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.