To successfully set up a server for hosting websites, you need a solution that allows the users to connect and access the different sections and functions of the server. Such connection (called a panel) allows your clients to use your server without having to access it as the “root” user. Many people prefer cPanel as their hosting solution on Apache and other web servers. However, there is enough flexibility on what you can use for your server. There are many cPanel alternatives you can choose from.
In this article, I highlight the different alternative to cPanel you might consider to use on your web server. Almost all of the alternatives are free to use. If your budget is not to the price of getting a cPanel license, you might consider getting your own free panel. The features that come with each of these solutions differ a bit from what you get with cPanel, though. You need to study each of them and choose what will work best for you.
Webmin is a Unix system administration suite that is browser-based. It reduces the complications of having to manage your server through the terminal or command line and having to manually edit files when managing users. Virtualmin is a lightweight cPanel alternative for managing your server. It supports different web servers like Nginx, Postfix, Apache, and BIND.
With Virtualmin, you can create different domain accounts on your server, email system, databases & database management, and DNS system. Webmin and Virtualmin make a powerful and stress-free server management solution for you.
This software is powerful and supports most of the features you expect from a cPanel free alternative. To begin with, Froxlor is lightweight and fast. You can expect utmost performance with little server resource consumption.
You can use the advanced SSL feature, support ticket system, MySQL database management, traffic calculation, among other features. You can set up a theme of your choice to fit your needs as well. Froxlor also supports resellers and customers on your server. You also have the ability to install the LetsEncrypt SSL on the websites right from the panel.
Formerly known as Lxadmin, Kloxo is a perfect cPanel alternative that will take care of your web hosting needs. It works with the CentOS and Red Hat distros. It is compatible with both Apache and Lighttpd web servers. It works seamlessly with WHMCS and Hostbill client management portals. The interface and features are very close to those of cPanel.
This free control panel gives you lots of features to help you run your web server easily. From email, databases, file manager, cron tabs, even backups. You have the power in your hands to set automated features on your website and do many tasks without having to get your hands dirty with code.
VestaCP is designed to use minimum resources to provide powerful services for your websites. It requires only 512MB memory and 1Ghz processor to run. The caching mechanism allows you to serve websites at super speeds. VestaCP also comes with an inbuilt firewall to protect your server and the Nginx web server. The web interface of VestaCP is available in 26 languages.
It works with Apache, MySQL, PHP, Webalizer, Filezilla Server, hMailServer, among other web hosting software and resources. Sentora is built as a fork of the ZPanelCP project. It is open source, extendable, and simplified.
The fully customizable control panel allows different users (customers) to log in and manage their own web hosting accounts. You can use the API to connect your website or billing client to manage the server from a central place or application. With the reseller option, you can allow your direct clients to sell the hosting server resources under their own defined packages, just like we do on cPanel.
Sentora is compatible with Apache HTTPd, PHP, MySQL/MariaDB, Postfix, Dovecot, and ProFTPd. There are other community modules that work with this alternative to cPanel. Since the ZpanelCP was taken over by Hostwinds, the development is not active. It is wise you take up the Sentora control panel for your business or project.
This is a server management panel. It is essential for the basic control of your server resources on the web. If you do not need so many features on your web server, ajenti is enough for you. But if you need advanced features such as email, multiple accounts, etc., you have to install the Ajenti V module.
Ajenti runs on minimal resources, but it is powerful enough to run and manage a web server. You just need about 30MB RAM and 75MB HDD space to run the panel. The best thing is that it comes with a remote terminal, that you can use in case you need access to text-based configurations. Ajenti also has a commercial license version.
Apart from the free and open source server management panels I highlighted above, there are others you can still employ. However, these ones are not available for free. You need to pay a given amount of fee per month, year, or as a lifetime license to use. These include:
Plesk: – A complete solution for managing your server and websites or online apps. It has all the features you expect from a server management panel. They have a free trial that you can use to test if it is worth to pay for. You can go ahead and grab your trial copy before you commit to obtaining a license.
DirectAdmin: – The panel is designed to be fast and stable. The more powerful feature of DirectAdmin is that it can recover from crashes, thus avoiding server downtime. Your websites and apps will be accessible all through. They also have different flexible licenses that you can choose according to your needs and budget.
A browser based server control panel such as Plesk or cPanel is an interface that allows web site owners to manage the services provided by their hosting service. These control panels offer a graphical user interface and tools to manage the backend of your website, email configuration and account settings.
Plesk is one of the leading server control panels in the US market. In the European markets, it has a share of 75 to 80 percent. Plesk makes the website administration very easy even if you manage a large number of sites created with different technology.
What is Plesk?
Plesk is the short version of Parallel’s Plesk Panel. It is a great alternative to another popular web server management tool, cPanel. With its graphical user interface, non-technical website owners can also manage their websites easily. With Plesk, website owners can perform all kinds of website management tasks such as setting up the mailbox, creating FTP accounts, managing DNS autoresponders, adding domains, file management, and database management.
Plesk Interface – Plesk Interface is simplistic and allows webmasters to perform administrative tasks in just a few clicks. Installation of Content Management Systems(CMS), such as WordPress is straightforward with its one click installation. The built-in WordPress toolkit allows you to manage themes and plugins. Control Panel is highly customizable, and you can add or remove buttons as per your requirements. The integrated search box lets the users search for the functionality they need. You can create multiple accounts with limited permissions for your employees to manage your site.
Security – Plesk is highly secure and protects your site from possible attacks such as malware, trojans, etc. It gives you options to block IP addresses from the control panel. With its ModSecurity Firewall, you can customize the firewall settings according to your preferences.
Free Site Builder – It comes with a free website builder, and you can build websites with its easy to use, drag and drop functions. You can choose your preferred template from a hundred pre-built templates.
Automation – With the auto component updater, you don’t need to update your installed components on the interface manually.
Mobile Monitoring – You can monitor and control your website’s backend with your mobile device.
Plesk Vs cPanel
All the leading control panels provide the essential features for server maintenance but differ from each other in usability, maintenance, security and many other things. Both Plesk and cPanel have a user-friendly interface, but certain differences make each one of them unique.
Functions – A control panel provides only four core services, DNS, email management, website maintenance and database management. Besides the essential functions, web masters also need other features such as Spam Filtering, SSL management, logs, file management, backup, reseller support, etc.
Plesk as well as cPanel, both provide the necessary features, but the key difference between these panels is the additional features provided by third-party app developers.
cPanel provides API based access to the developers to build add-ons and extend the basic functionality of the cPanel. For instance, external providers such as Fantastico, CSF Firewall, RV Skins add a significant number of apps to the interface and provides many advanced security options.
Plesk’s Extension Directory, Parallel’s Add-on Directory and external app providers such as 4PSA allows the users to add more features to the interface.
Operating System – Plesk supports Linux as well as Windows Operating System. cPanel, on the other hand, is a Linux only control panel.
Interface – Both cPanel and Plesk can be used by web masters with a non-technical background. cPanel offers a minimalist design with large icons organized in groups. Most functions can be completed by navigating to only two screens. Plesk Interface is also easy to use, but not as minimalist as cPanel. However, it offers more options right on the home screen. The Interface is easy to navigate with the left-side pane. Essential functions such as email account creation do not require navigating to too many screens, just like cPanel.
Security –Security of the server and accounts is the most important factor while choosing a server control panel. With the segregated account access mechanisms, security of accounts is ensured on both the control panels. Password policies, Session Idle Time and blacklisting of IPs make both the panels highly secure. For account level security, you can install web application firewalls, anti-spam filters, multi-factor authentication and file upload scanners. Regarding security infrastructure, both the panels are equally good, but Plesk is known for its quick security fixes.
Plesk Onyx offers all the features that the Plesk comes along with a suite of advanced features for web professionals.
Advanced Features of Plesk Onyx
Git Deployment – You can manage your git repositories and install websites from them directly to the targeted directory. You can use software engineering services such as Github, BitBucket, Travis, etc.
System Update Tools – You can control the update settings of the individual packages. You can enable the predictable updates and automatic updates of the system packages and the panel.
SSL Implementation – Onyx provides SSL certificate management for the mailing services. With Let’s Encrypt implementation, you can easily create security certificate for each domain.
Integrated WordPress Toolkit – With WordPress theme and plugin management, self-repair functionality and other features, it becomes easy for you to mass-manage many WordPress websites with just a few clicks.
Ruby Support – Onyx provides an environment for the Ruby apps. Ruby is available in different versions. It gives you an ability to scan and detect a Ruby app deployed on the domain. You can also restart the ruby app from the panel.
There are many other additional features offered by Onyx besides the above-listed ones such as Python Support, Plesk Extensions SDK, DNSSec Support, Docker Support, etc.
Plesk is a fantastic server control panel for newbies and advanced users alike. It is designed to allow individuals and small to medium sized business owners to manage their servers without paying for the expensive administration services. With high reliability and security, it empowers businesses to maintain their websites and related services easily.
Simply put, cPanel is a control panel which lets you manage all elements of your hosting account. It’s a web based control panel that’s used to manage Windows or Linux based web hosts or servers. The cPanel lets users control email addresses, databases, domain names, different PHP versions as well as any other element of a web server.
Because cPanel is such a simple and easy to use graphical dashboard, and due to the fact that it’s properly maintained with regular improvements, updates, and security features, the majority of hosting companies use cPanel to help customers manage their web sites.
The cPanel interface
The cPanel interface has undergone refining again and again over the years, and the interface can also be customized by the web host offering the services. In general, however, a cPanel interface has the following key sections: Mail, Files, Preferences, Domains, Database, Security and Logs. The interface is polished and easy to use and is one of the leading aspects that make cPanel so popular.
Accessing the cPanel
It’s simple to access the cPanel installation through a web browser. Your hosting provider will give you the address of the panel. Do not be scared by the 2082 digits in the URL as it is the port number that cPanel listens to by default. However, it’s recommended to always access it through a secure HTTPS connection or else you risk security breach.
Top Features of cPanel
cPanel hosting software offers hundreds of features that are all aimed at enabling you to easily manage your email, databases, website and online software. Some of these features are listed below:
This hosts either one or multiple domains per account. Multiple domain hosting enables unique domains to be stacked on top of the primary one or even be pointed to one specific folder.
It’s very important to ensure that all your contents on the server have been backed up. Luckily, the issue of having a backup can easily be solved through installing a cPanel in a web host. This enables you to recover any data in case of a disaster.
In the hosting package, you will get with the web host, you can easily create several email accounts. cPanel then lets you assign domain names to all these email accounts. The feature also lets you set up email accounts and forwarders. You can accomplish most email settings with only a few clicks.
This feature lets you easily manage your account via WHM and CPanel’s software file manager. This is an online web-based file manager.
Anonymous FTP Controls
Thanks to this feature, your users can connect to your anonymous FTP directory without necessarily using a password. While this may be useful in making files to be publicly available for download, it could be a security hole since you are essentially letting anonymous people access your system.
This feature is important since it lets you control how Apache handles requests for certain types of files or extensions from search engines and visitors. This simply means that you will be able to select the Apache that handles the files contained in shared cPanel website hosting space, and how they will be handled in case the search engines come up crawling.
This feature allows you to configure the Apache so as to display custom error pages that will have been created for displaying them anytime you website experiences errors or problems.
The feature allows you set up some scripts which you might have running in the background of the website. These can be run automatically at predetermined times so as to perform certain jobs that they will have been designed for.
Advantages of cPanel
Managing a website was quite time-consuming in the past. Not only did the use of command lines entail technical expertise but it also required a lot of time. Since the whole thing was done through codes, even the smallest changes required a lot of time.With cPanel however, you can make changes in an instant since features are fully automated. For instance, it’s very easy to back up an entire site with cPanel. Saves money
Since cPanel hosting software is comparatively easy to use, you can be the web administrator even with basic computer skills. In fact, you can do it yourself or even your spouse or business partner. There is no need to hire someone with computer expertise to manage it for you. In a case of a problem, all you need to do is to reach out to the customer support team of cPanel anytime. Upgrading a website is easier
A website can become bigger not only in terms of its service or product offerings but also in terms of hits it gets. If this happens, the only way is to upgrade the site. This means increasing the site’s bandwidth so it doesn’t experience unnecessary downtime.
Managing the resources of an account would improve the load times and the resilience of the website during traffic spikes. You can accomplish this with one or two clicks using cPanel.Moreover, there are many apps cPanel gives its users. These range from bulletin boards, blogs guest books, and e-commerce. All these add-ons can help create a more dynamic and robust website that can guarantee a steady visitor stream.
Designed for small and medium firms websites• The license cost also looks a bit of an issue for smaller firms as it could be expensive.
However, these cons pale in comparison to the many pros of using cPanel. For most website owners, the advantages provide good enough reasons to choose a web hosting service that uses cPanel server.
cPanel is a great and customizable control panel that has withstood the test of time. It has an active community that is more than ready to help you in case you run into problems while using it. What makes cPanel web hosting so popular is its straightforward user interface that can be understood even by a first-time user. But also suitable for professionals because of its enterprise-level features such as multi-server management and IPV6 support. You can also check a bunch of Free Alternatives to cPanel.
A Distributed Denial of Service DDOS attack, is undoubtedly the worst thing that could happen to your server. It silently destroys your online presence as well as your image because clients to your server will form this unavailable reputation of your web service. On your part, you have this feeling that your web services are being accessed but little do you know that they are held on to by this illegitimate client who will not let go. Unless you are a seasoned internet security expert or have a DDoS protected plans, it would take time before you know what hit you since your server shows that it is up and you also have bandwidth but most of your clients are unable to use your web services.
In history, BBC news service is one of the largest companies that had a DDOS attack where their services were unavailable for the whole day before the attacking IP addresses were identified and smoked out. Today, with the use of multiple distributed botnets, it is increasingly becoming difficult to detect who is firing a DDOS attack at you since the traffic does not come from one IP address. Fortunately, there are dedicated security experts who provide webmasters with DDOS checkers as well as help you shake off attackers when they make for your jugular.
One of the first questions that you cry out when you are hit by a DDOS attack is, “Why me?” Well, firstly, cloud hosting providers are a favorite target for cybercriminals because the cloud holds up personal details of your clients such as their email addresses, names, credit card numbers and mobile phone numbers. The cyber-criminal would, therefore, feel lured to attack you if they find that you use a shared cloud hosting service so that they can get access to these vital client details. To avoid this, you will need to upgrade to your own dedicated server.
Secondly, the DDOS attacker could be coming from your competitor who feels that if they deny your prospective clients access to your web service, the client will end up using their own web services. The competitor would then steal client vital details such as email addresses so that they can target to sell the email address bearers their own products.
Cybercriminals sometimes make malicious DDOS attacks so as to boost their egos. Most cyber-attacks are done by malicious IT students who are out there to try new concepts that they learned in class. They will, therefore, attack a web service, not to gain anything, but just to see you suffer as your clients lack your vital services.
Detecting a DDOs attack
A red flag that shows you that you might be under a DDOS attack is when you try to reach out to your service only to be met by a 503 Server Unavailable Error yet all indications on the server part shows that it is up and running all right. Two, web services become too slow for efficient production yet your Internet Service provider has not placed any cap on your Internet use. In case you detect these kinds of things, you need to first report to your Internet Service Provider by emailing them through their abuse email platform which at most times is [email protected] so that they can try and troubleshoot the error. If this does not help, you can proceed to do the following:
Limit the number of service requests at the router and switch level
Use clean pipes technique that allows normal looking traffic while denying access to anomaly traffic.
Use application front end software that prevents abnormal requests from getting to the server
Protecting yourself from DDOS attacks
As they say, prevention is better than cure. Before the DDOS attacker raids you, be ready to counteract their effect by early detection so that you are able to report and ask for assistance. You can do so through the following ways:
You can block the IP’s from your dedicated server using the below commands:
route add ipaddress reject
Monitor your traffic profile
As a webmaster, you need to self-monitor your site stats profile so that you are aware of the average traffic your web service gets in a day. Anytime you notice an unusual web traffic spike, do not be too happy about it but identify whether the traffic is genuine or a DDOS attack. If for example you daily online traffic is 100 and you wake up one day to find 500,000 visitors, do not go about screaming your heart out that your website has made it to the league of high traffic websites. No! That traffic spike is unusual and you need to take it with a pinch of salt.
Increase your bandwidth
A dedicated server with low bandwidth might show you that you are on a DDOS attack while in actual sense, you aren’t. High traffic from genuine clients will exhaust your low bandwidth resulting in slow speeds or unavailable services for most of the clients. To avoid this situation, ask your dedicated server provider to give you with more bandwidth.
Set up an alarm system with DDOS protected plans
You need to set up an alarm system that warns you in case your web service gets a high spike of unusual traffic. With the alarm system, you will be notified via email or mobile phone in case there is an unusual activity that might need a DDOS checker to detect whether you are attacked.
Advanced firewall protection
When you identify IP addresses of clients that are attacking your server, you need to add a firewall to block them from future attacks.
Use third party DDOS mitigation services
Not every webmaster is a trained IT hack and most probably, you are not. Technical networking jargons on how to detect and stop DDOS attacks might sound gibberish to you since you make no head nor tail of them. However, if you bought a dedicated server from a company that keeps DDOS attacks at bay, you will be safe and sound since you would not be responsible for detecting the DDOS attacks but you have someone whose role is to chiefly do so in your stead. With their DDOS checker and DDoS protected plans, they will be able to mitigate all attacks directed to you.
The Financial Supervisory Service of South Korea has told local banks not to cave into threats by DDoS attackers following this month’s million-dollar bitcoin ransom paid by South Korean web hoster Nayana, the victim of a ransomware attack.