My Little Corner of the Net

Vesta CP

I’ve been running most of my personal sites from a VPS running the Interworx control panel on CentOS for the past several years. After a long, stable run, my operating system reached end of life and it was time to upgrade.

I’m pretty comfortable with the Linux command line, I have a ton of experience configuring Apache, and I’m pretty good at keeping MySQL up and running, so I could probably get away without a control panel. On the other hand, I have very little experience with mail servers and I like the convenience of a point-and-click interface to handle most of my administrative needs. Happy with Interworx, I considered buying a new Interworx license for the new server, but I also wanted to shop the competition a bit as well. That’s when I discovered that there are quite a few open source control panels available.

I started downloading some of the open source panels and installed them on VMWare virtual machines on my laptop to try them out. Most, I found, either had questionable histories in terms of security, didn’t seem to be in active development, or had horrible user interfaces. Others, like ISPConfig, took perceived security a bit too far, forcing PHP into such a small sandbox that much of my code, which follows industry best practices in terms of structure and security, would not work without extensive modification.

I finally tried and settled on Vesta, a relatively new PHP-based control panel launched by a Russian development team in early 2013. Vesta offers the essential features for hosting, like web, database, email, and DNS, without a lot of unnecessary cruft. Installation was easy and while I do think the UI and UX could use a little work, Vesta’s web front-end is cleanly designed and easy to use.


Vesta is designed to be installed on a “bare metal” server with just an operating system installed. While I chose RedHat-clone CentOS for my server, Vesta will also run on Debian-based systems like Ubuntu. Setup is as easy as downloading a script and running it on the command line; the script then uses the OS’s package manager to download and install all of its components, making it easy to keep things up to date as the OS releases updated packages.


Vesta accounts are standard Linux accounts which are created in /home. Each account can host multiple websites and, I believe, accounts can be configured as resellers, so that they can create new accounts as well. Several quotas are enforced, including disk space, number of sites, and number of email accounts per site. You can also manage the account’s shell from the web interface, including a “nologin” option if you want to disable command line access to the account (and allow FTP access only).

Vesta stores all of the config files used by an account in the account’s home directory, symlinking them to the locations where their respective applications expect to see them. This makes backing up a site is a snap—in fact, Vesta backs up every site automatically each night, keeping the last three backups available as a downloadable tar file.

When adding a site, DNS zone is created automatically. You can also specify any number of alias domains and these will be set up automatically as well.

I did not see a way to “jail” (chroot) an account, though this isn’t important to me as I am the only user with direct access to the server.

One thing that bugged me a bit was that vesta’s quota settings did not seem to allow for “unlimited” options. In Interworx I created an “unlimited package” to which I subscribe all of my sites, effectively disabling individual site quotas. In Vesta I simply set all of my limits extremely high, to the point that I should never exceed any of them.


Vesta installs both Nginx and Apache web servers, and is the only control panel I’ve seen that does this. Nginx, known for being extremely fast, sits at the front end and handles most static content while proxying anything it can’t handle to Apache. This helps speed up response times for things like images and CSS files while still allowing most off-the-shelf web software, like WordPress and Drupal, to run without modification, since most of these packages are preconfigured to run on Apache.

There are several options available for Nginx, including the ability to use it as a reverse proxy cache. Caching requires a lot of memory, however, so I wouldn’t recommend trying this on a VPS.

Early on I was having an issue where Apache would keep consuming more and more memory until the server ran out of RAM, at which point MySQL would be shut down. Since MySQL is a requirement of most of my sites, this wasn’t acceptable, so I started trying to tune Apache to avoid it. After several failed attempts (I never did find a definite cause), I switched Apache to use Worker MPM (i.e. threaded processes) and the memory footprint of the server immediately dropped to almost zero. While Worker mode is not compatible with several Apache modules, experience has taught me that it can be a huge help in improving server performance. In fact, it probably negates the benefits of running Nginx now, but I don’t feel like trying to configure Nginx out of the picture.


Vesta installs MySQL by default. It looks like a patch for adding PostgreSQL support is also available, but I haven’t tried it.


Vesta installs the OS’s PHP packages. By default, it runs PHP under mod_ruid which, by my understanding, is basically a variation of mod_php that runs scripts under the owner’s UID. This can be changed, on a per-site basis, to several other options including straight CGI and PHP-FPM.

I’ve decided to use mod_fcgid because this is what I have the most experience using and because it works well in the enterprise hosting environment I oversee at work. I did have to tweak the default settings a bit to get the best performance for my server’s resources, but I kind of expect that every server is going to need some degree of customization to balance available resources to desired performance level. With the tweaks in place, my PHP sites load quickly with minimal memory overhead.

CentOS 6 ships with PHP 5.3. After the installation I decided to upgrade to PHP 5.5 using the Webtatic repo. I basically did a “yum erase” on each of the installed “php” packages and installed the equivalent “php55w” package in its place (note that they are not a 1:1 match). So far I have not seen a single issue with this, though YMMV.


Vesta installs BIND 9 as its DNS server. The Vesta web interface makes it easy to configure manual DNS zones for domains not hosted on the server or for adding adding additional records to hosted domains.

With my old host, I had three IP addresses, one for the server and two to use as “separate” DNS servers. Without getting into the reasons why this is a bad idea, this is how I ran my DNS for the past several years, though it did burn me a couple times. My new host only allows one IP per server, so for a backup DNS I installed PowerDNS on another VPS I have with another provider in another datacenter. With PowerDNS’s MySQL storage engine and the concept of “supermasters” plus a tiny config change to Vesta’s main BIND configuration, the secondary server is updated automatically every time I add or change a domain in Vesta, making my NS2 server truly “set and forget.”


Vesta uses Exim as its MTA (SMTP) and Dovecot as its MDA (POP3 and IMAP).

Email accounts are configured in the Vesta web interface and can be set up with any number of aliases. Incoming messages can be forwarded elsewhere, with or without a copy being kept, and you can specify an auto-reply message to send when mail is received. RoundCube is installed for webmail.

Vesta will install SpamAssassin and ClamAV (clamd) automatically if a server has more than 3Gb of RAM. Mine does not, so I had to install them manually. SpamAssassin was not a problem, but on my first attempt on building the server, with 512Mb of RAM, I was not able to start clamd. After reconfiguring the VPS to have 1Gb of RAM, I was able to start clamd, but it consumed most of my available memory. At that point, I decided that I didn’t really need to virus scan my email on the server, so I disabled it. I enabled it again after seeing how little memory Apache was using after switching to Worker and I’m now consistently using a bit less 50% of my available memory when the server is at normal load. I could probably switch back to 512Mb, but I don’t plan to. For the email that I’ve received on the new server, only two or three spam messages have made it to my inbox.

What Vesta is missing is an easy way to create email forwarders that aren’t attached to an email account. One of the sites that I’m hosting makes extensive use of these. Fortunately I was able to locate where Exim stores aliases for the domains it manages and I added them all manually. I also tested to ensure that my manual edits would be safe when I make email changes in Vesta and so far they seem to be, but I’m being careful to keep a backup of that file, just in case.

Vesta also doesn’t include a mailing list manager. One of the sites I host relies heavily on mailing lists, currently with Mailman. I tried to get Mailman working with Vesta and thought I had a solution in place, but I ran into some complications when I started moving the lists over. To prevent delays in my migration, I created a subdomain on a cPanel server and used it’s built in Mailman installation to manage the lists for now. I still plan to continue working on getting Mailman running and who knows, I might submit my method to the Vesta team for future implementation if I’m successful.


While I’m not sure that I’d use Vesta as a control panel for hosting paying clients, as it still has some rough edges, I think it will meet my personal needs quite well. The product still has some bugs, but in the month or so since I’ve installed it, I’ve already seen several of them fixed. The development team seems to be focused on making a lightweight control panel that works well on small servers and VPSes, which is nice to see.

Vesta documentation is still somewhat lacking, consisting of mostly just an FAQ page right now. There is a user forum and a bug/feature request tracker, but being a Russian project, many of the posts are in Russian. Still, Vesta seems to be catching on, so it is hopefully only a matter of time before documentation improvements start to be made. Truth be told, I haven’t had much of a need for more documentation, but I’d suspect someone with less Linux administration experience might. The developers do offer paid support plans, but I have not purchased one.

My biggest gripe with Vesta is how it formats lists: lists of users, sites, domains, etc. are extremely verbose with all of the details of the list item presented, making the page difficult to scan or to find the links to administrative actions for a list item. Clicking to do simple, everyday actions, like modifying an email address, often takes several more clicks than seem necessary. I’d much rather see terser lists with clear calls to action, including the option to see more info about a list item when I need to. That said, this is a wart I can live with.

So far, after some tweaking, Vesta seems like a pretty good panel. It will be interesting to watch as it progresses over the next few years, I think it has a lot of potential.

12 Comments to Vesta CP

  1. 07/30/2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    mysqld in not working, how to fix this?

  2. 11/07/2014 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    Did you have any luck setting up Mailman? It’s the one thing left I need to move everything off my big bloated WHM server onto my lovely snappy Vesta one. I hear what you’re saying about the lists, but for me with no more than a dozen sites, the formatting works well.

  3. Vazze's Gravatar Vazze
    03/16/2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Kodiak, have you come around yet to write down how you managed to get Mailman in place?
    Should be a really good contribute to the society of VestaCP-users.

    Thanks in advance.

  4. 07/28/2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Did you ever get anywhere with this?

  5. Erfan's Gravatar Erfan
    01/14/2016 at 11:16 pm | Permalink


    That Mailman tutorial on Vesta CP would be golden! If you have a chance, please do write it up, as I’m sure it would be valuable to a lot of people.

    Thank you 🙂

  6. Kareem Bassiouni's Gravatar Kareem Bassiouni
    03/17/2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kodiak,

    I am trying to get PowerDNS to work with VestaCP. Could you please explain how you’ve achieved that a little but further.

    Thank you

  7. Steven's Gravatar Steven
    03/22/2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Can you explain how you managed to change apache to use mpm_worker?

    I tried:
    a2dismod mpm_prefork
    a2enmod mpm_worker

    but received the following error:
    ## Apache is running a threaded MPM, but your PHP Module is not compiled to be threadsafe. You need to recompile PHP


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