Without shell accounts on a dedicated server, how does a user perform routine tasks such as changing her password or setting up mail forwarding? Dedicated servers, by definition, have no non-administrative shell accounts. Once you’ve done away with shell accounts, you’re presented with the challenge of finding a way to provide the shell services by other means. Your solution should be both user-friendly and ubiquitous, and it should use your available resources responsibly.
If you’re confident that all your users are on the same platform, you could employ various platform-specific provisioning solutions, such as an X-based or Windows application, Microsoft Exchange form, or your own home-brew application. Trust us, though—long-term maintenance costs of those solutions far outweigh the immediate gratification you’ll receive.
A Web Solution
A good way to handle provisioning on a dedicated server is to bring up a provisioning web site.
There is a web of distractions out there, ranging from reliance on browser-specific features to various early attempts at standardized client-side scripting. Administrators should remain vigilant against developing a provisioning site that becomes arcane and proprietary. Stick to your guns and develop a straightforward, simple site that permits the user to perform simple actions (e.g., a password change or quota check). Even with such a simple web site, you’ll find that you’ve eliminated nearly all of the need for users to have ...