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A new “Basic Input Output System” (AKA Control Panel) for your CentOS Web Server

April 16, 2015 by  

Today we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a developer for the Site Bios control panel.  SiteBios is a free, open source control panel for Linux, specifically CentOS. It contains your essential LAMP stack, where M denotes for MariaDB and P includes both PHP and a full features Post Fix mail service.

In additional to the LAMP stick it also features some other server related services, such as Bind for the purpose of running a name server.

Structure wise it reflects quite a few similarities to the regular control panels, presenting a three tier panel. It has an admin interface, a client/user interface and also a reseller admin interface.

The best part we’ve noticed is a design which enables this control panel not to run as root. In fact it uses a kernel type script to take care of several requests which require a root access for running.  Furthermore, the “Kernel” also provides an extra layer of security, in addition to doing what it normally does. For example, it validates the data before it is passed to the shell script which runs as root.

A Local SiteBios developer defines this software as the only control panel which has an interface that does not run as root or other common system user” “and theonly control panel we’ve seen with a Python based frontend”

Here is a sample of the admin interface, the + icon is used to create a new account.

Sitebios

 


The Platform and coding

SiteBios is based on about 67% of shell scripting which comprises the “backend”. It also uses about 33% Python and JavaScript which formulate the “frontend”. It works on a 64-bit versions of OS 6 or 7. The reason for choosing CentOS is because of how easy it is to install the packages that make up and support the software through the use of YUM and also because of the reliability of this OS as a server.

The developers for SiteBios plan on adding full support of RHEL as part of this software. Being open source, it can likely also be used on other LINUX operating systems. However, it is recommended to just use it with CentOS for now.

SiteBios  is fully Open Source

We asked the developer if SiteBios was partially or fully Open Source.  He replied, “SiteBios is fully Open Source, some of the python modules are compiled, however the source code is included as well.  When we designed this we felt it was important to let others see the source code and customize if it they needed to or wanted to.  Also this make it easier to customize if you don’t need the full LAMP stack, some people only need a mail server, or only a DB server”.

For the users the best parts are the updates. This software is not just left behind to run on its own, the updates are published regularly. The developers say these updates are in large part based on feedback received from the users.

Installation and setup

Another benchmark of this system is the fully automated install script.

Unlike some software which can turn into a dependancy nightmare to install. For SiteBios you simply download the tar file and then run the install script. The install script run on its own and configure all the packages that it requires.

Everything required to run SiteBios is installed from a Yum package, including a number from the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) library, with the exception of Apache and PHP which are compiled from source. You can conveniently customize the Apache and PHP after installation. For this use the “apinstall.sh” script and accompanying conf files, you can also run the script “multipphp.sh” which can be used to install 4 different versions of PHP,  (5.3-5.6) which can be used individually per domain or even per folder.

Usage from the Admin point of view

In our tour of the demo we noticed 99% of the features are available through the GUI’s, however a few functions are command line only, which are the less common tasks.

For example to change the main domain on an account, you would make use of the shell script since that feature is not a part of the GUI. The developers however say that all of this depends on the popularity of this feature, and it has the potential to be added to the GUI in future.

A lot of R and D was spent on the mail system for SiteBios.  It consists of the PostFix MTA and Dovecot incoming mail server.

As far as spam for Virus filtering is concerned, this software utilizes greylisting, through the use of Postgrey. In addition to that it has ClamAV and SpamAssasin as well for Virus and Spam filtering.

Another gem of this software is how you can create several email filters, which includes forwarders, auto-responders etc. This is done by using Dovecot Sieves.

Completely customizable

The provision of a complete source code makes this software fully customizable, and you can make any alterations according to your needs. The developers however say that they have an update script (which only runs manually) which the users might want to avoid using if they’ve customized any of the source code.

Another nice thing about SiteBios is most of the functions are based on shell scripts, which makes them easy to modify as well as easy to integrate into other applications.

Uses of SiteBios

Here comes the best part. This software tends to cover most of the features which are required by admins as well as end users. But it is also considered a compact product which requires fewer packages, scripts and therefore cuts down on possible bugs and security exploits.

In spite of its minimal “Less is Better” approach, this software is still cutting edge, for example, it has CentOS 7 and PHP 5.6.x support, advanced spam and mail filtering such as greylisting.

Security is also a key part of this software. With a built-in “kernel” this control panel takes a new approach to the common control panel design which typically would run as root and/or the apache user.

It also has an advanced robust backup and restore system. The backup system uses flat files, which use more disk space but less far CPU compared to the common tar backup format. By using flat files with rsync you can backup and entire server in just a matter of minutes. Currently SiteBios can do monthly, weekly and daily backups.

Future of SiteBios

After 2 years of development SiteBios was recently released to the public.  The developer tells us “We’re awaiting feedback from the users, to let us know what they want to see added to, or changed in the software”

The developers are always open to feedback and ways in which they can improve this system for you. However, they want to keep the feature set relatively small, hense the name “Basic Input Output System”, so they can’t promise any features you suggest will be added.

If you’d like to check out the SiteBios software, head over to www.SiteBios.com and download a copy to install on a spare server or VPS.

 

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