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Server administration for newbies

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Saturday March 11, 2006 )

I’ve been around the dark alleys and the “verboten” places in a web hosting company not often seen by site owners for quite a while now; but our System Administrator still speaks in what seems to be gibberish at times:

“FSCK was still running in the background, but edits to the fstab file should prioritize the mounted filesystem in future”

.. come again?

You know what it’s like asking a tech guy “what’s wrong” – they’ll tell you and suddenly you find yourself over your head in a world of what appears to be voodo and dialect only known by a chosen few.

They most certainly don’t have time to spend 3 hours explaining to you what it all means; there’s work to be done :). I’ve managed to pick up a fair bit through osmosis, a patient tech team and through various crises; but it all still seems a little abstract to me without seeing what our team is seeing when they are seeing it and working it myself.

SitePoint have recently released a book called “Run your own web server with Linux and Apache”. Linux is a free operating system based on Unix, originally developed by Linus Torvalds. It is a hugely popular OS and there’s a good chance your site is running on it :).

Apache is the most popular HTTP server currently available. Also free, it supports PERL, PHP and a huge swathe of protocols including a form of SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), OpenSSL. I believe that something in the region of 70% of all servers run Apache.

The SitePoint book, like all other manuals released by SitePoint, looks to have excellent content and is very easy to understand. As with all SitePoint manuals aimed at beginners, you aren’t bombarded with terminology without a suitable explanation.

There’s over 300 pages in “Run your own web server with Linux and Apache” and it includes a free Linux DVD & poster. The great thing about this book, as with all Sitepoint books, is that you can download a substantial amount of the content free before purchasing; allowing you to gain a better idea of the book’s suitability for your purposes.

“Run your own web server with Linux and Apache” contents summary:

– Introduction
– Building The Linux Environment
– Day-to-day Usage
– The Command Line
– System Administration
– Building The Server (Apache, MySQL, PHP, HTTP, OpenSSL)
– Server Administration (Installing and using WebMin)
– Remote Administration (SSH, VNC)
– Occasional Administration (Log files, backups)
– Server security
– Command line reference
– Troubleshooting

While the manual is a great beginners guide, I’d advise you get plenty of practice before cutting ties with your web hosting service and going it alone. A good transition path would be to a managed server first, where the upstream provider can dive in and fix any messes quickly if need be without it costing you an arm and a leg. Just be sure not to test their patience too much ;).

Now, time for me to build a box and try messing around with my own server – disconnected from the Net of course ;).

Learn more about “Run your own web server with Linux and Apache

View the range of SitePoint web development books – titles covering technologies such as Flash, PHP, MySQL,, DHTML, CSS and XML


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