There are not a whole lot of choices when it comes down to control panel options for web hosting, and they all attempt to do basically the same thing. The end goal of all of these control panels is to make life easier for beginners who don’t know how to administer their hosting account manually, and those who are not given permission to do so by their provider. These tools are also good for professionals who like to make it easier on themselves.
This is the one you have most likely heard about many times before while looking for web hosting. It is the most popular control panel in use today, and many hosts include it in the price of their plans or offer it as a paid upgrade. Because cPanel is only available on Linux-based operating systems, you will not be able to use it in a Windows environment. Luckily, most web hosting packages do not use Windows.
The GUI (Graphical User Interface) that you will be using in cPanel to carry out various tasks is fairly good and well organized, although it does look a little bit dated for 2016. Of course, this should not be a problem at all since it is the functionality and ease of use that it provides that matters the most.
This control panel basically does the same things that most of your other choices do, but it is setup in such a way that makes it easier to handle. So, why is it so popular? It could be due to a whole bunch of reasons. The main reason is probably that it is old, so it’s time-tested, and web hosting companies feel very comfortable with it. If it’s not broken, why fix it? That’s most likely what administrators are thinking.
As one of the only choices you have for a control panel that works in Windows hosting environments, Plesk is a good alternative to cPanel. It has much of the same features of other paid options, including multi-server support.
The interface looks a little bit cleaner, and more modern, than that of cPanel. But again, it needs to be said that the actual set of features – and what is going on behind the scenes – is very much similar to other popular control panels.
A free trial of Plesk is available. This is good news if you find out too late that you bought a hosting package without any control panel and you are struggling to setup the services you require.
Plesk is in use by a large number of web hosting companies, due to its flexibility among other factors. For example: GoDaddy offers Windows hosting with Plesk as a control panel. It can be used on just about any of the popular operating systems you are likely to find while you’re out searching for a home on the internet – such as CentOS, Ubuntu, Windows, and so on.
This is the only popular control panel option for those who want something completely free and open source. It works on BSD or Linux-based operating systems – not on Windows servers. This list of standard modules in Webmin should help you to decide whether it will be appropriate in your situation.
For the most part, Webmin can do everything that a basic user will need for their hosting account. So, if you don’t need to do anything too advanced, and the list of modules above looks like it will cover you, then you may want to give Webmin a try. It is particularly handy for those who were not offered a control panel included in their hosting package, or those who would like to save a little bit of extra money by sacrificing some features they probably wouldn’t use anyway.
Other uses for Webmin include web hosting companies that offer VPS (virtual private servers). Using another user interface called Cloudmin, it is possible to manage multiple virtual systems such as Xen, KVM, and OpenVZ. Although Cloudmin is also free, there are some limitations that can only be removed by upgrading to the pro version. If you are not in the business of hosting websites yourself though – and you do not intend to resell space to customers at a later date – you don’t need to worry about any of these details, or Cloudmin in general.
At the end of the day, the control panel you get will be based largely on which hosting provider and plan you choose. Most people do not buy them separately, because it’s just not very cost-effective that way. Large hosting companies get massive discounts based on the number of licenses they buy, so in turn they can offer them to you at a cheaper price than what you would have to pay on your own. If given the choice by your host, or you are still weighing up which provider to choose based on what they offer, cPanel is highly recommended.