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What is Root Access, Can I Live Without It?
By: Rich Smith
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    2004-09-13

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    In the world of web hosting, there are a lot of web hosting providers who compete with each other with long lists of features and benefits. On many of these lists you will see the term “Root Access”. To be honest, many of the people with websites today will never need Root Access, and many of them do not even know what it is.

    In the world of UNIX and Linux, security is based on permissions. This extends to both the file system and access permissions. This security system is very flexible, and allows a system administrator to set up unique security access constraints to only allow certain users to see certain areas and access certain files and applications.

    In order to administrate something like this, a “master” account is needed. This account, the “root” account, has full access to the machine at “root” level meaning the lowest level of access you can have (or, in other words, the best access). Having “root access”, you can do many things the typical user account cannot do. This includes full manipulation of the file system, as well as administrating the current running processes. There is a danger here. Someone who is not a seasoned administrator can do a lot of damage to a machine, due merely to the amount of power that is available at their fingertips.

    Do you need this kind of access? That depends. To be honest, unless you have your own server, either dedicated or collocated, chances are that you will not need (or receive) root access. Root is something required for server maintenance, and if you are having your website hosted by a hosting company on a machine with twenty other websites, it’s a safe bet that your hosting provider is not going to give up root access to the box. It would be the hosting provider’s job to administer the server to keep it running smoothly.


    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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