As a first-time hosting customer, you’re more than likely going to need (and want!) something that helps manage your website’s server.
This inevitably means opting for a control panel, which lessens your technical load. While some web hosting providers include a control panel with their plans, others offer a control panel to be purchased additionally.
So, what’s the most popular website hosting control panel on the market these days? cPanel, which was first introduced back in 1996. cPanel is a website hosting dashboard that runs on the Linux Operating System (OS) and helps simplify the management of your website with its graphic interface. (For more background basics on cPanel, check out my previous article.)
Given that cPanel announced last year an unexpected price change in their license billing system and their approach to license options, many hosting providers and customers started looking for alternatives.
Most of these alternatives are “open-source” software, which means they are created and supported by a community of like-minded individuals. And, they’re free. The biggest distinction between cPanel and control panel alternatives boils down to their compatibility with certain software and their level of support provided.
For instance, while “open-source” control panels allow users to create feature requests and leave any feedback, this often means there isn’t a dedicated support team on hand to help tackle any roadblocks or issues.
So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the alternatives to cPanel and what they offer.
Also from the folks behind cPanel, Plesk is arguably the second most popular control panel on the market. Whereas cPanel runs on the Linux Operating System (OS), Plesk is supported on both Linux and Windows servers. So if you use Windows, Plesk is a sure bet.
Similar to cPanel, Plesk features an aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly interface. (Some would even argue that Plesk is friendlier than cPanel, but it’s a matter of opinion.) When comparing cPanel vs. Plesk, Plesk features a centralized control panel. cPanel offers separate panels to access WHM subscriptions and user management whereas with Plesk, you can input the Admin or other User credentials from one single login interface.
Plesk also allows for CLI management and supports DNS management, FTP accounts as well as MySQL databases. Considered a “WebOps” server control panel, Plesk ranks high on security, offering integrated safety measures like Fail2Ban and Plesk Firewall.
Looking to set up a WordPress website? Plesk comes with the automatic WordPress toolkit, which lets you manage all your WordPress applications from one location. This ranges from custom plugins and themes to performing post and installation cloning, staging, and migrating — in just one click.
If you use Plesk, you can also easily integrate external resources, such as Git, Docker containers, and Dropbox to upload, download, and restore backups. Already have a control panel? Plesk features a plugin that allows for easy migration.
The price? Plesk comes with three plans to choose from: WebAdmin, WebPro, and Webhost, with the WebAdmin plan starting at just $10/month.
The bottom line? If you’re using a non-Linux hosting environment or you prefer a control panel that’s super simple to use, you can’t go wrong with Plesk.
Created by JBMC Software, DirectAdmin is a standalone control panel that supports Linux and is one of the most affordable alternatives to cPanel.
DirectAdmin offers three access types (Admins, Resellers, Users), each limiting the control options depending on the user role. With its efficient user interface, customization is made easy by simply changing the visible number of menus for the end-user and/or importing new interface designs.
In addition to DNS management, IP configurations, account management, and more, DirectAdmin offers you a helpful overview of all the server resources that are currently in use.
As for web servers, it supports Apache, Nginx, Litespeed, and Open Litespeed. Hate spam? DirectAdmin supports spam-filtering programs such as SpamAssassin (also used by cPanel). To keep things safe and sound, ClamAV and ModSecurity are supported by default with DirectAdmin.
And, in case of a computer crash, its automatic recovery feature means avoiding unnecessary downtime. Here, any faulty service gets restarted and if that still doesn’t help, the Admin is notified. If you’re a Reseller and this happens, you can simply use the built-in DirectAdmin ticket system to message your customers that a crash took place.
The price? With four licenses to choose from (Trial, Personal, Lite, and Standard), you’re looking at paying anywhere between $0/month to $29/month.
The bottom line? DirectAdmin is ideal for beginners and allows for plenty of customization for advanced users. Did we mention you can try it out for free?
Ideal for web designers and developers as well as agencies and resellers, InterWorx acts similarly to cPanel, which manages and handles website hosting.
InterWorx is divided into two main sections:
- NodeWorx, which focuses on the holistic configuring and monitoring of your server. (Statistics Suite, in particular, provides an overview of resource usage making it easy to monitor your server.)
- SiteWorx, which provides access to the tools needed to manage your websites, email, and databases.
You can think of NodeWorx as your Admin level (similar to cPanel’s WHM), where you can create multiple user accounts whereas SiteWorx acts as an individual user panel.
Within SiteWorx, users can upload and create websites, email accounts, manage statistics, even modify additional preferences. SiteWorx also lets you manage core services such as MySQL, DNS, and FTP, even configuring firewall rules and regulating spam.
Unlike cPanel, InterWorx allows for multiple Admin and User level access. Here you can create a separate set of credentials and assign them to your web developer, assign corresponding permissions to control panel menus, and even set up limitations to view and change-only settings.
The price? With InterWorx, you can choose from a Single License ($20/month) all the way to Bulk Licenses, which can be as low as $5. Find out more here.
The bottom line? InterWorx features NodeWorx (to manage a server) and SiteWorx (to manage a website). Ultimately, it’s a strong control panel that helps you spend less time administering your server and more time focused on delivering code and content.
Virtualmin is a control panel run on the Linux-based Webmin that comes with two versions:
1) Virtualmin Professional, which is paid.
2) Virtualmin GPL, which is free and open-source.
Virtualmin lets you manage, modify, and control multiple accounts from one single interface. The main difference between the two versions, besides the price? Virtualmin Professional comes with responsive support, a built-in website editor, and a wider range of scripts to install.
In addition to its DNS, MySQL databases, email service, and FTP management, Virtualmin provides support via its graphic interface for Python and Django, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, and advanced PHP management.
Screen source: Virtualmin
In terms of email, Virtualmin makes it possible to configure Postfix, Qmail or Sendmail. It also supports storing and managing backups from Google Drive, DropBox, and other cloud-based storage systems.
Last, but certainly not least, if you’re on your smartphone, Virtualmin is mobile-friendly.
The price? While Virtualmin GPL is free, Virtualmin Professional features tiered-based pricing that ranges from $60 to $200/server per year, based on the number of domain names.
The bottom line? Depending on your needs and budget, Virtualmin keeps things flexible. While VirtualMin GPL is open source and free to use, Virtualmin Professional comes with added features and support. Plus, you have four ways to access this control panel: on the web, on mobile, through a command line, and via remote API.
Supporting more Operating Systems (OS) than any other control panel alternative mentioned in this article, ISPConfig’s interface may seem a little outdated but that’s only because it focuses primarily on support functions.
Given that ISPConfig doesn’t come with a one-click installer, getting it set up and configured on your server can be cumbersome. Although guides are available, many are user-submitted and may not have all the up-to-date information needed for beginners.
Similar to the other control panel alternatives, ISPConfig supports the creation, deletion, and management of Reseller and Client accounts. Email service is also easy to set up and includes a global spam filter.
It’s worth mentioning that ISPConfig is also very generous in terms of server resources, where any unnecessary services can be disabled to conserve resources (e.g. DNS, FTP, etc.), allowing it to run on very low-RAM servers.
The price? ISPConfig can be downloaded and used for free.
The bottom line? ISPConfig is one of the only open-source control panels that supports virtualization technology, allowing you to create OpenVZ containers and set up a virtualized hosting environment.
Designed as a single-user control panel, Webuzo helps its users deploy web applications (WordPress or Joomla) and system applications (Apache or PHP) on their virtual machines or in the cloud. Thanks to its easy application installer, a wide range of applications can be installed in just a few clicks.
Similar to other control panels, Webuzo supports all the core features required for server management including DNS, web servers, FTP, databases, and more. Its Admin user interface lets you update all software versions once they’re released by vendors as well as enable and disable available scripts, even modifying end-user permissions.
Webuzo is also available as a Virtual Appliance, which runs in minutes on any computing environment that supports virtualization.
The price? Webuzo offers a free trial to check out before purchasing. Click here for the most up-to-date prices.
The bottom line? Given you’re unable to create multiple user accounts, Webuzo is not recommended for hosting resellers.
Simple, easy-to-use, and free, Vesta is an open-source control panel. One of the major perks of Vesta is how lightweight it is, in terms of system requirements, which translates to faster loading times.
Although Vesta doesn’t support multi-server setups, it does put an emphasis on performance by using Nginx for the web panel frontend and Apache for the application backend. Vesta also supports all the core functionality that’s necessary for server management including DNS, mail, databases, FTP, and more. Similar to Webuzo, Vesta is not designed for reselling purposes and only supports Admin and User access levels.
A built-in firewall resolves all common security issues while its web interface is adapted to 26 languages and regions around the world.
The price? All of Vesta’s core functionality is free.
The bottom line? Vesta offers a simple and user-friendly interface, perfect for VPS and Dedicated Server beginners.
While all of the aforementioned control panel alternatives perform the basic core functions, they do differ in terms of their billing policies as well as their availability of required features and support. That’s why it’s important to consider your specific needs before opting for one.
With Namecheap’s VPS Hosting and Dedicated Server Hosting, you can decide which cPanel alternative you’d like to be installed. (Currently, we offer InterWorx for Dedicated Servers and cPanel for both VPS and Dedicated Servers.)
Keep in mind that if you choose VPS Hosting with Namecheap, the control panel might require a certain OS template. If that’s the case, please be aware that customized OS templates are not possible to install.
So, what’s your take on hosting control panels? Which one do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below!