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Introduction to Parallels Plesk 12 - Web Host Edition

By Jamin Andrews
Introduction to Parallels Plesk 12 - Web Host Edition

Do you host your own websites? Do you host websites for friends or colleagues? Are you the webmaster for your company?

If you can answer yes to any one of these and you’re looking for a web hosting panel that provides a polished and professional, interface for managing all aspects of maintaining an online presence, then you’re in for a treat with the latest version of Plesk Panel Web Host Edition.

Soon to be released, version 12 of Plesk Panel Web Host Edition is a truly modern, polished, and professional hosting panel tool.

Whether you need to configure Users, FTP access, PHP configuration options, Email settings, review log files, maintain SSL security certificates, or install and maintain modern applications, such as WordPress and Drupal; the rich interface available in the latest version has you covered.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a guided tour over some of essential aspects of the interface, giving you a taste at what’s in store.

1. The Main Interface

When you first login to your account, you’re presented with a very full-featured interface, which you can see above.

This is the launching point to all of the tasks which you’ll commonly perform. You can see in the main section an array of information, including your site’s IP address and hostname, as well as links to adding domains, subdomains and aliases

In the bottom section are links to managing the various server components, which I mentioned earlier. And in the right hand sidebar, are the links to database, backup and scheduled task administration, as well as quick links to application installation, security settings as well as a system overview.

Let’s have a more detailed look at some of the key options.

2. Backups

Arguably, one of the most important aspects of web hosting, actually anything computer related, are backups. Plesk Panel makes managing them a breeze. Clicking Backups in the righthand sidebar, takes us to the Backup Manager, which we see in the image above.

In tabular form, this lists all of the backups which have been run to date, showing the core information, which includes:

  • Who ran them
  • When they were run
  • The size of the backup file
  • Any backup comments

The information is presented in a paginated form, with a search filter in the top righthand corner, so that as the number of backups grows in size over time, it’s easy to keep making sense of the information.

Depending on your needs, the backup files can be kept either locally, or on an offsite FTP server. From this panel, we can also run backups manually by clicking Back Up, delete existing backups, as well as scheduling future backups, available under More Actions.

3. Databases

Next let’s look at database administration. Under Backup Manager in the righthand side panel, we see the option Databases. Clicking that, we’re taken to the database administration interface.

As you can see in the screenshot above, it’s quite similar to the backup section we jus saw. In it, we have a list of the available databases in the table at the bottom. This shows:

  • The database name
  • The database type
  • The associated database user
  • A link to phpMyAdmin (Webadmin) for administering it

As with backups, the records are paginated and a search box is available for filtering down to the database we need to manage. From here, we can add new databases by clicking Add New Database, remove existing ones, and manage the database users, under the users tab.

4. Scheduled Tasks

A lot of hosting tasks don’t need manual intervention and can be handled through regular automation. These include:

  • Removing old log files
  • Running security checks
  • Keeping Wordpress installations and plugins up to date

From the righthand sidebar, two options down from Backup Manager, we find Scheduled Tasks. Clicking this shows us the system users who can run tasks. In our demo, parallels is the only user listed.

Clicking on parallels, we’re taken to the scheduled tasks for that user, as shown in the screenshot above. Clicking Add Task, we see the form for setting up a scheduled task, similar to the screenshot below.

From here we can specify, with fine granularity, when the task should run and what that task is. It allows us to specify the following options:

  • Minute
  • Hour
  • Day of the Month
  • Month
  • Day of the Week
  • Job to run (command)

To be fair, to properly use this interface, you will need to know a bit about the UNIX/Linux Crontab tool. If you’re not familiar with it, it can be a bit strange at first. But after some experimentation and practice, it quickly becomes second nature.

In the screenshot above, I’ve created a simple job. This job will run the command apt-get update on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays (1,3,5,7), once every three months (*/4).

5. Installing Applications

Here’s the section you may use most: installing applications. I’ll cover WordPress installations specifically, to keep the walk-through simple.

Clicking on WordPress, in the righthand side panel, we see a list of the currently installed Wordpress sites. There you can see the:

  • Name
  • Url
  • Wordpress version
  • Active theme
  • Total plugins

From here, it’s simple to perform a range of administration features, such as:

  • Enable or disabling automatic updates
  • Running security checks
  • Installing or uninstalling plugins
  • Setting the active theme

For more specifics on managing Wordpress installations, check out the post on Plesk 12 Wordpress Integration.

6. FTP Accounts

At the bottom of the main panel, you’ll see icons for a series of services. At the top of the middle column is FTP Access. Clicking on that link, we see a list of existing FTP user accounts, as in the screenshot above where there’s one, parallels.

Like the other screens, we can filter the existing information and paginate the results. Here, we can also add new FTP accounts and remove existing ones. Clicking on a user account takes us to a screen as in the screenshot below.

There, you can see that it’s simple to update their username, password, and SSH access. So you can see that it’s quite simple to fill in the relevant details to administer users.

7. Web Users

At the bottom of the main admin panel, in the bottom of the left column, is a link for Web Users. Clicking that, allows you to manage people who can host personal web pages on your websites, as in the screenshot above.

From that page, you can add and remove users, as well as specify their ability to run scripts. By clicking Add New User the new user form is presented, where we can specify the normal criteria, such as username and password, as well as:

  • Hard disk quota (which by default is unlimited)
  • PHP
  • CGI
  • Perl
  • Python
  • FastCGI support

To help ensure that a user’s password is secure, under new password is the button Generate Password. This generates passwords which use at least two special characters, for example: !, @, #, $, %, ^, &, *, ?, _, ~ and are a minimum of 8 characters long, such as the following: u2O^7jx5.

You could also generate a password by a service or application, such as 1Password and paste it in manually.

8. Managing Logs

Clicking on Logs in the lower right hand column, takes us to the log management window, as in the screenshot above. This shows us all of the existing log files for our site, in a format similar to the previous screens.

As with the other pages, it shows us a variety of relevant information. In this case, we can see:

  • The log file’s name
  • When the log was last modified or created
  • The log file’s and its size

By clicking on the log file’s name opens the contents of the file in a new browser window. Please be careful trying to do this, however. If the size of the log’s grown quite large, then you may bring your system to a halt or even crash it.

Clicking Log Rotation at the top, allows us to set the criteria when log files are rotated, or archived. These include by:

  • Size
  • Time
  • The maximum number of rotated log files

All in all, this keeps log file administration simple and effective.

9. PHP Settings

Finally, let’s look at PHP Settings. As all of the applications which can be installed through Plesk Panel are PHP-based, it makes sense to know what options are available for configuring them.

By clicking PHP Settings, under Web Hosting, in the first column, you’ll see the PHP window, as in the screenshot above. By default, most of the standard PHP settings are already configured to use their default values.

In some instances a select box is available with a predefined range of choices. And each option also affords you the ability to specify a custom value if you need to do so. One good example is where the PHP error log file should be stored.

Depending on your needs, you may not have a need to touch this, but if you’re working with memory intensive applications, if the applications have large file size upload requirements, or if you’re configuring error settings for a specific host, then you can manage all of that from this screen.

Wrapping Up

Ok, that’s been a rather rapid, birds eye view, tour of managing your web host using the new Plesk Panel Web Host Edition.

I hope you can see the wide array of options available, how polished and well thought out the interface is.

Whether you’re just getting started with hosting websites, or you’ve been hosting them for a while and are more of a power user, the new edition has options to suit your needs.

What do you think? Will this make your life easier administering sites for your clients?

UPDATE: Conetix now sells Plesk12 license keys, run Plesk12 on your own server. See here for more information.