Some great suggestions to improve Virtualmin from Nick Hill. Nick can be contacted at http://ubuntuforums.org/member.php?u=337788
I have spent about a week trying out the different control panels for web hosting. sysCp, ISPconfig, virtualmin, ebox.
I have had past experience with Cpanel and Plesk6, which are both commercial offerings.
The free control panels are not close to the user friendliness and ease for end users compared to those two. However, those commercial panels I have tried are poor when you need custom apache configs. They tend to overwrite your custom config.
An ideal panel in my opinion would
1 ) Each domain name must be attached to a control panel user.
2 ) Each user can, depending on privileges given by the administrator, log into the control panel.
3 ) The administrator should be able to disable the user and by extension all services under that user.
4 ) For each domain name, it should be possible to enable and disable email, FTP, web service individually.
5 ) For each web host (under the user and domain name) it should be possible to enter custom apache configurations. Users should only be allowed to do this if granted by admin as these can prevent apache from restarting.
6 ) Users should be able to set up mail boxes, aliases and redirects according to limits set by administrator if the administrator has granted this privilege.
7 ) Mailbox username and passwords should not be mapped to POSIX usernames and passwords. It is completely nonsensical. It is very rare these days for a one email address per posix login account set-up. This relationship needs to be broken, as it just makes configs unnecessarily complicated and danger-prone. Most email is fetched either by webmail, Imap or POP3. POSIX user account mboxes are a broken implementation 99% of the time. Mail collection username should be email@example.com so that multiple users can share mailboxes of the same name, without messing with redirects. This could be implemented with a simple mapping file rather like /etc/shadow, with a standard layout, understood by both the MTA and by a POP/Imap daemon. This would be a simple piece of integration that will make a lot of difference. A patch by the distribution for the key supported MTA and pop/imap daemons would do the trick. This must be implemented at the distribution level, not the control panel vendor level.
8 ) The control panel and the daemons it controls should receive security updates through the package management system. There should not be any part of the standard system which requires the sysadmin to manually patch security flaws.
Other things would be nice, but not important such as user configurable cron, per directory access configuration, file manager.
To achieve these goals, the user on the control panel should not link to a user on POSIX/PAM. There should be one POSIX username per domain name which Apache SUexecs in that virtualhost. FTP username/password on a per-domain name basis which matches the Apache SUexec POSIX user.
How close are the control panels? SysCP offers much of the above, but with what appears to be a highly customised configuration system for mail and FTP. I have a copy running on Debian and an update sent the system Fubar. The config system is supported by SysCP but not by Debian.
Ebox. Offers individual configuration of core linux services, but is clearly not designed for virtual host administration. Offers little to none of the above.
ISPconfig. I installed the system with some hesitation based on the fact that parts are compiled from source, not sourced via package management. Uses special configurations. I have spent an hour playing with it, but I find it frustrating. I have not yet been able to determine how much of the above it offers, as much of the language it uses is wrong. For example, fileserver - is that FTP? I am wary that given that the core of the system is not via package management, and given the custom configurations, believe it could break package management and updates, like syscp did for me.
Virtualmin - Misses many of the above functions. In particular, dos not allow creation of mailboxes not mapped to POSIX/PAM accounts. This is understandable given that Ubuntu don't appear to officially support this. Virtualmin appears to use standard configuration files as per usual Ubuntu system administration. The install was logical, and the user interface logical and consistent. I am leaning towards virtualmin in the hope that Ubuntu will one day introduce a supported method of full virtual mail. MTA -> pop/imap without needing a PAM/POSIX account as an intermediary.
I feel it is far less likely that updates to the Ubuntu system will break Virtualmin or the services it delivers. I expect that if I stripped virtualmin from the system, services it supports will still operate with little or no re-configuration. Combined with it's more logical arrangement, I feel virtualmin is on the right lines. I have not made a final decision as I need to spend more time with ISPconfig to make sure, but Virtualmin is looking the best right now.
I'll re-iterate. Ubuntu, please deliver explicit support for integration of MTA (postfix or Exim) and POP/IMap in such a way that a POSIX PAM account is not necessary as an intermediary for the authentication and collection of mail. This isn't so much a coding but a management issue,