Kevin van Zonneveld has a new article posted to his blog that works through a method for making ssh connections from inside of PHP:
Not everyone knows about PHP's capabilities of making SSH connections and executing remote commands, but it can be very useful. I've been using it a lot in PHP CLI applications that I run from cronjobs, but initially it was a pain to get it to work. The PHP manual on Secure Shell2 Functions is not very practice or thorough for that matter, so I would like to share my knowledge in this how to, to make it a little less time consuming setting this up.
His platform of choice for this tutorial is Debian/Ubuntu, that you're already running PHP (and that it's PHP5) and that you know something about server administration. NExt up is the package installation - a simple matter with the help of aptitude and the compiling of the libssh2 libraries. All that's left is to make the module to include and add it to the php.ini.
Some sample code is included - one bit that shows off the execute method and the other, the shell method.