Introduction to Webmin

The number of control panels on the market keeps expanding into an even greater variety.  Almost everyone is familiar with cPanel along with rivals such as Plesk and H-Sphere.  One control panel you may not be familiar with is Webmin, a super-functional application that certainly warrants a closer look.

What is Webmin?

Webmin is a software tool designed to simply the process of managing Unix and Linux platforms.  The program is compatible with virtually any web browser, permitting various administrative tasks through a cleanly designed, user-friendly interface.  Webmin provides the ability to manage various aspects of the web hosting environment from setting up a web server and creating accounts to maintaining FTP and mail servers.

Webmin Features and Capabilities

The Webmin control panel allows you to do the following:

  • Use NFS protocol to exports files and directories to other systems
  • Set up quotas to control how much disk space is allocated to users
  • Install, manage and delete software packages in formats such as RPM
  • Modify the systems’ DNS settings, IP address and routing configuration
  • Set up firewalls for added security or to provide LAN access to the internet
  • Create and configure virtual servers on Apache
  • Manage databases, tables and fields on MySQL or PostgreSQL database servers
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These are just some of the capabilities offered by the Webmin software.  Because it is accessed via a browser, you can login from any system connected to your own through a network.  There is no difference between running Webmin locally or remotely.  The software is built on a modular design, meaning each of its functions are contained in a module that can be installed or uninstalled independent of the rest of the application.  This structure alone makes Webmin very distinctive of your average control panel.

Although Webmin is primarily used on the Linux platform, it also integrates with Unix flavors such as FreeBSD, HP/UX and Solaris.  One of its greatest strengths is the ability to adjust its behavior and interface in accordance to the underlying platform.  For example, Webmin can conceal the obvious differences between Linux and other Unix variants by presenting an interface that is either identical or quite similar regardless of what system you are using.

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Webmin Disadvantages

Webmin offers many advantages but is not very useful on its own accord.  This is because unlike cPanel which acts as a server, Webmin is merely a configuration tool and therefore, it depends on other applications to perform.  For instance, in order to user the Apache module, the actual Apache web server application must be installed on the system.  The good thing is that all of these servers and services it relies on are included standard with Unix-like distributions or can be freely downloaded and implemented.

Who Needs Webmin?

The Webmin control panel is designed for users with a familiarity of Linux commands but are not all that familiar with the intricacies of server administration.  This software assumes that the user is familiar with basic networking concepts such as DNS servers, IP addresses and hostnames as well as the layout of the Unix file system.   Those who possess these capabilities can enjoy everything from the power to set up FTP accounts and simple website management to root privileges and custom software installations.

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