Whether you are just looking for a hosting control panel for shared hosting or whether you are looking for a control panel for your VPS or Dedicated Server the chances are that you will be considering one of the three main options; cPanel, Directadmin or Plesk.
The Control Panel will allow you to manage all aspects of your server without having to resort to command lines or any other utilities. You will be able to add and delete new users, databases, view the error logs for your server, install popular software, configure email, and perform hundreds of other day-to-day maintenance activities on the server including backup and restoration. A control panel for a Web server can do so much today that it’s almost unimaginable to think of going without one – even though it’s technically possible.
When choosing a control panel one of the main difficulties lies in the fact that migration between them is difficult and as such in order to save yourself much trouble and expense in the future because you change your mind, or you want to move to a host that uses a different control panel it is important to get it right first time.
This article looks at some of the main differences between the different control panels, and goes into a little more detail than you would need if you are simply looking for shared hosting and wanting to know the differences in control panel. That being said, if you are looking for a reseller, VPS or dedicated where you often get access to the full functionality the differences are more relevant.
Operating System Compatibility
It’s important to choose a product that plays well with the operating system you’re familiar with. Even though each of these provides a GUI that abstracts the underlying workings of the server, it still helps a great deal to be comfortable with whatever OS the server runs on. Say for example you wish to install a few add-ons from some vendors, you need to make sure that they are compatible with your environment. So your needs and experience will play a huge role in determining which web hosting control panel you want to go with.
|Plesk||Windows Server (2012), Linux (CentOS/CloudLinux/RedHat/Ubuntu/Debian, openSUSE)|
Backend/Frontend and Functionality
If you’ve used cPanel from a client’s perspective as opposed to someone who runs their own server, you may never even have heard of WHM. WHM is the “backend” of cPanel and is a software used by server administrators to perform all the functions that cPanel users can’t. It ranges from setting up DNS clusters, comprehensive security rules, creating and assigning packages, server level configuration, and a host of other functions unavailable through cPanel.
If you are a client who has just purchased a shared hosting plan however, you would never even see WHM. Your username/password combination would be used to log directly into cPanel either as a regular user or a reseller. The options available in WHM are so comprehensive and detailed that it’s impossible to even know where to start.
The other two products – Plesk and DirectAdmin – have no such split personalities. What you can and cannot do depends entirely on the permissions assigned to you. The interface will look pretty much the same with certain options enabled and disabled.
|Configurable reseller hosting packages|
|CSS-brandable reseller experience|
|CSS-based theme system|
|Multiple language packs|
|Manage all daemons from one screen|
|One screen shows full system health|
|Fast, RPM-based installation||~35 MIN|
|Full API Coverage (SOAP, XMLRPC, and CLI interfaces)|
|Advanced IPv6 Management via IPv6 Pools|
|Multiple IPs (v4 and v6) per domain|
|IPv6 diagnostic tools|
|Manage MySQL databases, users, & permissions|
|View & terminate running queries|
|E-MAIL, SPAM, & VIRUSES|
|Configurable mailboxes, forwarders, quotas|
|Configurable spam filtering|
|E-mail virus protection|
|Domainkeys (DKIM) & SPF records|
|Global white & black lists|
|Secure Remote Assistance Feature|
|Problem Detection/Notification/Repair System|
|Graphical Real Time Usage Statistics|
|High availability load balancing|
|External MySQL servers (one or multiple)|
|External file servers|
|External DNS syncronization|
|Real-time graphs of clustered servers|
As an extension of the above discussion, the security models for cPanel, Plesk, and DirectAdmin are quite different in the way they handle permissions for the different accounts or sub-accounts.
|Avg. days to acknowledge an exploit|
|Avg. days to resolve an exploit|
|Site owners can create sub-users|
|Server admin & reseller-level sub-users|
|Permission settings for all sub-users|