Remotely Managing Your Asterisk Server with WebDAV

Got DAV?It's been quite a while since we last explored WebDAV, and that was in the context of turning a Mac into an ISP-in-a-Box in 2005. Today we want to do much the same thing with your PBX in a Flash server, and the drill is quite similar. Over the course of the last four years, the uses of WebDAV have grown geometrically.

Overview. As you probably know, WebDAV is an acronym for Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning. Simply put, it is an HTTP protocol extension that allows people anywhere on the Internet to collaboratively edit and manage documents and other files using the same protocol and port used for surfing the web. In the Mac world, WebDAV provides a Disk Volume on your Desktop that “looks and feels” like any other networked hard disk. In the Windows world, WebDAV is called Web Folders. They can be used like any other mapped drive in Network Neighborhood. If you’re still a little fuzzy about the WebDAV concept, think of how you link to another drive on your local area network. WebDAV gives you the same functionality across the entire Internet with virtually the same ease of use. Depending upon user privileges, of course, you can copy files to and from a WebDAV volume, and the protocol imposes versioning control through file locking to assure that multiple people with access rights don’t change the same file at the same time.

For openers, WebDAV provides a simple vehicle to manage your PBX in a Flash web site by letting you create a file-sharing link to your server which is read and write-accessible (with a password) from almost anywhere. It also could be used to upload and/or download sensitive corporate data, or it could serve as a backup repository for your portable or desktop PC. Think of it as a Poor Man's Cloud Computing alternative. Install a couple of terabyte drives on a Dell T100 or SC440, and you've got a secure environment for storing all of your data on a single server.

Initial Setup of WebDAV. For today, we're assuming you already have a functioning PBX in a Flash server. It includes most of the WebDAV components necessary to get WebDAV working. If you're using some other Asterisk® platform, then take a look at our previous articles for some hints on the basic setup keeping in mind that most Asterisk distributions use asterisk as the web user account rather than apache. To keep things simple, we're going to set up a separate dav directory within your existing PBX in a Flash web server to use for WebDAV access. This means files and folders managed with WebDAV will appear in /var/www/html/dav on your server.

To complete the WebDAV setup on PBX in a Flash systems, log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

mkdir /var/www/html/dav
chown asterisk:asterisk /var/www/html/dav
chown asterisk:asterisk /var/lib/dav
cd /etc/pbx/httpdconf
wget http://pbxinaflash.net/source/webdav/dav.conf
apachectl restart

Configuring WebDAV. As installed, you'll need your username (maint) and your password to access your WebDAV server from either a browser (for read access) or via network access (for read and write access). You have several choices in how to reconfigure this setup to meet your own requirements. If you want to upload and manage files in this directory with a password and then allow anyone to access the files with a web browser with no password, you can simply uncomment the two Limit lines in the Apache dav.conf file in /etc/pbx/httpdconf. Just remove the leading # characters from both the lines in the configuration file. If you want to restrict network and web access to WebDAV to certain IP addresses, you can remove the Allow from all line in dav.conf and add lines that look like the following:

Allow from 192.168.0
Allow from 68.218.222.170

Remember to give yourself access on the private LAN as well as the public side if you plan to use WebDAV from outside your firewall. Our strongest recommendation remains to not expose your server to public web access without restricting access with either passwords or IP restrictions in .htaccess files for each directory as shown above.

Accessing WebDAV. To access your WebDAV folder with a browser for read-only access, point your browser to the IP address of your server and then the /dav subdirectory. For example, on your private LAN, the link might look like this: http://192.168.0.123/dav. On the public Internet, the link might look like this: http://pbx.dyndns.org/dav.

On a Windows machine, you can create a Web Folder for access to your new WebDAV directory like this:

My Network Places
Add a network place
Choose network location
http://192.168.0.123/dav (with no trailing slash!)
username: maint password: yoursecretpassword
Name the link: PiaF WebDAV

Update: There is a glitch with Web Folder access with some Windows XP and Vista systems. Here's a link to the Microsoft Patch that addressed the problem.

On a Mac, click on your Desktop to open Finder and do the following:

Go
Connect to Server
http://192.168.0.123/dav (with no trailing slash!)
Connect
username: maint password: yoursecretpassword
OK

Using WebDAV for Total Web Site Management. There may be some who actually want to use WebDAV to manage your entire PBX in a Flash web site. This means all directories from /var/www/html down. This WebDAV management need not be exclusive. In other words, you still can retain the WebDAV setup for the dav directory outlined above. To add an additional WebDAV service for your entire web site, you will need to edit /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf. Then search for this text:

<Directory "/var/www/html">

Once you find that line of code, scroll down to just above the </Directory> entry and insert the following lines of code. Save your additions and then restart Apache: apachectl restart.

DAV on
<Limit PUT POST DELETE PROPFIND PROPPATCH MKCOL COPY MOVE LOCK UNLOCK>
AuthType Basic
AuthName "WebDAV Web Server Access"
AuthUserFile /usr/local/apache/passwd/wwwpasswd
Require valid-user
Order allow,deny
Allow from all
</Limit>

If you haven't also implemented the dav solution above, then make certain you issue the following command while logged into your server as root:

chown asterisk:asterisk /var/lib/dav

Now that you have your own WebDAV server, take a look at this terrific web site for some great ideas on what's possible in the open source and commercial world of WebDAV. Enjoy!


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Want a Bootable PBX in a Flash Drive? In a few weeks to celebrate the beginning of Nerd Vittles' Fifth Year, we'll be introducing our bootable USB flash installer for PBX in a Flash with all of the goodies in the VPN in a Flash system featured a few weeks ago on Nerd Vittles. You can build a complete turnkey system using almost any current generation PC with a SATA drive and our flash installer in less than 15 minutes!

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Be sure to include your real email address which will not be posted. The winner will be chosen by drawing an email address out of a hat (the old fashioned way!) from all of the comments posted over the next couple weeks. Good luck to everyone and Happy New Year!!


New Fonica Special. If you want to communicate with the rest of the telephones in the world, then you'll need a way to route outbound calls (terminations) to their destination. For outbound calling, we recommend you establish accounts with several providers. We've included two of the very best! These include Joe Roper's new service for PBX in a Flash as well as our old favorite, Vitelity. To get started with the Fonica service, just visit the web site and register. You can choose penny a minute service in the U.S. Or premium service is available for a bit more. Try both. You've got nothing to lose! In addition, Fonica offers some of the best international calling rates in the world. And Joe Roper has almost a decade of experience configuring and managing these services. So we have little doubt that you'll love the service AND the support. To sign up in the USA and be charged in U.S. Dollars, sign up here. To sign up for the European Service and be charged in Euros, sign up here. See the Fonica image which tells you everything you need to know about this terrific new offering. In addition to being first rate service, Fonica is one of the least expensive and most reliable providers on the planet.
 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you're seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity's DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here's a deal you can't (and shouldn't) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won't get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity's rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


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2 Responses to “Remotely Managing Your Asterisk Server with WebDAV”

  1. Hi Ward… Happy Three Kings Day! Thanks for this great tip…

    Do you know of any solution to remotely monitor and manage multiple PIAFs?

    Have a great 2009!

  2. ward says:

    There appears to be an issue with some Windows XP and Vista systems being able to connect to the WebDAV resource. Here’s a link to the Microsoft Patch which fixes the problem.

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