How To Manually Set Up Clients in WHMCS

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WHMCS is an amazingly capable software allowing you to manage your clients from initial purchase, continued support, and billing management. However, if you already have clients and you’re looking to get started with WHMCS, you will need to get those clients into the new system. While this process does require some manual work, it is absolutely possible and once they are set up, the automation can take over from there! In this guide, I will show you how to manually set up your existing clients into WHMCS.

Adding A Client Profile and Product in WHMCS

  1. Log in to your WHMCS Admin dashboard
  2. Hover over Clients, then Select Add New Client.

add a client drop-down menu screenshot

  1. Fill in the form with the required information.

new client information form screenshot

    1. Client Profile Information
      1. First Name
      2. Last Name
      3. Company Name
      4. Email Address
      5. Password
      6. Address 1
      7. Address 2 (optional)
      8. City
      9. State/Region
      10. Postcode
      11. Country
      12. Phone Number
    2. Client Billing Information (where applicable)
      1. Payment Method
      2. Billing Contact
      3. Language
      4. Status
      5. Currency
      6. Client Group
      7. Credit Balance
    3. Account traits
      1. Late Fees
      2. Overdue Notices
      3. Tax Exempt
      4. Separate Invoices
      5. Disable CC Processing
      6. Marketing Emails Opt-out
      7. Status Update
      8. Allow Single Sign On
    4. Include any relevant Admin Notes
  1. Tick the box IF you would like to send New Account Information to the client upon creation
  2. Click Add Client. Once added it will take you to the “Client Profile”.

add client button highlightedViewing the Client Profile

The Client Profile screen contains all of the information for a given client, separated into tabs. We’ll review the tabs and the information you can find under each tab.

  • Summary: this shows the “at-a-glance” summary of the client

client summary tab screenshot

  • Profile: this tab contains the basic information you entered when you setup the client.

Client profile, profile tab highlighted

  • Contacts: Add and modify additional contact information for the client.

contact tab screenshot

  • Products/Services: New clients will have no products/services. Use the Click Here link to place a new order.

New product button highlighted

  • From the new order page, you can confirm client details, select a default payment method, enter Promotion codes, set the order status, select a matching cPanel package, and additional details about the new client package. If this is a new client, the cPanel account will be created and mapped automatically. For an existing client, enter the cPanel username and password for the account, then use the cPanel/WHM Import Tool to connect the client with their cPanel account.

cPanel/WHM Import Tool

  1. Navigate to “Utilities > cPanel/WHM Import”, then select the Server from the drop down.

cPanel import tool highlighted

  1. Sort through the Domains and check ONLY the domains you are looking to import. This can be done as many times as needed, so feel free to do them in short batches if that’s easier.
  2. Once imported, it will most likely create a new client profile. It could potentially match the new information based on matching cPanel email addresses and the client email addresses you create. If WHMCS matches the new information correctly, you’re done. If not, continue with the steps below.
  3. If the system creates a new client and ties in the product, navigate to that client profile.
  4. From the Import Generated Client Profile, navigate to Products/Services, then click on Move Product/Service.

move product button highlighted

  1. Enter Client ID (if you don’t know it, you can find those under Clients > View/Search Clients and finding the ID column). Click Transfer and the client will now be matched to the correct product information.

With this guide you can add all of your existing clients and get them set up on billing plans to fully automate your existing clients as well as all of your new sign ups. This guide was specifically regarding your cPanel clients. However, Liquid Web also offers a WHMCS Plugin that integrates with our Cloud platform allowing you to do this with any existing VPS or Cloud Dedicated clients you have as well! You can use these links to learn about our WHMCS offering and see the Liquid Web WHMCS Plugin.

 

How to Check for Installed Packages on CentOS

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While managing your server, you’ll sometimes need to check on which software (or packages) you have installed on your system. You’ll need to know package names, version numbers, dates of installation, etc. In this Liquid Web tutorial, we’re going to be discussing how to inspect packages installed on your CentOS system. There are several ways to accomplish this, and we’ll discuss a few of them. Let’s dig in! To use these commands, you’ll need to log in to your server via SSH. For more information, see Logging into Your Server via Secure Shell (SSH).

Using RPM Package Manager

This first command uses the rpm package manager to poll for installed packages. This command allows you to see every installed package on your system, along with the version that is currently installed:

rpm -qa
Note the -q means “query” and -a means “all”. We’re asking rpm to query all installed packages.

Let’s examine a small portion of the results in detail. Note that you might not have these specific packages installed on your CentOS server. The important thing here is to understand how to read the output. Take a look at a small excerpt of entries from the list.kpartx-0.4.9-123.el7.x86_64
dracut-033-554.el7.x86_64
elfutils-libs-0.172-2.el7.x86_64

Each entry can be broken up into three parts. From left to right, these are:
Package name: (kpartx)
Version: (0.4.9-123.el7)
Architecture: (x86_64)

Instead of displaying all installed packages, rpm can also be used to search for a single package. Let’s use rpm to query kpartx:
rpm -q kpartx
You’ll see the output displays the same package name and version we saw from rpm -qa.
kpartx-0.4.9-123.el7.x86_64

Using Yum to Check Installed Packages

Using rpm is not the only way to check for installed packages on your system. Now we will discuss how to use “yum” to accomplish the same task. Try the following command:
yum list installed
You will see that the list yum provides is formatted slightly differently. Let’s look at an entry in depth.
whois.x86_64 5.1.1-2.el7 @base
The first column shows the package name and architecture: (whois.x86_64).
The second column shows the version installed: (5.1.1-2.el7).
Finally the third column shows the repository the software was installed from: (@base).

Using Yum to View Historical Installation Data

We can also use yum to view historical installation data on your system. Run the following command to see a list of anytime yum was used to install, remove, or upgrade a package:
yum history
Here is an example of the output you might see. Your system will show different results here, and that is OK. We’re just interested in learning how to read the output.
ID | Command line | Date and time | Action(s) | Altered
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
10 | upgrade | 2019-06-01 04:13 | I, U | 12 EE
9 | install whois | 2019-05-04 17:40 | Install | 1
8 | install python36 | 2019-05-03 21:23 | Install | 2
7 | install epel-release | 2019-05-03 21:02 | Install | 1
6 | install bind-utils | 2019-05-03 19:33 | Install | 2
5 | install docker-ce docker | 2019-05-03 17:37 | Install | 4
4 | install yum-utils yum-co | 2019-05-03 17:26 | Install | 6
3 | install git | 2019-05-03 17:19 | Install | 4
2 | install vim | 2019-05-03 17:18 | Install | 31
1 | update | 2019-05-03 17:09 | I, U | 57
history list

Notice the column headings: “ID number, Data and time, Action(s), and Altered.” This is a good summary of when yum was used, but it is lacking detailed information. Let’s examine one of these history entries in detail. Try the following command, replacing “ID_NUMBER” with the actual ID you want to inspect.
yum history info ID_NUMBER

Here is some example output:
Loaded plugins: fastestmirror
Transaction ID : 9
Begin time : Sat May 4 17:40:24 2019
Begin rpmdb : 356:8ab21eca9f4a219812e33c41a73fbd4eb7de1ed8
End time : (0 seconds)
End rpmdb : 357:cf2bf4588ba4d3263d1c9af051c3bcc525596a68
User : Cloud User <centos>
Return-Code : Success
Command Line : install whois
Transaction performed with:
Installed rpm-4.11.3-35.el7.x86_64 installed
Installed yum-3.4.3-161.el7.centos.noarch installed
Installed yum-plugin-fastestmirror-1.1.31-50.el7.noarch installed
Packages Altered:
Install whois-5.1.1-2.el7.x86_64 @base
history info

In this tutorial, we discussed how to use rpm and yum to search your CentOS server for installed packages. These utilities are both critical tools for Linux sysadmins on CentOS systems. Of course if you have any questions about how to use these utilities on your own Liquid Web server, let us know! The Most Helpful Humans in Hosting are standing by 24×7 and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

How Do I Connect My Mac to Windows?

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Mac users work in their native Unix environment are familiar with using the terminal to SSH into their Linux based servers. When using a Mac to log into a Windows environment, or vice versa,  the task is performed differently. Window machines use a different protocol, one aptly named RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol). For our tutorial, we’ll explore how to use your Mac to connect to a Windows server.  Let’s get started!

 

Pre-flight

 

Step 1:  Open Finder >> Applications >> App Store.  We’ll be going to the App Store to download Microsoft Remote Desktop.

 

Step 2. Use the search bar to locate Microsoft’s Remote Desktop. Select Get >> Install App. After installed, click on the Microsoft Remote Desktop icon in your Applications folder.

Note
iCloud is absolutely free, but they require a valid credit card on file, even for free apps.

 

Step 3: Launch the app by finding it in your Applications folder.

 

Step 4: For our connection select + New and fill out the information in the highlighted boxes for the Windows server.Connection Name: A nickname to identify this connection

PC Name: Window’s server IP address

User Name: Administrator

It seems counter-intuitive but close the edit window to save the settings. Immediately, you’ll see the server show up in your My Desktops list.

 

Step 5: Click on the server name to connect to your Windows environment. If all the information was correctly entered you’ll see the Window’s environment with the familiar Windows desktop background.

 

How to Set Up A Firewall Using Iptables on Ubuntu 16.04

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This guide will walk you through the steps for setting up a firewall using iptables in Ubuntu 16.04. We’ll show you some common commands for manipulating the firewall, and teach you how to create your own rules.

 

What are Iptables in Ubuntu?

The utility iptables is a Linux based firewall that comes pre-installed on many Linux distributions. It is a leading solution for software-based firewalls. It’s a critical tool for Linux system administrators to learn and understand. Any publicly facing server on the Internet should have some form of firewall enabled for security reasons. In a typical configuration, you would only open ports for the services that you wish to be accessible via the Internet. All other ports would remain closed and inaccessible via the Internet. For example, in a typical server, you may want to open ports for your web services, but you probably would not want to make your database accessible to the public!

 

Pre-flight

Working with iptables requires root privileges on your Linux box. The rest of this guide assumes you have logged in as root. Please exercise caution, as commands issued to iptables take effect immediately. You will be manipulating how your server is accessible to the outside world, so it’s possible to lock yourself out from your own server!

Note
If you’re a Liquid Web customer, check out our VPN + IPMI remote management solutions. These solutions can help you restore access to your server even if you’ve blocked out the outside world. We have a VPN configuration guide to get you started. Of course, our support staff is also standing by 24×7 in the event you get locked out.

 

How Do Iptables Work?

Iptables works by inspecting predefined firewall rules. Incoming server traffic is compared against these rules, and if iptables finds a match, it takes action. If iptables is unable to find a match, it will apply a default policy action. Typical usage is to set iptables to allow matched rules, and deny all others.

 

How Can I See Firewall Rules in Ubuntu?

Before making any changes to your firewall, it is best practice to view the existing rule set and understand what ports are already open or closed. To list all firewall rules, run the following command.

iptables -L

If this is a brand new Ubuntu 16.04 installation, you may see there are no rules defined! Here is an example “empty” output with no rules set:

Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
Chain FORWARD (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
Chain OUTPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination

If you’re running Ubuntu 16.04 on a Liquid Web VPS, you’ll see we’ve already configured a basic firewall for you. There are usually three essential sections to look at in the iptables ruleset. When dealing with iptables rulesets, they are called “chains”, particularly “Chain INPUT”, “Chain FORWARD”, and “Chain OUTPUT”. The input chain handles traffic coming into your server while the output chain handles the traffic leaving your server. The forwarding chain handles server traffic that is not destined for local delivery. As you can surmise, the traffic is forwarded by our server  to its intended destination.

 

Common Firewall Configurations

The default action is listed in “policy”. If traffic doesn’t match any of the chain rules, iptables will perform this default policy action. You can see that with an empty iptables configuration, the firewall is accepting all connections and not blocking anything! This is not ideal, so let’s change this. Here is an example firewall configuration allowing some common ports, and denying all other traffic.

iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 1194 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -s 192.168.0.100 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -s 192.168.0.200 -j DROP

iptables -P INPUT DROP

iptables -P FORWARD DROP

iptables -P OUTPUT ACCEPT

We will break down these rules one at a time.

iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT

This first command tells the INPUT chain to accept all traffic on your loopback interface. We specify the loopback interface with -i lo. The -j ACCEPT portion is telling iptables to take this action if traffic matches our rule.


iptables -A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT

Next, we’ll allow connections that are already established or related. This can be especially helpful for traffic like SSH, where you may initiate an outbound connection and wish to accept incoming traffic of the connection you intentionally established.


iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -j ACCEPT

This command tells your server not to block ICMP (ping) packets. This can be helpful for network troubleshooting and monitoring purposes. Note that the -p icmp portion is telling iptables the protocol for this rule is ICMP.


How Do I Allow a Port in Ubuntu?

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -j ACCEPT

TCP port 22 is commonly used for SSH. This command allows TCP connections on port 22. Change this if you are running SSH on a different port. Notice since SSH uses TCP, we’ve specified the protocol using -p tcp in this rule.


iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT

These two commands allow web traffic. Regular HTTP uses TCP port 80, and encrypted HTTPS traffic uses TCP port 443.


iptables -A INPUT -p udp --dport 1194 -j ACCEPT

This is a less commonly used port, but here is an example of how to open port 1194 utilizing the UDP protocol instead of TCP. Note that in this example we’ve specified UDP by using -p udp.


How Do I Allow an IP Address in Ubuntu?

iptables -A INPUT -s 192.168.0.100 -j ACCEPT

You can configure iptables to always accept connections from an IP address, regardless of what port the connections arrive on. This is commonly referred to as “whitelisting”, and can be helpful in certain circumstances. We’re whitelisting 192.168.0.100 in this example. Typically you would want to be very restrictive with this action and only allow trusted sources.


How Do I Block an IP Address in Ubuntu?

iptables -A INPUT -s 192.168.0.200 -j DROP

You can also use iptables to block all connections from an IP address or IP range, regardless of what port they arrive on. This can be helpful if you need to block specific known malicious IPs. We’re using 192.168.0.200 as our IP to block in this example.


How Do I Block All Other Ports?

iptables -P INPUT DROP

Next, we tell iptables to block all other inputs. We’re only allowing a few specific ports in our example, but if you had other ports needed, be sure to insert them before issuing the DROP command.


How Do I Forward Traffic in Ubuntu?

iptables -P FORWARD DROP

Likewise, we’re going to drop forwarded packets. Iptables is very powerful, and you can use it to configure your server as a network router. Our example server isn’t acting as a router, so we won’t be using the FORWARD chain.


How Do I Allow All Outbound Traffic?

iptables -P OUTPUT ACCEPT

Finally, we want to allow all outgoing traffic originating from our server. We’re mostly worried about outside traffic hitting our server, and not blocking our own box from accessing the outside world.


How Do I Permanently Save IP Rules?

To make your firewall rules persist after a reboot, we need to save them. The following command will save the current ruleset:

/sbin/iptables-save


How Do I Reset My Iptable?

To wipe out all existing firewall rules and return to a blank slate, you can issue the following command. Remember that an empty iptables configuration allows all traffic to your server, so you typically would not want to leave your server unprotected in this state for very long. Nevertheless, this can be very helpful when configuring new firewall rulesets and you need to revert to a blank slate.

iptables -F

 

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article! Configuring iptables can seem like a daunting process when first looking at an extensive firewall ruleset, but if you break down the rules one at a time, it becomes much easier to understand the process. When used correctly, iptables is an indispensable tool for hardening your server’s security. Liquid Web customers enjoy our highly trained support staff, standing by 24×7, if you have questions on iptables configurations. Have fun configuring your firewall!

How to Install MariaDB on Ubuntu 18.04

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MariaDB is a drop in replacement for MySQL, and its popularity makes for several other applications to work in conjunction with it. If you’re interested in a MariaDB server without the maintenance, then check out our high-availability platform. Otherwise, we’ll be installing MariaDB 10 onto our Liquid Web Ubuntu server, let’s get started! Continue reading “How to Install MariaDB on Ubuntu 18.04”

How to Install Apache 2 on Ubuntu 18.04

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Apache is the most popular web server software being used today.  Its popularity is earned through its stability, fast service, and security.  Most likely if you are building out a web page or any public facing app, you’ll be using Apache to display it. At the time of writing, the most current offering of Apache is 2.4.38, and it is the version we will be using to install on our Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server.  Let’s get started! Continue reading “How to Install Apache 2 on Ubuntu 18.04”

Things to Do After Installing a Ubuntu Server

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After spinning up a new Ubuntu server you may find yourself looking for a guide of what to do next.  Many times the default setting do not provide the top security that your server should have. Throughout this article we provide you security tips and pose questions to help determine the best kind of setup for your environment.

 

1. Secure the Root User

This should be the very first thing you do when setting up a fresh install of Ubuntu server. Typically setting up a password for the root user is done during the installation process. However, if you should ever find yourself in a position where you have assumed the responsibility of a Ubuntu server, it’s best to reset the password keeping in mind the best practices for passwords.

  • Don’t use English words
  • Use a mixture of symbols and alphanumeric characters
  • Length – based on probability and odds of guessing or cracking a password you can provide the best security after a password gets to a certain length. More than ten characters long is good practice, but even longer passwords with complex characters is a safer way to go.

You can also lock the root user password to effectively keep anything from running as root.

Warning:
Please be sure you already have another administrative user on the system with root or “sudo” privileges before locking the root user.

Depending on your version of Ubuntu the root account may be disabled, simply setting or changing the password for root will enable it with the following.

sudo passwd root

Now we can lock the root account by locking the password with the “-l” flag like the following. This will prevent the root user from being used.

sudo passwd -l root

To unlock the root account, again, just change the password for root to enable it.

sudo passwd root

 

2. Secure SSH Access

Many times, once a server is up and running the default configuration for SSH remote logins are set to allow root to log in. We can make the server more secure than this.

You only need to use the root user to run root or administration level commands on the server. This can still be accomplished by logging into a server over SSH with a regular user, and then switching to the root user after you are already logged into the server.
ssh spartacus@myawesomeserver.com

Once logged in you can switch from the user “spartacus” to the root user.

su -

You can disable SSH login for the root user by making some adjustments in the sshd_config file. Be sure to run all of the following commands as root or with a user with sudo privileges.

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Within this file find the Authentication section and look for the following line:

PermitRootLogin yes

Just change that to:

PermitRootLogin no

For the changes to take effect you will need to restart the SSH service with:

/etc/init.d/ssh restart

You can now test this by logging out of the server and then log in again over SSH with the root user and password. It should deny your attempts to do so. This provides a lot more security as it requires a different user (one that others won’t know and probably cannot guess) to log in to the server over SSH. This provides two values that an attacker would need to know, instead of one vaule, as most hackers know that the root user exists on a Linux server.

Also, the following can also be changed to make SSH access more secure.

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

PermitEmptyPasswords no

Make sure that directive is set to “no” so that users without a password can’t log in. Otherwise, the attacker would need only one piece of information while also giving them the ability to get in with just knowledge of a user. This, of course, would also mean they could keep attempting guesses at users as well and very easily log in.

A final caution is to adjust any router or firewall settings to make sure that remote SSH access is forwarded to port 22 and does not directly access port 22. This will eliminate a lot of bots or scripts that will try to log in over SSH directly on port 22 with random usernames and passwords. You may need to refer to your router or server firewall documentation on making sure you forward a higher port than port 22.

 

3. Install a Firewall

By default, later versions of Ubuntu should come with Uncomplicated Firewall or UFW. You can check to see if UFW is installed with the following:

sudo ufw status

That will return a status of active or inactive. If it is not installed you can install it with:

sudo apt-get install ufw

It’s a good idea to think through a list of components that will require access to your server. Is SSH access needed? Is web traffic needed? You will want to enable the services through the firewall that are needed so that incoming traffic can access the server in the way you want it to.

In our example let’s allow SSH and web access.

sudo ufw allow ssh

sudo ufw allow http

Those commands will also open up the ports. You can alternatively use the port method to allow services through that specific port.

sudo ufw allow 80/tcp

That will essentially be the same as allowing the HTTP service. Once you have the services you want listed you can enable the firewall with this.

sudo ufw enable

This may interrupt the current SSH connection if that is how you are logged in so be sure your information is correct, so you don’t get logged out.

Also, ensure you have a good grasp on who really needs access to the server and only add users to the Linux operating system that really need access.

 

4. Understand What You Are Trying to Accomplish

It’s important to think through what you will be using your server for. Is it going to be just a file server? Or a web server? Or a web server that needs to send an email out through forms?

You will want to make a clear outline of what you will be using the server for so you can build it to suit those specific needs. It’s best to only build the server with the services that it will require. When you end up putting extra services that are not needed you run the risk of having outdated software which will only add more vulnerability to the server.

Every component and service you run will need to be secured to it’s best practices. For example, if you’re strictly running a static site, you don’t want to expose vulnerabilities due to an outdated email service.

 

5. Keep the File System Up-To-Date

You will want to make sure your server stays up to date with the latest security patches. While a server can run for a while without much maintenance and things will “just work” you will want to be sure not to adapt a “set it and forget it” mentality.

Regular updates on a Ubuntu server can make sure the system stays secure and up to date. You can use the following to do that.

sudo apt-get update

While installing an Ubuntu server is a great way to learn how to work with a Linux it’s a good idea to learn in an environment that is safe. Furthermore, it’s best not to expose the server to the Internet until you are ready.

A great way to get started is at home where you can access the server from your own network without allowing access to the server through the Internet or your home router.

If and when you do deploy a Ubuntu server you’ll want to keep the above five things in mind. It’s important to know the configuration of the server once it’s deployed so you know what type of access the public can get to and what yet needs to be hardened.

Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to break something in your safe environment, as the experience can be a great teacher when it’s time to go live.

Top 4 Lessons Learned Using Ubuntu

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When choosing a server operating system, there are a number of factors and choices that must be decided. An often talked about and referenced OS, Ubuntu, is a popular choice and offers great functionality with a vibrant and helpful community. However; if you’re unfamiliar with Ubuntu and have not worked with either the server or desktop versions, you may encounter differences in common tasks and functionality from previous operating systems you’ve worked with. I’ve been a system administrator and running my own servers for a number of years, almost all of which were Ubuntu, here are the top four lessons I’ve learned while running Ubuntu on my server.

  1. Understanding the “server” vs. “desktop” model
  2. Deciphering the naming scheme/release schedule
  3. Figuring out the package manager
  4. Networking considerations on Ubuntu

 

Understanding “Server” vs. “Desktop” Model

Ubuntu comes in a number of images and released versions. One of the first choices to consider is whether you want the “desktop” or “server” release. When running an application or project on a server the choice to make is the “server” image. You may be wondering what the difference is, and it comes down to two main differences:

  • The “desktop” image has a graphical user interface (GUI) where the “server” image does not
  • The “desktop” image has default applications more suited for a user’s workstation, whereas the “server” image has default applications more suited for a web server.

It is really that simple. Currently, the majority of the differences relate to the default applications offereed when installing Ubuntu and whether or not you need a GUI. When I first started using Ubuntu, there were a number of differences between the two (such as a slightly tweaked Linux kernel on the “server” image designed to perform better on server grade hardware), but today it is a much more simplified decision process.

The choice comes down to saving time for the individual by either adding or removing applications (also called “packages”) that they do or don’t need. At Liquid Web we offer “server” images since it’s best designed for operating on a web server. You do have the choice of the Ubuntu version, which brings me to my next lesson learned:

 

Deciphering the Naming Scheme/Release Schedule

Both Ubuntu and CentOS are based on what is called an “upstream” provider, or another operating system that then CentOS/Ubuntu tweak and re-publish. For Ubuntu, this upstream provider is the OS, Debian, whereas CentOS is based on Red Hat (which is further based on Fedora). It was confusing at first for me to try and understand what the names for Ubuntu releases meant: “Vivid Vervet”, “Xenial Xerus”, “Zesty Zapus”; but that’s just a cute “name” the developers give a particular version until it is released.

The company that oversees Ubuntu, called Canonical, has a regular and set release schedule for Ubuntu. This is a distinct difference between CentOS, which relies on Red Hat, which further relies on Fedora. Every six months a release of Ubuntu is published, and every fourth release (or once every two years) a “long-term support” or LTS release is published. The numbering they use for releases is fairly straight-forward: YY.MM where YY is the two digit year and MM is the month of the release. The latest release is 19.04, meaning it was released in April of 2019.

This was tricky for me to initially navigate and created a headache since the different versions have different levels of support and updates provided to them. For some people, this is not an issue. As a developer, you may want to build your application on the latest and greatest OS that takes advantage of new technologies. Receiving support may not matter because you won’t be using the server for very long. You may also be in a position where you need to know that your OS won’t have any server-crashing bugs.

Which version do you choose? How do you know whether your OS will be stable and receive patches/updates? I ran into these issues with when accidentally creating a server that lost support just a few months later; however, I learned an easy-to-use trick to ensure that in the future I chose an LTS release:

  • LTS releases start with an even number and end in 04

Liquid Web offers a variety of Ubuntu releases within our Core-Managed and Self-Managed support tiers:

Notice that all the version of Ubuntu that we offer are the .04 releases. These are all LTS releases, ensuring that you receive the longest possible lifespan and vital security updates for your OS.

 

Ubuntu’s Package Manager

Prior to working with Ubuntu, I had the most experience with CentOS. Moving to Ubuntu meant having to learn how to install packages since the CentOS package manager, yum, was no longer available. I discovered that the general process is the same with a few minor differences.

The first difference I encountered is that Ubuntu uses the apt-get command. This is part of the Apt package manager and follows a very similar syntax to the yum command for the most basic command: installing packages. To install a package I had to use:

apt-get install $package

Where $package was the name of the package. I didn’t always know the name of the package I wanted to find though so I thought I could search much like I could with yum search $package; however there is another utility that Apt uses for searching: apt-cache search $package

If you forget,  you’ll get an error that you’ve run an illegal operation:

One similarity to yum that is super useful: the “y” flag to bypass any prompts about installing the package. This was my favorite “trick” on CentOS to speed up installing packages and improve my efficiency. Knowing that it works the same on Ubuntu was a major relief:

Of course installing packages meant I had to add the repositories I wanted. This was a significant change since I was use to the CentOS location of /etc/yum.repos.d/ for adding .repo files. With the shift in the Apt system on Ubuntu, I learned that I needed to add a .list file, pointing to the repository file in question in the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ folder. Take Nginx for example; it was quite easy to add once I realized what had to go where:

 

From here it was as straight-forward as installing Nginx with the apt-get install nginx command:

 

There was a time when adding a repository did not immediately work for me; however, it was quickly resolved by telling Apt that it needed to refresh/update the list of repos it uses with the apt-get update command.

Note
Don’t worry, the apt-get update command does not update any packages needlessly, this simply runs through the configured repositories and ensures that your system is aware of them as well as the packages offered.

 

Networking Consideration on Ubuntu

The last major lesson I want to talk about was one learned painfully. Networking on Ubuntu, by default, is handled from the /etc/network/ directory:

There is a flat file called interfaces, and this will contain all the networking information for your host (configured IPs/gateways, DNS servers, etc…):

Notice in the above configuration that both the primary eth0 interface and the sub-interface, eth0:1, are configured in the same file (/etc/network/interfaces). This caught me in a bad spot once when I made a configuration syntax mistake, restarted networking, and suddenly lost all access to my host. That interfaces file contained all the networking components for my host, and when I restarted networking while it contained a mistake, it prevented ANY networking from coming back up. The only way to correct the issue was to console the server, correct the mistake, and restart networking again.

Though this is the default configuration for Ubuntu, there is now a way to ensure that you have the configuration setup for individual interfaces so, a simple mistake does not break all of the networking: /etc/network/interfaces.d/

To properly use this folder and have individual configuration files for each interface, you need to modify the /etc/network/interface file to tell it to look in the interfaces.d/ folder. This is a simple change of adding one line:

source /etc/network/interfaces.d/*

This will tell the main interfaces configuration file to also review /etc/network/interfaces.d/ for any additional configuration files and use those as well. This would have saved me a lot of hassle had I known about it earlier.

Hopefully, you can use my mistakes and struggles to your advantage. Ubuntu is a great operating system, is supported by a fantastic community, and is covered by “the most helpful humans in hosting” of Liquid Web. If you have any questions about Ubuntu, our support or how you might best use it in your environment feel free to contact us at support@liquidweb.com or via phone at 1-800-580-4985.

 

 

How to Setup and Use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio

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What is SSMS?

SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) is a free Windows application to configure, manage, and administer Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL). SSMS includes an Object Explorer to view and interact with databases and other elements, a Query window to write and execute Transact-SQL queries, and script editors for developers and administrators. Continue reading “How to Setup and Use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”