Technical References - Web Hosting Control Panels and WebDNA

Web Hosting Control Panels are becoming prevelant in the industry. How does WebDNA work with these applications?

As seen in this wikipedia document.

These days, Web Control Panels are numerous. Many tout ready-accessible features at your fingertips, once installed. These features may be WYSIWYG server administration forms or they may be ready-accessible server apps, such scripting languages, forums, and other.

Though WebDNA is becoming increasingly more prevalent in the industry, many of these control panels don't yet include WebDNA as a ready-accessible application. So, some WebDNA'ers, that want to combine the two, have run into problems or questions.

This article is meant to provide a base understanding on the idea of installing WebDNA onto a server that utilizes a Web Hosting Control Panel.

Unique Hierarchy of Web Files

The first thing you have to know about Control Panels is that many of them alter the standard HTML document root and other web server file paths, and many of them install custom web servers and supporting libraries as well.

What this means is that likely, a custom / unique WebDNA installation will be needed, because WSC currently only supports automatic installation for default server OS's. There is also the (unlikely) chance that the open source apache webdna plug-in will need to be built, if a custom apache has been installed by the control panel.

Since all of these Control Panels are different, the details of this unique installation will be different. So, this article talks in generalities and is meant to provide a starting point, rather than instructions.

After understanding that Control Panels alter the default locations of the web files, it may then be a perfect time to talk about WebDNA's two products, with the goal of deciding which product type is best for you.

WebDNA currently offers two products:
WebDNA Server and WebDNA FastCGI

The differences in the features between the two can be read about here.

After understanding the differences in the WebDNA products, the next thing to consider is how many sites you will want WebDNA to interact with. Will WebDNA be a server-wide installation, or will it be per virtual host ( per website )?

Since WebDNA Server is meant most often as a global solution, it is usually installed server-wide. On the flip-side, since WebDNA FastCGI was designed more for individual websites, it is most often installed per vhost.

Why does this matter?

Global VS Local CGI-BIN

I believe the main thing to understand, when installing WebDNA onto many of these control panels, is that these systems usually configure a local cgi-bin directory per site. In other words, each website that is created in the control panel has it's own cgi-bin directory. Sometimes, these systems can go even farther and create a unique and protected environment for each site, employing different user:group permissions.

This can potentially create a complicated WebDNA installation, for example, if you want to give all your websites on the server the ability to use WebDNA. Since WebDNA usually utilizes the cgi-bin directory, how then is the best way to install webdna.

This is when you decide if you want to give one site (one virtual host) the power of WebDNA, or Two sites, or unlimited sites.

Basic Things to Know about installing WebDNA

Before we get into Global and Local installation, there is a couple general points to make about WebDNA.

WebDNA Server and WebDNA FastCGI are installed differently. Please consult the README files within the distribution for details. However, the basic understand of these things will help with installation:

1.) Document Root Directory
The Document Root is a configuration that is set in your webserver configuration file, or your vhost configuration file that sets your html root. (it's the place where your html files live.)

2.) WebServer Scripts (cgi-bin) Directory
This is a traditional place on your server CGI's live, and WebDNA can be installed there. Many times, there are multiple (local) cgi-bin directories in control panel environments.

3.) ScriptAlias directive
This is the main apache configuration that tells to look for the cgi-bin bin/s and the CGI's (in this case, WebDNA).

Installing WebDNA Globally

The best way that I have found to install WebDNA globally is to install WebDNA Server and then make sure the ScriptAlias apache directive for each site (virtual host) is set to a global resource path, for example /usr/lib/cgi-bin/.

If the single VirtualHost (single website), created in the control panel, is not edited, most of the time it will point to a default local resource path, and that particular site will never find WebDNA.

Now, as I've stated, each control panel is different, so the administrator of the server will have to consult the documentation for the particular control panel being used on how best to set "ScriptAlias" per each site.

One thing to note here is that multiple cgi-bin locations can be set, and sometimes you can append a global location rather than set it explicitly.

Installing WebDNA Locally

If you just want one or two or three sites to have the power of WebDNA. WebDNA FastCGI may be the best option. You will install WebDNA FastCGI per vhost using the README provided, and you should not have to alter the ScriptAlias directory paths to do so.

In this case, WebDNA FastCGI works well seperated virtual host environments, even those that use unique user:group permissions (suexec).

Each virtual host will have it's own WebDNA Administration page.

- Donovan

WebDNA Team


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