Plesk is an amazing tool. It allows non-technical users to administer a server without any technical knowledge and without ever opening the command line. As a product it has allowed thousands, probably tens of thousands to administer servers without needing to use the command line or understanding how servers work. This is a good thing. Technology should allow people to use things without understanding them and Plesk is a primary example of that.
I started using Plesk two years ago and loved the ease of use it gave me. I was able to set up sites, subdomains, email addresses without really understanding what was going on. For a license fee I was able to cut out the requirement to pay someone to administer my server, or for me to learn basic Linux administration. The software worked and I was confident that I could offer clients a high end service. Indeed I did.
For me Plesk is a stagnant product that can afford to remain as it is because it has no real competition. CPanel is the only other major player in the market. Why do I use the word stagnant? I use it because on Plesk Linux there is still no out-of-the-box for PHP5, a product that has been out for over three years. It still offers PHP4, a product that is due to stop being supported by PHP at the end of 2007. This is a staggering situation for a paid-for enterprise level piece of software. There would seem to be no plans to address this at all.
I accept the argument that hosts want stable software. They want to offer clients a solid piece of kit that they can rely on and that they won’t have to support as much. I often feel sorry for my hosts Media Temple that they have no choice other than to offer an outdated solution that with each release they have to delay installing because of bug list after bug list. It is not their fault. This is Media Temple, a cutting edge host offering dedicated hosting with PHP4 and MySQL4! Users are crying out for an upgrade, doing it themselves or moaning at (mt). Do they have an alternative. No. Plesk has so little competition it doesn’t really have to try.
Thankfully for the community help is at hand in the form of Scott Shinn, a founder of Plesk. He seems to be doing most of the work that the other Plesk developers should be doing even though his resume says he doesn’t work there any more. At Atomic Turtle he maintains repositories for the product that users can use to update and maintain their installation. What does this need though? The Command Line! Why don’t SWsoft offer the same dedication to their product?
Over the last two years I have learnt more about Linux administration and now feel comfortable with administering a Linux server via the command line. Using Plesk it actually takes longer to do things than it would with the command line. That’s an aside though. For me the product is way out of date and requires the command line to bring it up to date, negating the very thing it was meant to do. Why should I fix a product that offers software that won’t be supported by the end of this month? There is no real alternative and cutting edge hosts like Media Temple are offering a package that is way way out of date. At the end of this month it will be software that is not even supported. Sorry SWsoft - it is not good enough.
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