Server administration can quickly turn into a chore if you neglect checking on security, backing up, running updates, scanning logs, etc – it can quickly become a hassle. CLIs are cool and everything but developing a 1000 yard stare deep into a terminal emulator isn’t everyone’s idea of a fun Saturday night. So if you too are tired of being a CLI jockey, or looking for a change of pace then look no further than these rad web based server management tools to use on your Linux server!
Webmin is a very robust and easy to install web control panel. It covers all the basics, giving you a GUI to see CPU, RAM, HDD space, and lots of graphs and options. You can see running processes, manage users, and edit your firewall. Webmin supports SSL and should be one of your first steps, post installation because Webmin not only monitors your server but also gives you full control of it. Webmin has root access to your server and can manage it with as much sophistication as the command line. You can configure SSL encryption from it, (albeit only if you use Apache as your web server), it also provides both package management and software management for things like sendmail, Dovecot, PHP, MySQL or PostgreSQL and many more via modules. You can also configure DNS, SSH, and manage various other settings right from the browser. Overall a very full featured package for sysadmins on the prowl for open source server monitoring.
Supports many distros and provides many install options
If left unsecured, this portal could get you into serious trouble.
Guided installer makes it EZ as pie to have up in running in minutes
The onboard SSL encryption only works with Apache, Nginx users have to manually cert it.
Provides support of packages via modules
Requires some additional packages for full functionality
In depth system monitoring options
Uninstall script is a little out of the way: located in /etc/webmin/uninstall.sh
Pretty good documentation in Wiki
Might integrate too deeply for some
Detects your SSH keys
Cockpit intends to be an entry point into web control panels for new and veteran admins alike! It provides a vast array of features that would up any sysadmins’ quality of life, right in the web panel! Cockpit provides complete service management, so you can start/stop and see detailed information about any service. It even provides a terminal right in the browser. It also has a very handy way of viewing all the system logs from the various services in one view. Which is a lot nicer than paging through them in a terminal. One of its coolest features is its support for plugins to extend its core functionality. Among the available plugins are virtual machines (by Podman or oVirt), Samba file share, and a benchmark tool, the full list is linked here.
Modern UI, very descriptive and laid out well
Sparse plugin options
User, networking, and service management
A bit heavy on the additional packages for some features.
Provides a terminal in the browser
Ultra user friendly, filterable log view.
Extendable via plugins but out of the box provides a lot of utility and information
Provides server metrics (requires additional packages)
Multi distro support! Check your package manager for cockpit
Ajenti is an open source admin panel that provides interesting set of web based tools to the sysadmin panel arena. Its also not really a software package per se, but a collection of python modules installed by pip. On first launch you won’t see much aside from your hostname and uptime, so you’ll have to add in whatever views you want to see via the UI. It comes stock with a in-browser text editor and terminal, which are two of the sysadmin’s most used tools, so having access to them in the browser is a pretty choice. It also has a File Manager which is always neat to see. Obviously Ajenti’s offerings don’t beat raw terminal or vim access but this could really save your butt in a pinch. It has an area for managing services and packages with a lot of extra functionality being provided by plugins that are installable via the panel itself. Unfortunately I had High RAM usage on my droplet and after a quick check in
htop, Ajenti was the culprit, counter to what they stated as having a low memory footprint.
Heavy RAM usage (30MB per worker, and a default install spawns 5 workers)
In browser terminal, file manager and text editor
Minimal system information shown
Can be configured to send email alerts
Sparse options out of the box
Supports plugins and provides a developer API
4. VestaCp (myVesta)
VestaCP is an opensource server/web-host management tool. Before I continue, understand that I’m filtering my review through the lens of its fork myVesta(which supports Debian 10-11, and is developed by one of the OG VestaCP devs) because the default VestaCP package only supports Debian 8-9, and Ubuntu 12-18.04, and CentOS\RHEL 5-7. VestaCP provides an install command generator on their site that you can tailor to your install, but I can’t speak to its veracity as I used the default myVesta values. That said, both versions have a similar installation script that will determine your OS eligibility and install the needed dependencies (which I must note is a lot on a fresh Debian 11 machine, see table). Once you get past that hurdle, you can visit your panel at the URL configured in installation or the bare IP at the default port of 8083. Once in the panel you’ll have access to the main Vesta dashboard, where you have a wide variety of server options including the usual user/package/server management. VestaCP preforms double duty here by providing some web-host controls including database (MySQL), DNS, Mail, and web domain management as well. The database management is pretty cool as it handles the SQL creation part fairly well and will also pre-install and configure phpmyadmin for you as well. I recommend securing these services as soon as possible to avoid future heartbreak as default instance of phpmyadmin or the like, is just asking to be hacked. Overall VestaCP/myVesta are very user friendly options for casual sysadmins as it provides a great deal of control in a web based format.
EZ installation script
No Debian 11 support by default (check the myVesta fork for compatibility.)
Supports both Apache & Nginx
Narrow Linux compatibility range.
Provides user friendly access to many essential server stats
Installs many dependencies (PHP7.4 + addons, phpmyadmin, mariaDB, Apache2, exim4)
Provides webhost features such as domain and email management
I had a real blast trying these out on a VPS server, my personal favorite being Cockpit as I found the logging feature to be ultra useful, as well as the service management system. Having a dedicated viewing area with all the system logs laid out in chronological order really kicks ass. Plus being able to get a very detailed view of the currently running services and their origins, dependencies beats reading terminal package manager output any day. If you go ahead an try out any of these management and you stick with any of them, make sure you take the necessary post installation security measures like changing default ports, using SSH, implementing fail2ban, and setting up a firewall. Now go out there and show those servers whose boss!