Which website hosting panel should I use?
These days there is a lot of choice when it comes to choosing an appropriate website hosting panel for your business or organisation. The new availability of cheap virtual servers means that nearly anyone can now set up their own website hosting environment for a fraction of the cost that it would have been ten years ago.
Typically, Linux distributions are the preferred operating systems for hosting environments. Often renowned for their stability, Debian and Red Hat are amongst the most popular Linux operating systems. For those looking to start their own server, I recommend either CentOS 6 or Ubuntu 12.04.1 LTS – both of which are descendants of the distributions I previously highlighted.
Conducting background research, I have had time to experience the various control panels that are available today, I will attempt to break down the advantages and disadvantages and present them to you in a clear fashion.
cPanel only runs on Red Hat based operating systems such as CentOS. Over the years cPanel has gained a good reputation, being used by a large number or organisations all over the world. cPanel comes packaged with Apache, PHP, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Bind and Perl, as well as full email support for POP3, IMAP and SMTP.
Offering a clear and clean interface, cPanel is intuitive and can be picked up very quickly. The major downside to all of this however, there is a licensing fee. This fee can be in excess of $425 for dedicated servers annually. For smaller businesses this may be far too costly, in which case cPanel may not be for you.
Although ZPanel’s name may closely mimic that of cPanel’s, ZPanel holds a completely different philosophy. ZPanel is free, and open source. For small businesses this is great, as it costs them nothing to install and use the website hosting panel on a daily basis. It is also great for developers as they can modify and customise the code as they wish.
ZPanel consists of the same features as cPanel however is compatible on a larger number of operating systems including Linux, Windows and Mac OS distributions. ZPanel offers quick and easy installer scripts for a variety of operating systems, making it ridiculously simple to install.
ZPanel has a large community following on their forums, where routinely developers assist users with the problems they may face.
At home I use ZPanel on my personal development server. I find it to be very efficient and easy to use. I would defiantly recommend ZPanel to those who are on a low or zero budget.
Those who are more technical amongst us may choose to install the Webmin system configuration tool. Webmin works in a modular fashion allowing developers to control numerous areas of the system including the command line interface.
For setting up hosting accounts Webmin is not intuitive. However, for those that are familiar with Apache, Bind and MySQL is very effective in making the configuration process faster and more efficient.
Webmin is available for the majority of Linux operating systems including CentOS, Debian, BSD and Ubuntu. Developers find Webmin very appealing, it is updated on a regular basis, is free, open source and works with a vast array of modules and plugins.
Parallels Plesk Panel is a web hosting control panel that is popular amongst both Linux and Windows users. Parallels offer many different flavours of Plesk, of which one is likely to suit your unique organisation. Designaweb use the Plesk control panel to effectively manage the hundreds of websites that we host for our customers.
Plesk offers an intuitive set of tools, as well as a vast array of features for power users including cron job, database, IP address and system resources management. Every last setting is customisable, allowing users to customise it to their liking.
Plesk matches cPanel in terms of pricing, with their unlimited domain plan costing also costing a considerable $425 annually.
Here is a quick summary.
cPanel – Effective, but costly, good reputation
ZPanel – New contender to the market, watch this space
Webmin – Great for advanced system admins
Plesk – Great for hosting large numbers of websites