How to start learning Server Management?

hello all, i am new to Sitepoint and i am actually wanting to get into web hosting. I want to start up a hosting biz with like two other ppl and thats all fine, but i do not know what exactly what i need to know of how to manage servers and what coding, (if any) that i need to learn.

Basically, i need to know where i can learn this stuff quickly. I need to learn everything you can possibly NEED TO KNOW to run a hosting server. So if ANYONE can help, please do. PM me if you do know, and i will be very grateful.

First and foremost I’d like to start off by saying it will be hard to learn everything you might need to know but you can definitely get a good jump start.

I’d recommend first determining what kind of hosting you want to provide and go from there. Depending on the type of hosting crowd you want to cater to it will then determine which operating system might better fit your needs. If you want a good solid web hosting platform with little to no licensing fees tide with it then Linux might be the route to take. If you need to be able to provide your prospective clients with .NET programming capabilities such as ASP.NET with C# backend then a Windows platform with IIS would be the better route.

If you pick Linux a few good platforms to look into would be openSuSE, Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS. If you don’t mind some licensing then you could also consider Redhat Enterprise and SuSE Enterprise. Some of these linux platforms you will need to strip out programs and get a good base for a hosting environment where as others have a server variant for download but that is way beyond the scope of my post.

On the windows side any of the server 2003 or 2008 variants in a “Web” server edition should work for your entry level needs. You’d be better off going with 2008 R2 Web Server Edition so that you can ensure you have the latest version and can receive updates and support for a longer period of time over those of the older versions.

Once you get that operating system picked out then pick up some books on administrating the operating system you picked.

I could really go on for days talking about all this but I feel that you first should focus on picking out your technology path. By figuring out the technology you want to use, you can then more easily figure out the rest. Also you might check out :slight_smile:

very useful indeed. i think i want to start on with linux based hosting. cuz honesty, we dont have a huge a lot of startup cash which sux. but i know that on linux you can get cpanel for it, i love cpanel.

eventually i would like to move to like cloud hosting or like own like 10,000 servers of my own. but basically wen we start up i think we are just going to cater to people that need shared hosting and we will move from there. of course, all of the cloud hosting is all based on whether or not we are successful in starting a biz in hosting.

one of my friends actually owns a hosting biz and he is a partner with someone who does cloud hosting, and i have asked him to teach me but he wont lol
porbably because i will be competition.

anyways, thanks for the quick response. and i will definitely look into the webhostingtalk forum

If you are wanting to go with Linux then here are a couple good articles that you can read on hardening Linux servers.

Also in general has some really good articles from time to time on Linux administration. Now I noticed you mention CPanel. CPanel is a licensed product and as such will cost money. It can range in price from $200 upward. Since I image you won’t be doing VPS, virtual private servers, as a startup you will probably fall into the $425/year category. A few alternatives you might look at are ISPConfig, Webmin, DirectAdmin, and VHCS (Virtual Hosting Control System).

ok, so far i have just taken a look at the alternatives you suggested. and well, i like 2 out of 4. heres why:

ISPConfig: seems very much like cPanel in the features, but would like to have demo available.

Webmin: i looked thru, and really didnt find that it was something that would be very user friendly, but thats just my first impression of the package.

DirectAdmin: well it has licensing fees like cPanel, although they are much cheaper than cPanel, but it still doesnt appeal to me.

WHCS: ok, so i love this one. i found that it is very similar to cPanel in everything from administration down to the single user interface. I think this will be what i want to go with. However, I have an old PC that I can use as a test server, but i like to go with uBuntu since i have SOME knowledge from previous experience. of course, i havent had much but just enough. But what i need to know, is
can WHCS be used on uBuntu? and do i have to have Ubuntu server edition? because honestly i hate server edition. it sucks. I dont know enough code to really do anything and it really limits me from alot.
and at the moment, im working with a wireless connection where i cant really distribute the signal to both machines at the same time, which limits me from using uBuntu server ed.

So, i thank you for the suggestions, and i will take a look at the articles you posted, and i will start on WHT forum.

If you plan to install and use LiteSpeed, consider this guide, it’s pretty good:

ok not to be a complete newbie to the hosting world, what exactly is LiteSpeed? and what is WHM? i have no clue what they are. Seen them around, but never cared to figure out what they are.

Call me grumpy, but I think your window of opportunity closed about a decade ago. Either you are a commodity $9.95/mo hoster with 24x7 staff to keep your clients happy, unlimited domains, unlimited sql, blah blah blah, or you are a high-end “go away unless you want to spend at least $20k a year” managed hosting company. Anything else, and you are not providing the value informed people expect. There is no (or shouldn’t be any) middle ground anymore.

Add value where you can - the big boys own this territory and its ridiculous to think you can compete.

Disclaimer - I ran hosting companies for a decade. After seeing my market share erode year after year, I capitulated. Now I build sites for a few select clients, and pay the monthly bills by working for one of the big-gun MSP hosting companies.

I think you can learn online also with the help online networking pdf…

I have to agree with Billy. Being a web host (i.e directly managing the servers) requires a lot of expertise to do well and provide the reliability your clients will expect. I don’t think you can pickup those qualifications to a professional level real quickly.
Being a reseller might be another matter, as the real system administration is handled by someone else.

The cheap hosting market is very competitive. If this is your area you’re going to need everything to be extremely automated to have a chance of making a profit. You’ll need to have a lot of people paying $8/month to get anything out of it, and every time someone requires 20 mins of tech support you’ll have the profit from that customer for the month.

Actually I provide hosting for my web development clients and use a vps with ubuntu installed. Coming from a sys admin background, I did not need to “learn” a whole lot, but the ubuntu forums and linux forums are a great source of information and have helped me out quite a bit.


Ok now bieng serious, honestly it is going to be me and two others that are going to start a hosting business. or at the very least, we are going to TRY. I understand, as well as my partners, that this is not going to be a very easy thing to start. We also understand that all of this is very competitive and that it will not be an overnite success. But we really want to start as soon as we can. And what it all comes down to, is that i need to know how to do most everything on the hardware and software end. For instance, we will start out with reseller hosting, and i understand that most everything is already done for us, but eventually if we do get enough clients, we will move to VPS then a dedicated server. And the VPS is where i really need to start learning about linux systems and the softwares that can run on it. Of course im not a sys admin, altho i would very much like to become one, i am able to learn things as long as i have the time to teach myself (or if someone was willing to teach me, although i dont know of how someone would be able to teach that)

Buy a Western Digital and install the Linux partition you want or with windows gets a harddrive and use Server 2003. You could also go to a 2 year program in school and master servers.

You could also go to a 2 year program in school and master servers.

Is the years a standard I’m starting collage in September just wondering if that two years will give all I need to get a job managing servers?

I agree that there is tons of competition in hosting it will be difficult to make it if don’t have a unique selling proposition or unless you try and meet the needs of an underserved market.

So maybe look into providing something that no other host does.

Look into what groups or industries don’t have their needs met yet and find out what they need that they can’t find or can’t find at a good price. Is there some sort of new open source framework that isn’t supported by other hosts? Maybe you can try and meet the needs of bio tech companies or work at home moms or realtors, etc.

It depends on how dedicated you are to your studies. If you play with the stuff for fun and continue to learn it even on your own time you will eventually master a certain server stack.

Even studying full time for several years, you would not, IMO, be a professional hosting company. That being said, there are varying levels of prociiency one must meet to be professional.

If all you are looking into running is a basic LAMP server for running small websites. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP are all you really need.

Each of those systems will take you at least a year to become capable of solving problems within hours, possibly with the help of others.

The problem with learning each at the same time and squeezing all four into a 1 year course, is that they each act as layers, Linux being the core, MySQL and PHP coming in between Apache.

Issues encountered in one layer will occassionally percolate into others and cause chaos and confusion for newbies. I was there once and I still have a loooong way to go before I would feel comfortable managaing a server professionally.

My advice, don’t bother getting into hosting, I know it seems appealing and could make you a quick buck, but unless you partner with a guru in *nix your in for some serious bumpy roads. There are hundreds and thousands of hosting companies who offer services cheap, you enter that market and you’ll be out of business within 6 months.

If you have millions of dollars, good ideas, powerful marketing team and cutting edge green technology, you might start a successful data center and spin off a hosting company from that. Competing with RackSpace, ServerBeach, etc.

Otherwise, it probably won’t be worth your time.

Sorry to sounds the cynic but I’m trying to save you money and countless lost time.


Alex’s advice is sound. Unless you know what you’re getting into, there’s just too much to learn right off in server management. It’s not just something someone can “PM” you in 30 seconds - it actually takes years to become competent, and there are a variety of expertises within system admin that are specialties. For example, although I’m a competent system admin with 30 years of experience, who teaches other sysadmins, we hire a security company to harden all our new servers.

Additionally, unless you have money to get something like Cpanel or DirectAdmin, I just wouldn’t go there. They make life much easier for you and you don’t have enough knowledge to survive without them at this point (who knows, you may have in 6 or 12 months!).

However, there is an easy and safe way to get started - sign up as a reseller with a large cpanel provider. Many are very cheap and provide reasonable service; if you want something really stable and solid you’ll have to pay a little more. Paying a little extra to the right company is actually worth it as it will mean you don’t have to worry about the servers and don’t have to spend time running around when they have problems.

This will allow you to learn what’s needed more gradually, rather than having to learn web hosting, cpanel etc, and system admin all at once! Many hosts can help you a bit as a reseller too, and some have very good knowledge bases that you can study up on.

Even for adults, system admin is a complex and difficult task - you don’t want to be learning at your customers’ expense, it’s not fair on them.

this one’s a good business to start up with and it’s kinda complicated especially if you don’t have background on things that needs attention. but then, i hope the best for you and your team. what’s gonna work? TEAMwork!:slight_smile:

if you are using webmin it will be easy to maintenance you servers via web interface. you can check load processor, ram status, even you can restart your servers via web interface.

but AFAIK if we using WHM ( Web host Manager ) it will be very easy for us to monitors our client. you can easily monitor traffic, space, bandwidth usage , create your client cpanel account, terminate your client cpanel account, create your web host package , etc. It will be very easy for us to maintain. and there is bunch of documentation out there, and maybe this is the most well known in the web host business. This WHM will automatically fill your server with everything you need like web server, database server, mail server , also for your ftp server. with this WHM you also can check & restart ( if needed ) application Apache, Mysql, postgree , etc.

Cpanel are used by our client to manage their website, and WHM are the application to monitor our client. this two things are highly recommended .

so i think better to learn all WHM & Cpanel features and howto . And if you have some spare time learn more about OS maintenance & Firewall .

I think you should learn also about Ubuntu Server edition, why they create Server edition is because that OS are recommended for Server which is lite & more faster.

hope this help
Cheers :slight_smile: