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mod_dav and cPanel’s WebDisk

Any Webhost that has been providing FrontPage extensions to their customers know that the extensions are not reliable and are a constant source of problems. Even though Microsoft announced “End Of Life” for FrontPage Server Extensions back in 2006, many Webhosts still offer it, and many customers still use it. It is high time we helped them move on and two alternatives provided by cPanel are mod_dav and WebDisk.

mod_dav and WebDisk are two independent services on cPanel servers. Both trying to offer WebDAV or WebDAV-like services.

 

What is WebDAV?
Briefly: WebDAV stands for “Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning”. It is a set of extensions to the HTTP protocol which allows users to collaboratively edit and manage files on remote web servers. — WebDAV.org

 

Who’s mod_dav?

mod_dav is an Apache module that provides Apache with DAV capabilities. You can use the EasyApache script on cPanel servers to enable mod_dav. It is a fairly simple process and only involves the clicking of a few buttons and ticking a box. Once enabled you will have to configure the shared folder that will be accessed via mod_dav. If the client wants to publish a site with FrontPage, they will have to share the public_html folder. Part of setting up the share folder will be setting up a username/password to access this shared folder

Once you have configured the shared folder in mod_dav, your clients can continue to publish their sites using FrontPage. Only under the “Remote Web Site Properties” page they should select “WebDav” instead of “FrontPage or SharePoint services.” and instead of the cPanel username/password, they must use the new details they used when setting up the shared folder.

mod_dav has the disadvantage that it runs as the Apache user (“nobody” on a cPanel server). So any files uploaded by it will be owned by “nobody” and all files/folders it has to write to must either be owned by the user “nobody” or permissions set to 777. As you can imagine, this will not work well if suPHP is enabled and there are PHP scripts in that folder.

You can read more about manually setting up mod_dav here

 

Enter WebDisk

To overcome this security hole in mod_dav, cPanel started offering a WebDAV-like service with its own program “cpdavd” and called it “Web Disk” via cPanel. “cpdavd” is enabled by default since cPanel 11. It isn’t exactly the same as WebDAV but offers similar features. They plan on making it more like WebDAV in future.

With a Web Disk setup, the customers can add, move or delete files from the server just as you would manage files on your PC.

To connect to WebDisk you can either install the applet provided via cPanel itself or use a 3rd party client like BitKinex

WebDisk runs as a separate service called “cpdavd” on ports 2077 and 2078, so make sure you open these ports in your firewall. If your customer’s firewall is preventing them from accessing these ports, cPanel has provided a proxy service, similar to the one used to access cpanel and whm over port 80. Just have the customers use “webdisk.domainname.com” as the data source when configuring the client.

Thats it! Not only can you now provide customers with alternatives to FrontPage extensions, they can now take advantage of “Distributed Authoring and Versioning” to allow more than one person to work on the same set of files.


About the Author:

Hamish works as a Senior Software Engineer in Bobcares. He joined Bobcares in July 2004, and is an expert in Control panels and Operating systems used in the Web Hosting industry. He is highly passionate about Linux and is a great evangelist of open-source. When he is not on his xbox, he is an avid movie lover and critic.



2 Comments

  1. While DAV offers an alternative method of uploading files (similar to File Manager, FTP, FTPS, SFTP etc.), it does not replace the server-side technologies that pages that require FrontPage extensions require.

    As a result, not all websites created in Microsoft FrontPage will work on servers where FrontPage Extensions are either disabled or not installed.

  2. Thanks for the update David! Yes, DAV it is not a complete replacement for FrontPage Extensions, the advantage is that clients familiar with publishing a site using FrontPage will be able to continue to do so with WebDAV.

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