that fact.

The "few issues" you've seen are just a fact of life. We've got nearly a thousand Virtualmin Professional installations and tens of thousands of Virtualmin GPL installations in the world now. Folks are bound to run into problems. It's a miracle we don't see more problems than we do. (I believe the miracle is named Jamie Cameron, but that's just conjecture.) ;-)

Certainly :slight_smile: Actually the low number and type of reported problems on your forums and bug tracker stood out to me right off. Especially given that a majority of them are related to the system and not anything in particular regarding Virtualmin. I always read through the bug trackers, support forums, and such when evaluating a product. Yours are a testament, I was immediately impressed by the quality of the community here.

Be sure to ask them if they plan to offer Virtualmin on their systems in the future. (We're beginning to work on being available to folks for "free" by having it subsidized by hosts who can buy in bulk...and allowing folks not to have to install it themselves.) ;-)

Slicehost caters to developers so they are pretty to the point about offering a solid core and don’t provide any system control panels as part of their service (but of course welcome people to install their own). They provide console and a Xen panel but leave anything that happens within the VM up to the customer.

Thanks again, I’m sure I’ll be back with more questions as I roll things out :wink:

-Gabe

bah, can’t edit the double post… triggers hacking attempt.

3. I plan to start with Virtualmin GPL and then update to Pro as budget allows. Any caveats to this?

Actually, Virtualmin Pro doesn’t cost more than a bag of french fries (ok, a really large bag), so why the need to procrastinate?

I don’t know what is the difference between the GPL and Pro version now, as both versions are being improved and upgraded all the time. But as I see it, it is kind of a waste of time to have to learn “what is where” when you decide to go from GPL and Pro. And then the possible surprises you might get when upgrading? For all that trouble, I’d rather pay a few bucks and get things right the first time.

If you are serious about having a stable hosting management software, Virtualmin Pro is it. I am using it on CentOS 5.

Thanks for the response, I agree with you fully (I have a Pro license at this point).

I did end up doing it as an upgrade, and do have to say that the upgrade from GPL to Pro was completely painless. I’m running on Debian 4 and the only hitch I’ve experienced so far was trivial… the DOC_ROOT wasn’t initially set to /home but installing the apache2 package again to make sure I had the right version corrected that.

I am VERY happy and impressed with Virtualmin Pro, my only regret is that I didn’t switch from cPanel sooner.