Your opinions on a new Hosting Management software
I am in the process of planning and designing a PHP based web host manager. Why? you may ask, well I keep asking myself this too. Firstly, I am a diehard web programmer and love a challenge and looking for a new project. Secondly, I believe there is little competition out there and whilst the likes of Plesk and CPanel are great, they could be a lot better.
Take Plesk for example, a typical unlimited domain licence with average features can set you back approx £500 per year. CPanel is currently $425 per year. I believe the CPanel price is more realistic but Plesk as a product feels more robust.
My product will be written in PHP 5+ using a modern PHP framework, can fully configure web services (http, mail, ftp, mysql, postgresql, dns, firewall etc.) and have a powerful reseller/client management system that can limit/restrict bandwidth and resource usage. One of the other key features about my product would be each reseller can brand their and their clients control panel.
It would also work on all major Linux distros (currently thinking CentOS, Ubunutu, openSuSE, Fedora, Debian, Mint, Mandriva and FreeBSD) and I think a reasonable price for this would be the region of £180-£250 per year.
What do people think of this concept? What do you like/dislike about Plesk/CPanel? As a reseller, what would you want out of a system that perhaps doesn't exist now?
2 things I wish I had in a control panel. SO far, directadmin comes closest to this:
- Choice to use a standard Linux distros binary and package manager for the daemons used on the system. The ability to completely separate the control panel from the system daemons would be awesome. A way to recognize major distros configuration paths (such as CentOS, Debain, SUSE, etc) and use them in place without special configuration. This control panel should be able to be installed and work with existing configurations already in place following the distro defaults, and be removed without any change in system behavior. When this becomes not enough (such as needing to recompile apache for suPHP or something similar) then there should be an upgrade path to the 'compiled' version of that daemon (ie, backup the configs, compile the "control panel version", remove the current package, install new version).
- Ability to provision 1 or many services on an account. What if I want to sell JUST DNS hosting or just email hosting? When I create an account for DNS I should have the ability to ignore creating or altering configuration for Apache, MySQL, exim, dovecot, sendmail, postgresql, etc etc... It should be smart enough to only add the necessary zones to the zones folder and edit the named.conf (wherever it is on the particular distro). No need to bloat or add other config items for stuff that isn't used or could be hacked/exploited because they aren't monitored.
- Document EVERYTHING. I find that when I start to get into the guts of the panels admin side (such as templating, altering configurations, adding functionality using API or scripts) the panels currently out there lack documentation and what you need is usually found in some random forum post years back.
My $0.02 on stuff I would like to see.
WHMCS did it with PHP and a billing control panel. Now it is someones turn to do the same with PHP and a server control panel
Hey eger, thanks for your comments. You've raised some interesting points there and things I haven't thought of yet.
What I feel I can bring is simplicity, not only to the front end but for developers it is easy to install and remove from the system. The way I can do this is via modern PHP techniques (still find it confusing Plesk still uses PHP3!).
I like your ideas of having the ability for it to be used as a service manager for other purposes and can see this as being a selling point too.
I echo your thoughts for a well documented product. This makes good business sense i.e. can help cut down on help queries thus minimising customer frustration! Not the same but WordPress as a product is very succesful and I feel one of the reasons for this is it's well documented.
I've trialled some techniques on my dev machine and it's really exciting e.g. quota and bandwidth management for FTP is a breeze using pure-ftpd, it can also use MySQL as authentication for virtual users (ideal to be used as a pure FTP server).
Still, a long way to go but a good project nonetheless.
If you want to stand out and not offer "just another control panel", you should look into the ability of clustering, that is, a central panel that provisions services across multiple servers, like H-Sphere or Hosting Controller do. Just my two..
My opinion: if you have 3/4 years of free time for doing the coding, go ahead. Else, give up. Any work estimation smaller than this is just being really pretending.
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It depends on what market you are wanting to target. If you want to target the small "one-man-new-hosting-company-from-my-room-in-my-parents-house" company owners...
.. then yes, I think you have a good chance to compete against plesk and cpanel. Most of these "company" owners are looking for a free control panel, so having something even less costly then cpanel/plesk will give you a market for your product as long as it looks good and is easy to use, etc.
But really... if you actually plan to stay in business by making any decent money, then you will need to go after the general hosting market. People like us want all the same features included in cpanel/plesk, plus:
- simple cluster support.
- simple ui. Cpanel would be SO much better if they actually hired someone to re-think their user interface. Ack!
And that's about it. You can easily come up with a better UI.. but doing something like true cluster management is not going to be a simple task even if you are the kung-fu god of programming in PHP.
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I like your idea.
I like new things and challenges too, so I understand how are you felling.
Personally i think that for you is better to target into small business market (because I think you didn't have more funds ar the moment), but you must keep in mind that project must be suitable for big companies,players
You will need to prepare a demo in all stages of your work.
And you do not need to do as big ones do, keep thinking about it in new ways.
I can help you with marketing on it, too
It is a nice idea, but you can't compete with these control panels when you are working allone. Even when you full time program this panel it will take much time before the panel is ready to be released.
If you really want to start with this you need several programmers (oh, also a designer) to complete the panel in less time.