Control panels are web-based interfaces that allow website owners or their administrators to manage the website and functions of the server from the convenience of a web browser. While there are dozens of different control panels that can be used, there are three key players in the industry. They are cPanel, Plesk, and Webmin; and these are the ones that will be examined here.
cPanel: The Standard for Linux Web Hosts
cPanel is a control panel that is offered by most web hosts, either by default or as an add-on. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that much of the Internet is powered by cPanel, and the fact that it’s built on a code base that has been proven time and time again over the years. But with all the advantages cPanel brings, it still has its downsides.
cPanel has one of the easiest to use interfaces that can be found in the industry. This control panel is so streamlined it can help organize workflow and accomplish routine tasks very quickly. It also has the advantage of one-click installation, meaning that those working with Wordpress, Drupal, or other common software don’t have to suffer through a multi-step installation process but rather, can do so in just one click. While this definitely lightens the web host’s load, it’s also a great help for those that just want to get their website up and running.
Of all the disadvantages that are out there with control panels, cPanel has relatively few. One of the biggest is that it does have a limited operating system selection, and that’s enough to keep some from using it. cPanel is only compatible with CentOS, RedHat, and CloudLinux servers. Those that wish to run their control panel from another operating system will have to choose another one to do it with.
Just like there is great debate between Apple users and Microsoft users, there’s also a world of debate between those who prefer cPanel and those who like Plesk. There is no one that is better; it’s largely a matter of personal preference. There is no argument though that Plesk certainly brings a lot to the table.
One of the biggest advantages Plesk has, and that users will be quick to point out, is the fact that this control panel comes with a remarkable support system. Those who are working on a Microsoft SQL server will find this especially useful as they need to integrate all of their technologies, and Plesk will help them do this with ease. In fact, Plesk is considered easier to use overall than many other control panels within the marketplace. In addition to the great support that comes with Plesk, it can also be run on Windows servers as well as CloudLinux, CentOS, Debian/Ubuntu and openSUSE.
What Plesk offers in support however, it takes in resources. With any panel, administrators will have to sacrifice some resources for usability. But because of the crowded interface Plesk has, it tends to take much more. Plesk can also be confusing to use due to the fact that it has a single login for administrators and end users; so it’s good that it comes with the great support that it does.
Webmin has many advantages over both cPanel and Plesk, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. While Webmin is free, being that its code is completely open source, it’s also a fairly bare-bones control panel. This means that those who are very tech savvy can customize the panel however they see fit; but it also means that those that aren’t familiar with working within control panels will have a great deal of trouble performing even the simplest tasks.
Like cPanel, Webmin can also only be run on Linux servers, but it doesn’t have the friendly user interface that cPanel does. It also doesn’t have the support system that either cPanel or Plesk do, which means that administrators that face technical issues will have to fix them on their own.
Website owners and administrators who need to choose a control panel will typically end up opting for a web host that offers cPanel or Plesk. These are the two most familiar, and the choice will typically come down to the server they want to run their website on, and how much support they’re going to need. While Webmin is arguably the best open-source control panel on the market, it’s really only meant to be used by professionals that are proficient in the technical needs of a control panel, and being able to meet them and fix problems when they arise.
For those that are new to running and managing a website, the best advice is to choose a web host that offers both cPanel and Plesk. Discuss with them what options might be best for them and then choose based on that. However, it is also important to remember that cPanel is the most popular for a reason and just because a website is run on a Linux server doesn’t mean that website owners need to know code or use a Linux computer in order to manage or add to their site.