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Old 10-12-2013, 01:27 AM   #1
Soapm
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Server for Church


We're a small congregation (150 or so) but I want to build a server to host our website, store our membership database and financial records along with video and audio recording from services. I will also want VPN since our financial clerk likes to work from home.

Eventually we want to move into online giving and have it connect with our quickbooks which we use for finances...

I will more than likely make it a Debian Headless since that's what I have at home for my video server but I was wondering what kind of applications can I use to do the rest of my wish list? This doesn't seem hard as long as I pick the right applications.

Is Avahi my best bet for webhosting? We'd like the site to have a membership area with a discussion forum.

What about being hack proof, it'll be behind NAT?

Any suggestions for a Membership database? We hope it can do mailings, emails and text messages as well as alert us to birthdays and anniversaries. (This could be a windows app with the database on the server but we want it to integrate with the website so members can see and update their info etc...)

I've never set up VPN, what would you recommend?

Can you point me to some good reading for idea's?
 
Old 10-12-2013, 03:17 PM   #2
jefro
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My opinion.

You should air gap your web from your protected data. Use two computers. Do not attach your data to the web ever. Set it, update it and unplug the wan/lan. There is no secure OS, no secure firewall.

So, what I'd do is set up the web stuff on almost any system you like or know. All distro's can support a web and associated tools.

VPN would be determined as to the security level you need. You might get by with https or such.

Others may offer good ideas on this too.
 
Old 10-12-2013, 08:49 PM   #3
frankbell
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I second what jefro said about security. (I used to be the treasurer of a small Methodist church in Delaware.)

In fact, I would recommend putting the website on a hosting service. They would have to worry about security, but hosting services are equipped to do that, and it would be safely outside your firewall. Putting your membership rolls and internal financial information in the web is not a good idea. I know that banks, for instance, do it, but they have armies of admins and they still get stung.

In addition, the hosting service likely has some recommendations for forum software, possibly even with a nifty auto-install feature.

I used to self-host a small website with a standard LAMPP stack on Slackware. I was quite happy with performance. That experience is one reason I keep coming back to Slackware. Any distro will work, but I would counsel stability as a major factor in making your selection. That makes the first three choices CentOS, Debian, and Slackware.

My LUG uses phpBB for its forums. Our Fearless Leader is an accomplished sysadmin who is extremely security conscious and who made that choice after much research.

For online giving, Paypal is the easiest choice; credit cards are more complicated. Most hosting services also offer package deals on shopping cart applications, although, I admit, clicking "add to cart" for alms seems rather declasse. One hopes they can be customized.

Last edited by frankbell; 10-12-2013 at 08:52 PM.
 
Old 10-13-2013, 11:44 AM   #4
jefro
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The choice of a hosted web service is a good solution too. Their business model allows transactions. Not sure how to allow scanned checks or ACH transfers.

Some of the simple nas and other plug type or arm based may suite your needs even. They have some pretty low energy models and good features for basic web.
 
Old 10-13-2013, 11:52 PM   #5
Soapm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
In fact, I would recommend putting the website on a hosting service. They would have to worry about security, but hosting services are equipped to do that, and it would be safely outside your firewall. Putting your membership rolls and internal financial information in the web is not a good idea. I know that banks, for instance, do it, but they have armies of admins and they still get stung.
That's disappointing to hear. I'll take your advice and not continue down that road but having a members log in area where they can update and view the information we have on file (just theirs) was central to my 2014 vision. I would like us to become a 21st century Church.

Our website is currently hosted but as you can see it's boring, uninviting. We have these templates to choose from along with buttons that add the pages and menus but I don't see the flexibility to add creative "pezaaz" to the page. I think we have the "with web design" package so I guess we need to dump that part and find someone to build us a page from scratch.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
In addition, the hosting service likely has some recommendations for forum software, possibly even with a nifty auto-install feature.
Maybe I should contact the hosting folks but I don't see any of those options. I see widgets to add news, weather etc.. but that's about it.


Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
For online giving, Paypal is the easiest choice; credit cards are more complicated. Most hosting services also offer package deals on shopping cart applications, although, I admit, clicking "add to cart" for alms seems rather declasse. One hopes they can be customized.
so it should be ok to link to paypal off the site? That should be safe, right?
 
Old 10-14-2013, 05:28 PM   #6
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I doubt anything is secure from crooks or snoops. Secure is relative.
 
Old 10-14-2013, 07:12 PM   #7
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I agree, dump the prepackaged stuff.

Also avoid those stupid flash website design packages, such as Plesk Website Builder.

I would suggest you take a look at WordPress.

There are something like 1500 themes available from WordPress itself, suitable for anything from traditional blogs to newsletters to corporate sites, plus many others available from third-parties, but I much prefer to use stuff directly from the WordPress offerings.

I suspect you can find something that works for you with a little effort, then customize it to fit your exact needs. That's what I did with my blog--I wanted a banner picture at the top and a right sidebar. I found one I liked, then customized the heck out the css.

It takes a lot less knowledge to customize an existing *.css file than it does to create one from scratch for something as complicated as blogging software.

I have a series of podcasts at Hacker Public Radio about WordPress, if you think they would help. Go to the HPR site, click on "Hosts" on the right and look for me, then click on the Host ID# if you think they would help.

Last edited by frankbell; 10-14-2013 at 07:13 PM.
 
Old 10-14-2013, 10:12 PM   #8
k3lt01
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You could choose from any number of CMS (Content Management System) to have a site that allows member activity via login but also public activity. Tools such as MoinMoin, Joomla, and Druple are free Open Source tools that are available in many distros and many server hosts will install your chosen tool for you depending on the plan you choose. If you decide to stick with a self hosted site on the church server you can install them via repositories and set them up how you wish to have them setup.
 
Old 10-15-2013, 01:59 AM   #9
Soapm
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Originally Posted by k3lt01 View Post
You could choose from any number of CMS (Content Management System) to have a site that allows member activity via login but also public activity. Tools such as MoinMoin, Joomla, and Druple are free Open Source tools that are available in many distros and many server hosts will install your chosen tool for you depending on the plan you choose. If you decide to stick with a self hosted site on the church server you can install them via repositories and set them up how you wish to have them setup.
The question was how secure is this and is it a good idea? The last think I want is to be the cause of the members info being stolen.

---------- Post added 10-15-13 at 12:59 AM ----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by frankbell View Post
I have a series of podcasts at Hacker Public Radio about WordPress, if you think they would help. Go to the HPR site, click on "Hosts" on the right and look for me, then click on the Host ID# if you think they would help.
Thanks and I'll take a look...
 
Old 10-15-2013, 02:15 AM   #10
k3lt01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soapm View Post
The question was how secure is this and is it a good idea? The last think I want is to be the cause of the members info being stolen.
They are as secure as Wordpress. The important thing to remember is if you host it you keep it up to date, if you pay for it to be hosted you pay someone else to keep it up to date. Because you are intending on using Debian server security will be as good as you can get if you keep it up to date. Is it a good idea? CMS are used by universities, non-profits, and business because they are multipurpose. If you want something to read check out the webpages of each CMS, Drupal, MoinMoin, Joomla. There are others but I'm sure you can do more research and find them if need be.
 
Old 10-15-2013, 03:28 AM   #11
Soapm
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Originally Posted by k3lt01 View Post
They are as secure as Wordpress. The important thing to remember is if you host it you keep it up to date, if you pay for it to be hosted you pay someone else to keep it up to date. Because you are intending on using Debian server security will be as good as you can get if you keep it up to date. Is it a good idea? CMS are used by universities, non-profits, and business because they are multipurpose. If you want something to read check out the webpages of each CMS, Drupal, MoinMoin, Joomla. There are others but I'm sure you can do more research and find them if need be.
I went to wordpress and really like their offering. They have a nice template called Reactive that changes size automatically if you use a smartphone. Do you or someone know of these can be incorporated into a Wordpress hosted site?
 
Old 10-15-2013, 04:37 AM   #12
k3lt01
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soapm View Post
I went to wordpress and really like their offering. They have a nice template called Reactive that changes size automatically if you use a smartphone. Do you or someone know of these can be incorporated into a Wordpress hosted site?
It makes sense if it in wordpress then it can be "incorporated" into wordpress.
 
Old 10-15-2013, 06:33 AM   #13
zeebra
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Soapm View Post
We're a small congregation (150 or so) but I want to build a server to host our website, store our membership database and financial records along with video and audio recording from services. I will also want VPN since our financial clerk likes to work from home.

Eventually we want to move into online giving and have it connect with our quickbooks which we use for finances...

I will more than likely make it a Debian Headless since that's what I have at home for my video server but I was wondering what kind of applications can I use to do the rest of my wish list? This doesn't seem hard as long as I pick the right applications.

Is Avahi my best bet for webhosting? We'd like the site to have a membership area with a discussion forum.

What about being hack proof, it'll be behind NAT?

Any suggestions for a Membership database? We hope it can do mailings, emails and text messages as well as alert us to birthdays and anniversaries. (This could be a windows app with the database on the server but we want it to integrate with the website so members can see and update their info etc...)

I've never set up VPN, what would you recommend?

Can you point me to some good reading for idea's?

I would recommend Mageia, Debian or Slackware. Depending on how difficult you want it. Easiest being Mageia.
Security is ofcourse a great concern, but there are ways around it to make things more secure!

I generally agree with the people above about security. But if that is not an option, you can run the webserver and your secure content on the same location! Mostly, the important question is, do you have the internet connection to host it? That you will need. If the answer to that is YES, then you can buy a server according to your budget.

LAMP (webserver, database etc) is easy for most Linux distroes. For Mageia it is really easy, both to setup the server, secure it and to set up the webserver and database. SQL is a natural choice for database. MariaDB is the default option for Linux nowadays, but you need an interface. I can imagine you want the database to also connect to the website? In that case, the website or an administrative site can be the interface!

For security as mentioned below, you would not need to keep it seperate. It depends on the security level that you require. It is fully possible to run a server with secure data on! But it would take additional effort. One option is to "chroot" your webserver related activity. This puts the whole webserver area of the "server" in a "sandbox" environment. Additionally it would be a good idea to put any sensitive data that you want on the server on a hidden truecrypt volume. This is an encrypted hard disk space or partition that you must open every time you want to use it, and more importantly, close it every time you are finished.

In this case, your data would ONLY be "vulnerable" when you actually work on it. And if the webserver is Chroot, then that risk is significantly less.

Just my tip, since I also disagree with the posts below that you MUST have a seperate setup.


Some questions. How sensitive is the data? Could you risk it being seen by the whole world? Could you risk it getting stolen?
The church database, do you want it to also interact with the website, or is that not relevant?

Last edited by zeebra; 10-15-2013 at 06:37 AM.
 
Old 10-15-2013, 07:30 AM   #14
Soapm
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Some questions. How sensitive is the data? Could you risk it being seen by the whole world? Could you risk it getting stolen? The church database, do you want it to also interact with the website, or is that not relevant?
Because I can't make the call for each member how sensitive they consider certain information I myst answer extremely sensitive and absolutely can't be expose to the world or stolen. I was hoping members could view and update address, phone numbers, email etc... Also view and print contribution statements... But only when logged securely into the site with each member only able to view and change THEIR information.
 
Old 10-15-2013, 09:43 AM   #15
zeebra
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Because I can't make the call for each member how sensitive they consider certain information I myst answer extremely sensitive and absolutely can't be expose to the world or stolen. I was hoping members could view and update address, phone numbers, email etc... Also view and print contribution statements... But only when logged securely into the site with each member only able to view and change THEIR information.
For that kind of information you MUST have a seperate machine which is NEVER connected to the internet, which does not have a wireless card inbuilt and without even ethernet plug if possible. You should make a custom Kernel for that machine WITHOUT network support at all. For that machine you should also secure the boot completely against physical hacking. Bios, Grub and userland login must be properly configured for that. Such data should additionally be encrypted.

All these things are easy with GNU/Linux. I have such a machine myself.
I move content using encrypted USB disks to the machine connected to the internet if I need.

In this scenario it makes more sense to have a local secure church computer and a seperate server. If the budget allows that, you can have both in the church, one server and one secure desktop like described above.
For less important data like addresses you can setup your church server as a per user system, where everyone has an account on the server and where you as the admin or root draw information from those sources. They can interface to that in many different ways over the internet and it is generally very secure.

You can then also syncronise your secure desktop database using the encrypted USB disk to copy the database from the server to the secure desktop.
The alternative is difficult, you can setup encrypted user storage which shuts down when they disconnect from the server. But then you would want to access that also, so you would need a "master" key for all of those encrypted storage areas.

Personally I think you (the church) can do it yourself.
Without using a hosting service. But a truly secure system can only be setup and verified by the trusted person themself (you) or with strict supervision from the trusted person, if the trusted person know what to look for. A secure system installed by someone you cannot trust has an obvious hole by default. Another person should be able to setup the server without that causing any security issue, as long as the trusted person can verify the secure desktop.

Ps. It sounds more difficult than it is.

Last edited by zeebra; 10-15-2013 at 09:55 AM.
 
  


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