H-Sphere Documentation Administrator Guide


Introduction To H-Sphere


Related Docs:   Getting Started • General Web Hosting Articles on theWHIR.com

H-Sphere is a comprehensive hosting automation system that allows you to provide a heterogeneous operating system environment to your customers across multiple servers. It can manage hosting servers located in various data centers.

H-Sphere can have a multiple server layout, called a cluster. The main server in the cluster is the actual H-Sphere Control Panel, a web application with graphical interface, which centralizes all hosting management tasks, controls all hosting servers and services, manages users, domains, events, and processes. The Control panel consists of many subsystems, the major of them being the following:

Through H-Sphere web interface, you can configure and manage these and other subsystems, other servers, user accounts and domains, etc. All system data, such as billing, domain, and other info, is stored in the Postgres system database.


DNS Management

All DNS is managed by H-Sphere.

A typical H-Sphere setup requires one service domain name (example.com) which is used as:
- the control panel domain (cp.example.com:8080 or cp.example.com:8443),
- web server domain (web1.example.com, web2.example.com),
- name server domain (ns1.example.com, ns2.example.com), etc.
It can also be used for third level hosting and instant access domain aliases, as well as to host the corporate (promotional) website.

The most typical configuration is to have two DNS servers, each on a separate box. In case of one-server installations, you can put two DNS servers on one box. By default, H-Sphere randomly assigns primary and secondary DNS servers for each domain to balance server load. If you want, you can assign master and slave roles to DNS logical servers.

H-Sphere creates a zone file for each domain name on both name servers, and allows end users to create custom DNS records through a web interface.

More on DNS Server Configuration.


Server Management

We differentiate between physical and logical servers.
Physical servers are actually or virtually separate computers with their own operating systems (Linux, FreeBSD Unix, or Windows). They can be emulated with VPS, VMWare or other software packages.
Logical servers are programs that run on physical servers and process client requests. For instance when we talk about web, mail, DNS, mysql and other servers, we mean logical servers. A physical server can have one or more logical servers running.

Logical servers of the same nature and purpose make a server group. In case of multiserver installations, logical servers of the same group are located on different physical servers, and H-Sphere randomly chooses from them to create user accounts, which evens server load and disk space usage.

In most instances, H-Sphere operates with logical servers, not physical servers. We work with logical servers when we add IPs, configure system SMTP relays, assign mail server roles, assign name server roles, etc.


User Signup

To use hosting services, users (site owners and resellers) need to sign up for a hosting plan.

H-Sphere offers fully automated user signup through the signup wizard. Depending on the billing type and signup settings, accounts may not be created until moderated by administrator. For instance, an account may not be immediately created because it was blacklisted by Signup Guard or because the user doesn't pay with a credit card.

Depending on the plan, access to the signup wizard can be unrestricted (available "from the street") or allowed only from the admin control panel. Registration "from the street" can be performed by anybody without admin's interaction. Registration from the admin control panel goes through exactly the same steps, but can be performed only by the administrator. The latter is the only way to sign users up for publicly unavailable plans.


Billing And Plan Management

H-Sphere comes with a complete billing solution. When users sign up, buy or use hosting resources, it calculates user charges based on the prices you have specified and charges them to users' credit cards. When credit card charges don't apply, customer payments are added manually in the admin control panel. For more, see Introduction to Billing and Introduction to Plans.


Merchant Gateway Management

H-Sphere can work with credit card processors and web based payment systems to collect payments from customers. To enable a connection with either of these, you need to configure a connection with the corresponding server.

Credit Card Processors. H-Sphere offers complete automation with credit card processing. To charge an amount to a customer's credit card, H-Sphere connects to the merchant gateway server and sends an http request. Next, it waits for a response, and once the success confirmation is received, respective changes are made to the account balance.

Merchant Gateway Manager allows you to set up different merchant gateway accounts for different types of credit cards. For instance, you can process VISA cards with Authorize.Net, and MasterCard, with Verisign PayFlowPro. This way you can maximize your profits by processing every type of credit card with the gateway that offers the lowest rate for this type of card. For more, see Merchant Gateway Manager.

Web Based Payment Systems. H-Sphere partially automates payments through web based payment gateways, including WorldPay, PayPal, 2CheckOut, GestPay, PaySystems, and PayNova. Once you have registered an account with one of these gateways, you enter the account details in H-Sphere. Every time a user chooses to pay, H-Sphere passes account ID, amount payable, and possibly other details to the gateway. The user is then taken to the gateway's web interface to enter the credit card number and complete the transaction. When you receive the payment, you need to credit this user's account through the H-Sphere admin interface, as in processing check payments. As a result, H-Sphere doesn't store credit card numbers of customers using web payment systems. For more, see Web Payment Systems Manager.


User/Account/Domain Management

On the user side, H-Sphere operates with three different tiers: users, accounts, and domains.

Users. A user, for the most part, is nothing but a login and password to enter H-Sphere control panel. One user can have many accounts (control panels) created under the same or different plans, and switch between them without having to log in every time.

Accounts. H-Sphere primarily operates with accounts, not users. One account equals one license and one control panel with its own billing and interface settings. This means an account has its own balance, billing profiles, invoices, etc. The unique thing about each account is the numeric account ID. One user can have many accounts created under different plans and platforms, for instance an account under a Unix plan for SSH access and an account under a Windows plan for ODBC or ColdFusion hosting.

Domains. Domains represent the third tier in the end-user side hierarchy. Your customers can have as many domains as they want under their one control panel license, unless you limit the domains they can have. In terms of a web server, a domain is little more than a correspondence to a web-site. Domains within one account share one control panel (one menu tree with the same look and feel), and, having no traffic usage or disk quota of their own, are billed in bulk with the same invoices.

Understanding Accounts, Domains, and Users



The Reseller feature allows you to sell your hosting services through resellers. Unlike in other control panels, resellers in H-Sphere do not resell your plans. Rather, they sell your hosting resources such as disk space, traffic, mailboxes, etc. at retail prices, and are charged for them at wholesale prices. In other words, you set wholesale prices and allow your resellers to group your resources into their own plans and define their own retail prices for them. More on Billing Resellers

With the reseller admin CP, each reseller gets a private label hosting system, which leaves you completely invisible to the end customer even at user signup and domain registration. Resellers can have their own independent control panel URL, DNS server names, company information, and all other parameters visible from the user's control panel. They will appear to end customers as totally independent hosting companies. Furthermore, reseller control panels are inaccessible by IP, which excludes the possibility of accidental or intentional visits to your control panel URL.

Through their admin interface, resellers can customize the default look and feel of their users' control panels. They can change colors, replace all control panel images with those of their own, edit many texts, change the default control panel language and the currency of end user payments, etc. in exactly the same manner as it is done by the master admin.

Understanding Resellers


Domain Management

There are several options to setting up a domain in H-Sphere:
- Register a new domain. H-Sphere allows automatic registration of standard second level domains right from the user control panel. It supports the regisrtation of all TLDs supported by Enom or OpenSRS in real time. You can configure H-Sphere to associate different TLDs with different registrars using the Domain Registrar Manager. TLDs with non-automatic registration, including most regional domains, can be requested by the end user and then manually registered by the admin through the Email Domain Registrar.
- Transfer an existing domain. Users can transfer domains they have been using outside H-Sphere. After the transfer, users will need to update their info on the root DNS servers. More>>
- Set up a third level domain. Users can set up domains based on the service domain, such as userdomain.servicedomain.com. More>>
- Set up a website without a regular domain name. Such websites have all basic functionalities and are accessible from the web at automatically generated addresses based on the service domain, such as 123.uNNNN.servicedomain.com. More>>
- Park a domain. This allows you to use H-Sphere DNS server for mapping IPs and domain names serviced and hosted elsewhere. More>>
- Create an account without any domain. The user will be given disk space on the web server with FTP access, but no DNS to set up a website. More>>



H-Sphere recognizes the following uses and types of SSL certificates:

Website SSL - users can install SSL certificates one per website right from their user control panels. For instance, a user can set up a certificate on user.com to have the user.com website secured with SSL. This can be installed only on websites with dedicated IPs. More>>

Shared SSL uses wildcard certificates to secure third level domains. For instance, if provider.com is a service domain offered for third level hosting, you can set up a wildcard certificate on provider.com to secure domains like user1.provider.com and user2.provider.com. More>>

CP SSL - you can secure your control panel with a regular SSL certificate. At this point, CP SSL is installed from the command line on the CP server. More>>

Reseller CP SSL - you can configure your H-Sphere to let resellers secure their control panels with regular SSL certificates. More>>

Reseller Shared SSL - resellers can install wildcard certificates to secure their customers' websites. More>>

Delegated Shared SSL - you can allow your resellers to offer their customers your service domain for third level hosting and wildcard certificate installed on it. More>>

Mail SSL - you can install SSL on the service DNS zone to secure mail sent and received by your customers' mail clients (such as Outlook Express). Mail SSL is enabled globally in the system for all end users, including those under resellers. It is available only to master admin. More>>


Support Center

H-Sphere Support Center includes Ticket Center, Knowledge Base, and Custom Jobs modules.

Ticket Center. Trouble tickets can be created either from any place in the user control panel or from email messages. H-Sphere periodically polls support mailbox, converts incoming messages into trouble tickets, and puts them in the general queue where they can be picked up, assigned to other administrators, answered, and closed. Depending on how they were created, answered tickets are emailed back to the customers or show up in the ticket center of end users' control panels. Support personnel can exchange notes on tickets - the notes are invisible to customers. More on Providing Customer Support

Knowledge Base. Administrators can add common questions and answers to a centralized location, group them by categories, and perform search by keywords. The knowledge base is integrated with the ticket center to suggest answers to typical questions. More on Knowledge Base

Custom Jobs. H-Sphere also offers an interface to track additional services offered to resellers or end users, such as web design and development, installation, migration, and alike. The list of custom jobs and their status can be viewed from the customer's interface. More on Custom Jobs


Look And Feel Management

H-Sphere comes with a few skins users can choose from. Different skins offer different navigation schemes:
Left menu skin - although this skin has a quick access page linking to the most frequently used pages, the principal navigation is through the left side menu.
No menu - pages are accessible from clicking navigation icons on the home page.
EXPressia - pages are accessible from the horisontal javascript navigation bar AND icons on the home page.
Each of the skins has a text based variation where navigation icons are replaced with text links.

As administrator, you can configure interface settings, including images and icons, default skins and colors, interface texts, and notification e-mails.

The administrator can also allow users to choose preferred skins and languages. More on how users can choose and configure CP skins

Related Docs:   Getting Started • General Web Hosting Articles on theWHIR.com

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