Fantastico: What it is, what it isn’t - Blogging, Small Business, Web Design & Hosting Tips - A Small Orange

Fantastico: What it is, what it isn’t

There is a little blue smiley face in your cPanel, with a name underneath it: “Fantastico”. It’s possible that many of you never click on it because the smiley face and the name really don’t tell you what on earth it is. Those of you that do know what it is sometimes don’t have a very clear picture of what, precisely, it controls and what it does.

What Is Fantastico?

Fantastico is an auto-installer. What that means is instead of you having to:

  1. upload the software
  2. check the permissions
  3. create the database and the database user
  4. run the set up for the software to link and configure everything

It does all of that for you by asking you a few questions. It has hooks into the cPanel system, and is designed to work with it to put your software where you want it in your site, and set up the backend. In short, it does all the potentially confusing set up for you.

What Fantastico Isn’t

Once your software is actually installed on your site, it doesn’t actually control any other aspect of your software. It does create a few files to keep track of what’s there so it doesn’t overwrite the software it already installed with other software that you want to install, and if you go in to Fantastico it will tell you whether it has an upgrade for you and it can upgrade your software for you.

But beyond this, you are using the software and not Fantastico.

Common Misconceptions

Since people don’t understand Fantastico, they’re often afraid to do anything outside of it. For example, both WordPress and Soholaunch have modernized their upgrade process a bit from where they started out and its no longer necessarily to manually upgrade. In WordPress you get notified within your WP-Admin that there is a new version of the software, and in Soholaunch you see a little yellow circular arrow at the bottom right hand corner of the sohoadmin area letting you know you are not up to date.

Lots of folks are afraid to upgrade in this manner because they’re afraid of “messing up” Fantastico, or upgrading outside of the auto-installer and being unable to use it anymore (for example, to delete software). While you potentially may be unable to delete software using Fantastico if Fantastico does not recognize the upgrade, you can always delete software manually later by deleting the directory and database and database user. Upgrading outside of Fantastico will not break your software and when utilizing software that provides its own button click upgrade, there are no major advantages to waiting to use Fantastico’s. In fact, there are some drawbacks.

Fantastico Drawbacks

Fantastico offers you an amazing amount of software even if you have no real knowledge or understanding how to install software on your site. There are, however, drawbacks you should be aware of.

The lag time between a developer updating and patching a software and that update or patch becoming available in Fantastico can be weeks, even if its a high priority and can seriously compromise your site. Because of this, if the software developer offers one click upgrading, you should utilize that option as it will ensure your site is more secure.

While Fantastico installs the software and configures it with default options for you so that it’s ready to use, you should not depend on Fantastico to secure your site even with the default settings. Their settings may not be the settings you would want, and they may not be totally and completely secure. You should always learn as much as you can about the software you are using so you can keep it up to date and secured as well as you can.

Fantastico will not automatically update anything at all. If you install software utilizing it and your software doesn’t tell you when a new version is available, it is absolutely your responsibility to log in periodically and check. If you don’t, and your version gets older and older, there will come a point where you will no longer be able to update via Fantastico because the version is too old. That usually means its insecure, as well, and you can wind up ultimately losing your entire site out of updating laziness.

Fantastico can be a great tool to quickly get going on building your site, but always remember that with web software, things are almost always a little more involved than simple installation.

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