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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

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: 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 (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:

Connect to Server (with no trailing slash!)
username: maint password: yoursecretpassword

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
AuthType Basic
AuthName "WebDAV Web Server Access"
AuthUserFile /usr/local/apache/passwd/wwwpasswd
Require valid-user
Order allow,deny
Allow from all

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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