Friday, September 23, 2011

Hello, New Auto-Installers!

Last December we reported that the Fantastico Auto-Installer would be phased out in favor of Installatron. While researching Auto-Installers (to make sure we give you the best one available) we also found Softaculous. Both Installatron and Softaculous were quietly added to your cPanel Software/Services section in February while we tested both in their installing capabilities, customer service, the variety of their scripts and so on.

We're pleased to announce that we've decided to offer BOTH Auto-Installers and are included in all our shared hosting plans at no additional charge!

You'll find both icons in the "Software/Services" section of your cPanel (at the very bottom, unless you've re-ordered the sections):

After offering Fantastico since 2005...
Fantastico took f-o-r-e-v-e-r to release new scripts, and was especially lagging in releasing new versions of scripts. When you're dealing with scripts such as WordPress, when updates should be available and applied within a matter of hours, a delay of weeks to sometimes months (Fantastico typically would release new scripts along with updated scripts in "batches", saving the updated scripts for the next batch of 5-10).

Fantasticos' admins maintained that they offer an auto-installer, not an auto-updater, and they do have a point. The problem is both that when a user installs something a certain way they expect to be able to update it in the same manner; and also that Fantastico would often make changes to a script (in order to install it through their auto-installer) that made it incompatible with using that scripts' own internal updater. All of this led to many outdated scripts in many hosting accounts, and many web hosts stopped offering Fantastico because of the security risks involved.

Installatron and Softaculous are a new breed.
Some key features of both, which we found impressive:

  • Updated scripts are released within hours, a day or two at most.

  • When an update to a script you have installed is released, you get an emailed notification.

  • Any existing/currently installed script (installed from another installer or manually) can be easily imported into either Installatron or Softaculous for ease of future management.

  • Each carry an enormous catalog of available scripts in every category you can think of (and at least a few I'll bet you can't!):
    Blogs, micro blogs, social networking, image galleries, polls and surveys, wikis, CMS and portals, forums, eCommerce, customer service, accounting, calendars, gaming, mailing lists, and many, MANY more!

  • Each is very responsive to our support requests.

Just how many scripts are available?
It depends on which hosting plan you have. We painstakingly matched the scripts to each hosting plans' disk space and target user. We tried to chose some scripts from each applicable category, though obviously the eCommerce scripts will be exclusively for the Quasar (eCommerce) plan (our reseller plan, Omega, has all scripts available so they can provide them to their own customers).

Ceres (designed for very small businesses or personal sites) 61 scripts
Pegasus (designed for medium-sized businesses or small forums) 107 scripts
Orion (designed for businesses or active forums) 145 scripts
Voyager (designed with developers in mind) 200 scripts
Quasar (our eCommerce plan) 220 scripts
Omega (our Reseller plan) 220 scripts

So which auto-installer should you use?
Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each carries different scripts. I'll be honest, Installatron has come across as the stronger product and company overall, though Softaculous has been responsive to suggestions and issues we've had.

It was only in the past week that Softaculous offered a way for us hosts to offer certain scripts to certain hosting plans, commonly called an Access Control List...something that Fantastico has had for years and every other auto-installer has built-in from day one. Waiting for them to enable the ACL was why this official announcement was delayed until now. I've also personally noticed during testing a few issues with the installation process of some scripts (i.e.- scripts failed to install), as well as demos on their site not working, a lot of spam in the support forum, etc. The last thing we at Hello World Web need to do is offer something to our hosting clients that will only create more support requests for us and frustration for our users.

To their credit, the Softaculous admins do seem to be right on top of correcting these issues as fast as they can, and as long as there's positive moment on that front, we will continue to offer Softaculous as an auto-installer to our clients. What Softaculous has to offer over Installatron is a boat-load more scripts. While Installatron thoroughly and carefully tests each script they offer, Softaculous seems to "fast-track" new scripts (may be good, may be bad, it just depends on the script).

It will be a personal decision for you on which installer you prefer, as they each have very different interfaces with different options and information on the various scripts they offer. As it stands right now, if both installers carry the same script, preference will be given to Installatron.

Sometime it takes more than one-click to get it right.
One thing to note: You may see Softaculous (or another Auto-Installer, for that matter) bragging that they offer "one-click installs", as if that's a good thing. It's not always. The "clicks" that a user needs to do to install a script typically involve choices. The less clicks, the fewer choices or decisions you get to make about your install, which is not always a good thing. Your mileage may vary. While Installatron installs involve more clicks, they lead you through each screen and provide plenty of information-in-plain-English (as opposed to that geek-gobbledegook) so you can make sensible choices.

You may also notice we don't carry every script each of the auto-installers offer. Any script that is found to be abandonware, have known security issues, or lack any sort of user support we will not be offering. Be sure to check our FAQ on Application Auto-Installers for information on both auto-installers and a list of scripts we won't carry (and why). There will soon be a complete list on our website, listing every script available to each hosting plan.

Take our new Auto-Installers for a spin!
Enjoy yourself, poke around, and see what's available. Please be aware, however, that though we'll certainly help you when we can, we did not author/develop these scripts and can not offer support for them. During each script install you'll be given a link to that scripts' support forum. Please make note of it. If you find your script requires special server settings, we're happy to make those changes for you if it doesn't compromise security.