Root Access or better – SSH access – Do you need it as a hosting customer?
A lot of times website owners want web hosting accounts with root access to the server. In most cases they actually mean – they need access to the command line on their account via SSH. There can be several reasons for this. A script they own mentions root access requirements or they are just used to command line availability from their existing host. The truth is – nowadays most hosting customers will not need root access at all. Even access to the command line as user via SSH is not needed. Most commonly used scripts out there come with some sort of installer that does not need SSH access. But what does “root access” mean at all? Root access is the privilege to access all files and directories on a computer. The root owner has full access rights to anything system related on a server. This includes all security related items (users, groups, file permissions and ownership of files and directories, etc.).
For the normal hosting customer root access is not needed and will never be granted. Only if you own or lease a server you will have root access to the server. Only the system administrator should really have access to the root account and only use when really needed. The recommendation is to use a privileged user account and only switch to root when really needed.
So, how about SSH access (command line access as a user)? Do you need it? As mentioned before – nowadays most end-user scripts or normal webmaster scripts do not require SSH access to a system. The scripts come with easy to use installers and the need for command line access just does not exist anymore. Even database related administration can be done properly from tools like phpMyAdmin. Cron jobs can be setup and administered from web hosting control panels. So, the need for command line access just does not exist anymore for most people.