How our SEO Toolkit helps you boost visibility and outrank competitors

SEO Toolkit

Your SEO needs to be top-shelf to help your customers find you, and more importantly, to pick you over your competitors. And with the SEO Toolkit from Plesk, you’ll be able to get there. Design and execute your SEO strategy. Monitor your rankings. And measure how you compare to the competition. All in one place.

Why get another SEO tool?

While other tools largely offer research capabilities to identify new keywords to use or report keywords used by competitors, they don’t offer the ability to go further and enable daily actions. The Plesk SEO Toolkit will give you this much-needed feature. Not to mention equip you with suggested daily actions to increase your site’s visibility on search engines.

To top it all off, the SEO Toolkit is a server-based proposition. Thus providing you increased efficiency, while at the same time driving costs down. With a completely free base plan, you have the freedom to get minimum benefits for life. Or even upgrade with the flexibility to only pay for the features you need.

How the SEO Toolkit works

The SEO Toolkit provides a daily overview of your site’s performance. Paired with Plesk Onyx 17.0 onwards, the toolkit enhances your site’s competitiveness in the market. In addition to market-standard features, like a KPI dashboard, the SEO toolkit offers on-server Log analysing features.

You can monitor how your keywords rank, as well as compare your performance against competitors. The SEO Toolkit will then go one step further. It’ll suggest actions you should take to boost your rankings and increase competitiveness.

Don’t have the latest Plesk Onyx yet? See what else is new after our last update and upgrade today.

Get acquainted with these 4 SEO Toolkit Features

Site Audits

Site audits analyse your website for common SEO issues like crawlability, and provide immediate optimization recommendations. By automating the checks for common SEO reviews like home page SEO, the site audit feature will provide you an actionable list of issues and solutions. Site audits also report on other issues like uniqueness of your website url and duplicate content within your site or on the web.

You can analyze search traffic, as well as review any crawl errors identified by the audit.

Logfile Analyzer

The logfile analyzer allows server-side review and parsing of logfiles, and provides meaningful reports on your web traffic. You can review search engine crawler activity on your website, and optimize your site for better online indexing and therefore better ranking.

The analyzer also provides in depth analysis about your visitors, their characteristics and their preferences, all of which are valuable inputs into boosting your site’s performance even further. You have the power to shortlist the browsers and OS you should optimise your site for, as well as what times in a day or days of the week when you need more server power to support peak traffic.

SEO Advisor

This is really a culmination of everything the SEO toolkit offers. The SEO adviser summarises a list that represents key recommended tasks you can do today to improve your site’s SEO. Actionable insights cover duplicated content, defective links and H1/H2/H3 tags, in addition to identifying high-volume keywords.

The Next best steps feature prioritises actions you would most benefit from immediately. Do you need to add more backlinks? Should you update and relaunch the content on a particular page? The SEO advisor does all this thinking for you.

Rank Tracker

The rank tracker provides detailed comparison of your keywords’ performance against competition. This feature allows you to respond to ranking changes quickly and efficiently, and provides you a platform from which to compete with and outlast your competition consistently.

The tracker brings laser focus to your efforts to climb atop SERPs and be front and center in your customers’ search results.

Your SEO friend and expert at no cost

The Plesk SEO Toolkit is an ideal companion to your Onyx subscription. And presents a significant upgrade, even if you have other SEO suites in your arsenal. Anyone looking to boost their site’s visibility in search engines, strategy and performance should at least try its unique features.

So go ahead and install the SEO toolkit extension for free! Or if you wish, browse around our SEO Toolkit offerings. Our tiered pricing gives a range of premium features to get the best out of your SEO efforts.

Don’t have Plesk yet?

Look no further. See how we can help grow your hosting or dev business with our many offerings, tailored for the individual web professional and/or IT administrators. Our team will be happy to meet you and show you around.

Do you really need a control panel? Here’s what we think

Control Panel - Do You Need One?

Web hosting control panels have become wildly popular over the last years for the rich features they offer hosting users. These software solutions allow users easily manage their VPS and dedicated servers as well as shared accounts. And without deep knowledge of system administration too – which in turn simplifies various tasks. Many consider control panels to be absolutely essential, especially on Unix and Linux servers. Others, however, see them as a needless cost.

The Pros of a Control Panel

Control Panel Pros

Your server’s purpose will have a drastic effect on how useful a control panel is for you. If you provide hosting services, a graphical interface to manage websites is a service your clients will expect. However, if you have a single-function server, a free tool like phpMyAdmin might be the only thing you regularly use. Making a control panel unnecessary.

The Cost of a Control Panel

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If you’re considering a control panel, you probably know it may not be free. You’ll need an annual license for most control panels. Unless a web host integrates this extra service into your monthly costs of server leasing. Of course, free control panels do exist. However, the reliability and quality level of these products is in question. And they hardly can be compared to commercial control panels.

A Control Panel and Hosting Business

Control Panel In Hosting Business

For those who hold solid skills in server administration tasks, a control panel can just be an extra, unnecessary layer. There’s no real need for a control panel of any type. Don’t fix what isn’t broken, as they say.

However, if you run a hosting business and care about scalability, it’s a different matter. Having a control panel will likely make completing tasks simpler and more efficient. And therefore, it’ll be a worthwhile investment for yourself and your customers.

The Versatile Plesk Onyx Control Panel

The versatile Plesk Onyx control panel

Plesk is an ideal multi-OS control panel for four main groups: administrators, digital professionals, resellers and end-users. Making it an extremely versatile tool for almost any web host.

Administrators

Admins, including web professionals and hosting providers, enjoy the Plesk control panel for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is a great tool for configuring services, so providers can use an all-in-one service instead of separately configuring a web or FTP server. After configuring, hosts can combine these services with server resources, such as disk space or traffic, to make hosting packages. These service plans could contain web applications like mail accounts and websites and be sold to clients.

Web Professionals

Such as web design agencies. They often buy VPS hosting that already has Plesk installed, or they add it on themselves. The benefits of this control panel for those in the web design industry include managing multiple aspects of their web presence and controlling service management operations.

More on VPS Control Panels here.

Web developers may use the Plesk control panel as a hosting platform to build websites, test them and show the results to clients. It gives control over their server backup and PHP settings – both important for a web administrator.

Resellers or Web Hosters

Another group that will appreciate the benefits of the Plesk control panel. Your business will resell HSP hosting services, using Plesk to purchase tons of resources. And then dividing them.

You can then sell the reduced packages to end-users with additional services. And you, as a reseller, will get to lower your expenses by allowing HSPs to perform server management.

End-Users

Even end-users benefit from access to a control panel. Through a host or reseller, customers can obtain a hosting plan and use Plesk to manage their various services.

Some of the features of the Plesk control panel for end-users include creating sites that they can then populate with their own website content and adding mail accounts.

So, is a hosting control panel actually for you?

Functionality is the main reason to think about it here. Will your server gain functionality with a control panel – and if so, what kind?

Consider if a control panel would save you time, whether it would make the server more attractive to potential clients, and if it could simplify regular tasks.

Get in touch with the button under here to find the right Plesk Onyx fit for you and your business. Or simply sign up for one of our free trials by clicking below. 

Let’s Encrypt on Plesk: Your key to a free SSL certificate

The web is an endless battleground. The good guys are always trying to keep the bad guys from hacking, ransoming, and conning their way into our online lives. Our best weapon? Encryption. The web works on trust, and thanks to encryption, HTTPS provides exactly that. But if a website is going to use it, it first needs to get free ssl certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA). Such as Let’s Encrypt.

Let’s Encrypt – What is it?

Let’s Encrypt will only issue the file if you can exhibit control over your domain. And you can do that by using a software client that uses ACME (Automatic Certificate Management Environment) protocol. Having the free SSL certificate means your communications get end-to-end encryption.

So, when files pass between your web server and its users, they become unreadable to anyone who intercepts them. And moreover, nobody can tamper with them.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation developed Certbot, which has now become the best known and most widely used ACME client on the block. Certbot verifies the domain’s ownership, fetches certificates, and takes care of TLS/SSL configuration on web servers using Nginx and Apache.

What does a Certificate Authority do?

Certificate Authorities (CAs) vouch for the authenticity of a TLS/SSL certificate when they validate them using cryptography. Operating systems and browsers use a directory of trusted CAs to make sure that site certificates are bona fide.

This kind of authentication was something we had to pay for in the past. But now, Let’s Encrypt has broken tradition to offer automated creation of each free SSL certificate for the end user. The whole thing runs with funding from sponsors and donors.

How Let’s Encrypt does its thing

The ACME protocol that Let’s Encrypt uses talks about how clients interact with its servers when asking for certificates and confirming domain ownership. Some point soon, it’ll be recognized as an official IETF standard.

Let’s Encrypt for HTTPS

Let’s Encrypt provides domain-validated free SSL certificates. This means that after a request for a free https certificate, Let’s Encrypt makes sure that it’s from someone who is truly in charge of that domain. It sends the client a one-of-a-kind token that it uses to create a key. The domain owner then needs to provide this via Web or DNS.

Let’s Encrypt for HTTP

In the case of HTTP, the process is a bit different. The client manufactures the key using the unique token and also an account token. Then the result goes in a file that the web server makes available. And the Let’s Encrypt servers get the file from this address. If the key matches, the client has established domain control, and they get a free SSL certificate.

The ACME protocol can outline a number of tests that a client can use to verify ownership of a domain. For HTTPS that approach resembles that for HTTP, but the client creates a certificate that is self-signed that includes the key. The DNS challenge searches a DNS TXT record for the key.

Let’s Encrypt Certbot Client

Certbot is by far the most widely used Let’s Encrypt client. It bundles up most main Linux distributions and is able to automatically configure for both Apache and Nginx. After it finishes installing, you can get free ssl certificate and update your Apache configuration as below.

sudo certbot –apache -d www.example.com

Certbot will ask some questions, run a challenge, download certificates, update your Apache configuration, and reload the server.

Certbot and Let's Encrypt on PleskAfter this, when you browse to https://www.example.com you will see a green lock which confirms both a valid certificate and an encrypted connection.

Each Let’s Encrypt free ssl certificate lasts for only 90 days, so you need to make sure that you set it to renew automatically.

This command will take care of renewing all a machine’s certificates: sudo certbot renew

If you type this command into a crontab so it runs every day, your certificates will always be renewed 30 days before expiration is due. And Certbot will reload the server after a successful renewal. So long as the initial creation of the certificate includes the –apache or –NGINX options.

More Let’s Encrypt-ACME Clients you should know of

The ACME protocol is open in nature and its documentation is very comprehensive, which has encouraged many other clients to develop.

You can find an up-to-date list of ACME clients here.

Certbot is one of the few clients to offer automatic web server configuration,  but the others do provide features that may be of interest.

  1. If you want to avoid Python and other Certbot dependencies, (perhaps because you want to create certificates in a constrained environment) you can pick one in languages like Go, and Node.js.
  2. Some clients are able to run without root privileges. Which is good. Because we consider running the smallest amount of privileged code good practice.
  3. Lots of clients are able to produce the DNS-based challenge automatically. They do this using the API of your DNS provider to create the relevant TXT record. This challenge also allows for harder to handle cases like encryption of web servers that are only accessible privately.
  4. You will find some clients integrated into web servers, reverse proxies, or load balancers. This makes configuration and deployment a breeze.

Lots of other clients can be used, and lots of other servers and services automate TLS/SSL setup thanks to Let’s Encrypt support.

How to make and update Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificates with Plesk

Plesk has a plugin that lets you handle Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificates.

To work with a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate the domain name must work in a web browser, regardless of whether or not it has any content. The process only works for a valid domain.

Here is how to get a Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificate for your domain:

  1. Log in to Plesk.
  2. On the (left) sidebar, click Websites & Domains
  3. Click on the Let’s Encrypt symbol to pull up the Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate page.
  4. Type a valid e-mail address in the box.
  5. Select the “Include www.(example.com)” as an alternate domain name check box. So that the SSL certificate protects your domain with and without the www prefix.

5.1. Failure to check the box will mean that the certificate only relates to example.com. If you select the checkbox, it will be valid for www as well.

5.2. Click Install. When installation finishes successfully you will get a confirmation message.

5.3. If it doesn’t work, check that the domain name is valid. Also, check that the domain is:

  • spelled right
  • registered
  • has proper DNS records
  • accessible in the web

When you create or add a domain to the server, be sure to add the relevant DNS records (with, an A record pointing to the server IP address as a minimum), and allow adequate time for the DNS changes to be disseminated.

6. In the left sidebar, click on Websites and Domains
7. Click Hosting Settings.
8. Under Security, select the SSL support check box, and the Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate in the Certificate list box.

Plesk renews Let’s Encrypt certificates automatically

So you don’t need to do anything. Let’s Encrypt free SSL certificates are valid for 90 days by default. But Plesk renews certificates every month automatically, which is what the Let’s Encrypt developers recommend.

Doing this sooner enhances your site’s security, and it’s clear to you and the visitors to your site. Also, this gives you extra time to find a solution if a renewal doesn’t go through for whatever reason.

Manually renewing an SSL certificate in Plesk

You can also manually renew a certificate if you:

  1. Log in to Plesk.
  2. In the left sidebar, click Websites & Domains
  3. Click the Let’s Encrypt icon and select “Renew”.

Our 5 Client Happiness Hacks for Digital Agencies to improve retention

Plesk talks about the 5 client happiness hacks to retain customers for your digital agency

If you look through advice aimed at agencies, you’ll quickly notice that it almost all focuses on landing more clients. But that’s just part of the story. You can also get more referrals by keeping your existing clients happy by using these five client happiness hacks.

Getting started is easy. Pick any hack from the list and try to use it this week. Then come back to this page and choose another one. Alternatively, if you’re focused on a single large client, put all these hacks into action faster to keep that big client – and your bank account – happy.

Pleskj shows how to keep clients happy when you're running a digital agency. Check outthis guy's happy face.

Hack #1: Proactively seek client feedback

If you wait for a client to complain about a problem, your agency is already in trouble. It’s damage control and burn the midnight oil time to make them happy again. Instead of assuming all is well, asking for client feedback regularly.

You’ll quickly strengthen your relationship with your client. And hear about problems when they’re still small and easy to deal with. You also find out about new project opportunities. Maybe they need a mobile app after the website’s finished? This approach also visibly demonstrates you care about your client’s success.

Putting this client happiness hack into action

  • Check out the book Crucial Conversations. On occasion (and hopefully rarely!), your clients will blast you with bad news. This book is full of helpful tools you and your team can use to navigate these high-stakes conversations smoothly.
  • Use surveys. Use an online survey tool like Survey Monkey to gather feedback from your clients at the end of each project, or annually for retainer clients.

Hack #2: Improve WordPress reliability

WordPress can be endlessly customized with plugins and other extension tools. Manually tracking every aspect of WordPress just doesn’t scale up. Unless you want to hire dedicated WordPress administrators, you might want to consider WordPress Toolkit by Plesk.

Using WordPress Toolkit improves client happiness in several ways. It enhances WordPress website security, so you won’t have to deal with the nightmare of a hacked client website. Furthermore, your clients will have access to all the latest capabilities because updates will be automated. Finally, you will have the ability to test new features in a test environment.

Putting this client happiness hack into action

  • Calculate the cost of manual WordPress work. Once you had it up, you will be surprised. We bet you are spending several hours per month per client just keeping WordPress sites up to date.
  • Upgrade your client’s WordPress experience. Check out the WordPress Toolkit and all it has to offer by clicking below.

Hack #3: Never miss a digital beat with Plesk

How many digital services and servers do you use each week for your clients?

If you have five clients, then it’s probably dozens. All these services bring advantages – like marketing automation and the ability to experiment on test servers. But there’s a dark side to all these services. What happens if you lose track of a critical service?

Your client’s site may go down, or a plugin may break. Using Plesk, you’ll have a single view that covers all your subscriptions, servers, and services. Your consistent delivery means that clients will never need to wonder or doubt your ability to deliver.

Putting this client happiness hack into action

  • Write up a list of your current services. If you have more than 10 critical services and servers, you need a better process.
  • Adopt Plesk to organize your agency’s services. If you are not organized, you cannot create results for your clients.

Hack #4: Challenge the client’s assumptions

Yes, you read that right. Challenging your client’s assumptions about their websites is critical to building long-term happiness. Here are a few ways to do that.

Challenge the client’s focus on custom development. Unlike digital agency owners, most clients are not immersed in the world of plugins, marketing automation, and related tools. When relevant, look for opportunities to propose using an off the shelf solution instead of building a new feature from scratch. Your client will save money, and the project will hit the finish line faster.

Identify the weak link in the client’s digital strategy. Your client may be focused on having a beautiful, high-performing website that can serve tens of thousands of users at a time. What about quality traffic? Without that, the client website will be a ghost town. If the traffic plan is weak, the client will not fall short of their business goals. They will be unhappy and may even blame the agency for not alerting them to the situation.

Putting this client happiness hack into action

  • Review your scope documents. Dust off these files and see what gaps you can find.
  • Ask the magic wand question. If your client had a magic wand to improve their business instantly, what kind of improvement would they like?

Hack #5: Carve out time for value-added ideas

What’s the difference between a right agency and a great agency? You might say creativity. That’s part of the story. Think about it from the client’s side. Why is creativity valuable? It helps them to achieve their goals faster.

To make your client’s happier, develop ideas that go beyond the assignment. Start with delivering the project – providing a new WordPress website. After that is complete, what other ways can you add value? Take a look at the client’s email list – is it active and growing? Alternatively, look at ways to reduce customer acquisition cost by adding referrals.

Putting this client happiness hack into action

  • Develop multiple option proposals. As consultant Alan Weiss recommends, every proposal you develop should include multiple options. The basic option will address what the client has requested while the other options add increasing value.
  • Look for the client’s blind spots. The client is deeply involved in their business, so they are going to have blind spots. To make your clients happier, constantly look for problems that you can fix. Propose additional projects to solve those problems.

What happens after you use these client happiness hacks

Using the client happiness hacks once is a good start. Making them into a regular habit is even better. By using these habits and Plesk to boost client happiness, you will be able to ask for and get referrals easily. Even better, you will feel better about your business because client complaints will become a distant memory.

Have you met WCMIA’s youngest ever speaker, Miles Lifton?

Wordcamp Miami: Plesk talks about the youngest WCMIA speaker Miles Lifton

A brief intro about this next impressive speaker and he takes the stage. About 4 feet tall, exuding all this techy confidence. So you know he’s done this before – been on stage, talking about what he does best. Oh, and by the way, he’s 11 years old. This is the third time Miles Lifton has spoken about code at a WordCamp, and his second time at WCMIA. “As you guys just heard, I’m Miles Lifton” he begins. And that was it – he had us all engaged.

Who’s Miles Lifton?

Miles Lifton is a young student from Florida who lives for tech. He believes there’s room for tech in everyone’s life, no matter their background, and no matter their age. With a few years’ tech experience under his belt, he specializes in Python, but can also code in at least 5 more programming languages. He says he’s here to show how a user-driven business model profits any business. Oh, and did we mention Miles is 11 years old? Yeah, we still can’t believe it.

Miles explains how WordPress shaped the Web

In his Wordcamp Miami talk, Miles Lifton chose to describe how WordPress has affected the internet over time. The creation of WordPress happened at just about the same time as the internet boomed.

With the web growing at a much faster rate than ever before, in came a platform that was going to streamline it all and act as a building block. So if you thought it was the web that contributed to the growth of WordPress, think again. It was actually vice versa. Yeah, I was surprised too!

Why Miles chooses WordPress over any other

Miles shows that WordPress is used by over 75 million websites worldwide, with over 59.9% of the market share. And its closest competitor, Joomla!, only has about 6.6%.

It’s open source, which according to Miles is much better than proprietary. He tells us all that this is the reason WordPress is so amazingly easy to use. Because it’s continually being built by its users. Whatever users need, they can have. Just like JetPack and BuddyPress. Anyone can contribute, anyone can use it.

WordPress is completely plugin-based and the simplicity makes building websites fast. Even leaving the possibility of temporary websites to emerge. Because where before this took days or months, now it takes minutes and it respects the four freedoms.

But overall it’s just simple and user-centric. On that note, check out the WP Toolkit we’ve created to simplify the lives of WordPress users. But one of the things Miles Lifton loves the most about the WordPress project is Freedom zero, the fact that you can use it for anything that you want.

Why Miles so believes in the WordPress model

In his talk, he showed case studies of successful companies, like Chipotle, using the user-driven business model. Just like WordPress does.

He went into the deep questions we should ask ourselves when we’re involved in any project or business – how open are we to user input? Does my product suit my needs or my customers’? Am I willing to change to suit my market’s needs? How do I capitalize on my competitors’ failures?

Miles’ goal was to simply highlight the benefits of a business letting go of the reins a little bit and letting the users take over to a certain degree. “No, I don’t have a business”, he says, “this is purely observational”. But he’s 11.

Chatting to Miles

Plesk chatting to Miles Lifton at #WCMIA

When we asked about what he thought about the future of the internet he felt that there will be a shift from professional to pure entertainment. And companies will use it in this way. Listening to him talk about his research and observations on the matter and what will happen with social media and BuddyPress was really impressive.

Us Pleskians have been blown away by this dude. And so was the whole community. He’s wise beyond his years. And he was able to answer every question thrown at him, whether techy or opinion-based.

I had a minute to speak with him and told him I have never seen such a young speaker at a WordCamp in Europe so far. He’s smart and responded confidently.

Plesk supports the new Kid Camps

We need more kids like Miles in tech and in WordPress. So this took me to my conversation with Sandy Edwards who was running the 5th annual Kids Camp at WordCamp Miami. While homeschooling her own son for 3 years, Sandy became passionate about ensuring equal opportunities of employment for kids after high school. In a job that makes sense for them.

Kids Camp this year divided itself into two age categories. The 6 to 13 year-olds learned to build their own blogs and post content with WordPress. While the teens built a simple store with WP. They learned valuable coding, designer and marketing skills. Potentially prepping them not just to build a store, but also turn it into a real business.

Plesk gives a drone prize to kids at WCMIA - WordCamp Miami
Drone prize Plesk awarded the kids at the event

This year, WCMIA’s motto was “WordPress of the Future”. Well, we can tell that the future of WordPress lies in the hands of those smart kids and it’s endearing to see fellow WP community members put a lot of effort and passion into empowering them.

Will we see Miles again anytime soon?

He told me he’d absolutely love to apply for a talk at WordCamp Europe in 2019. He’d already had that in mind this year, but it proved difficult due to time conflicts.

When we asked him whether he has his own business going, with all this knowledge he has, he said not yet. But he’s already planning to. We’re pretty sure, we’re gonna hear about this bright mind again in the near future.

When CTO, Jan Loeffler, reveals Plesk Hosting Tactics at Cloudfest 2018 [Video]

Successful Hosting Tactics Revealed at Cloudfest 2018

Our Plesk CTO, Jan Loeffler, made his grand entrance at CloudFest, Rust, yesterday. As he entered the main forum room bouncing a Plesk-branded football, the Fifa World Cup anthem came on for all to hear. He was going to share inside tactics on how to win, what he called, the ‘Hosting Champions League’.

Jan joined Plesk 2 years ago as CTO with the vision to have Plesk become the leading hosting control panel worldwide, and keep it that way. He’s a diehard football fan. But there’s another thing he feels absolutely passionate about – and that’s cloud hosting. At Cloudfest 2018, he brought these two worlds together.

Jan Loeffler holding a football at his Cloudfest 2018 talk - Secret tactics of how to win the Hosting Champions League

When hosting becomes a game, you need to go long and strong to win the league and increase your revenues. Now Jan reveals how to take home the gold, with collected advice from none other than our very own Pleskian community.

Who are the likely Hosting contenders?

Think of the hosting industry as if it were a football league game. Where would you put your money? And if you think of the likely contenders – how well are they playing the game, and what are they doing?

This is what Jan’s trying to gauge when we look internally. Are we being team players? Are we coaching our customers on what’s best? According to Jan, you can only win the Hosting Game by adapting to what your customers want.

Jan’s advice for all the Hosting teams out there

Offer Hyper-tailored Solutions

How can you score and win the hosting cup? Jan insists that hosters can only compete with giants like AWS by offering cloud service solutions to customers on top of their standard offers.

“Customers want simplicity and great service, which is something that’s difficult for companies like AWS to provide. This is where you, hosters, should step up and become your customers’ coaches. You have the experience and the infrastructure to “tackle the defense” and to advise them to design perfectly adapted solutions.”

Notice the current hosting scene and how many traditional hosters have ignored the winds of changed and not adapted. None of these traditional hosters would have made it to the Premier League if this were a tournament. Jan suggests offering a custom solution and charging a higher price.

Address the Current Web Developer Trends

Get on the WordPress Wagon. WordPress dominates as the most popular way of building websites with 30% of all websites built on this platform worldwide. Half the WP sites out there are hosted by 15 hosting groups. Jan says “WordPress is a must-have for all hosters and service providers”. The current hosting winner for WordPress is GoDaddy as they host most of the wordpress sites all over the world.

Plesk audience at Jan Loeffler's Cloudfest 2018 talk - Winning the hosting champions league

 

Another one is git. Why don’t hosters use git if 70% of web developers use it as their source control system? That’s why Jan advises hosters to include this in their offering. Go where your customers are.

The Call to Hosters

Our hosting partners continue to launch new products, and now they’re even doing so with the new Plesk Onyx and all its updates. We’re talking AI, SEO, Security – the works. So a big thank you to the following hosting partners for their immediate support with our latest product: Infortelecom, UOL, InterNetX, ZNetLive, Conetix, Codero, A2 Hosting, Axarnet, Webplus, Exabytes, Managed.com, OzHosting, 34sp.com, Ptisp. Jan quotes Van Gogh in saying that it’s all the little things that lead to success, and we all agree. 

Plesk Cloudfest 2018 Talk by Jan Loeffler - Great things are done by a series of small things brought together - Van Gogh

 

Finally, Jan encourages hosters to step out of their comfort zone and team up Plesk. A proven ally that runs on all the major cloud players, like Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. You can plan your gameplay with the all-in-one platform in your corner. And use the available extensions and features in order to win the Hosting Cup. Even the sky isn’t the limit when you can scale to the cloud. 

So, who won the Plesk football?

You didn’t think the Plesk-branded football was just a prop, did you? What would Cloudfest be without a little competition added to the mix? Jan fired a Plesk-Trivia question to the audience, promising to award the Adidas ball to the first correct respondent. “Which is the most visited feature page in Plesk?” he asked.

Answers started shooting from all directions. “WordPress Toolkit” – good following, but no. The “Extension Catalog” – nope, even more than that.  “The Dashboard?” – close, but no. And it wasn’t the login page either! “The help page?” – no, that’s low on the most viewed list, says Jan cheekily.

Plesk Cloudfest 2018 Talk - Jan Loeffler with football winner Patrick Blank from WSPN

 

In the end, it was Patrick Blank from WSPN who gave the right answer and took home the football. Let’s leave a bit of mystery here. Can you guess what the most visited feature page on Plesk is? Let us know in the comments below!

Watch Jan Loeffler’s full keynote speech here

Video Update (March 20, 2018): We now have Plesk CTO – Jan Loeffler’s entire talk below. It’s 23 minutes of great insights – hit play to have a listen. Jan also shares what’s new on Plesk Onyx, justifying all the buzz around it. And the answer to the trivia question will be revealed at the end: “Which is the most visited feature page on Plesk?”

What you may have missed at last weekend’s Cloudfest Hackathon

This year, the intention behind the Cloudfest Hackathon was for the big guys to contribute to the open source communities. The pitched projects were across different CMS – WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, and involved diverse companies. The participating developers and sys-admins were free to choose which projects they wanted to contribute to. And so the event began!

The Cloudfest Hackathon Event

Cloudfest Hackathon event location 2018 - Plesk sponsors

Inside Europa-Park in Rust, the Cloudfest Hackathon kicked off with a casual get-together lunch. And with the presentations of the open source projects by host Jeffrey Hardy, it was time to hack! It was also time to repeatedly hear the most used expressions in the development world: “But it works on my machine”, “Must be a bug” or “This worked earlier!”

Some were more prepared than others – check out these guys’ matching hackathon wardrobe and hairstyles. We take the Cloudfest Hackathon coordination very seriously around here.

Though it was clear that most people are used to collaborating together on projects remotely, it still seemed like an overall amazing experience to bring everyone together and create some great code with those like-minded people, in person.

Plesk Team on Projects 1 and 5

Pleskians at Cloudfest Hackathon 2018 - Plesk people post

Here at Plesk, we’re very supportive of open source projects. So we were more than happy to help co-organize the event and be part of a great sponsor list. That way, attendees could go without having to worry about accommodation and travel expenses. Our fellow Pleskians participated in developing 2 out of 6 proposed projects. Project 1: “Automated security check for WordPress plugins” and Project 5: “Domain Connect Example DNS Provider”.

Cloudfest Hackathon 2018 - Project 1 - Plesk
Cloudfest Hackathon 2018 - Project 5 - Plesk

For project 1, we built a simplified command line tool to extract security reports out of the RIPS static analyzer. Then it sends them to given email addresses to integrate them into CI tools or extension pipelines. Just like the WordPress plugin repository SVN. As for project 5, I’ll let our CTO, Jan, tell you all about that:

Project insights from David and Arnold – CMS Garden and GoDaddy

I got the chance to chat with two iconic people behind the projects ideas we got involved in – David Jardin (CMS Garden) and Arnold Blinn (GoDaddy).

David met the founders of a German startup who located an important safety gap in Joomla core with a security scanner tool they had developed. The Joomla community strived to implement the tool into the Joomla extensions directory to use it for plugin and core review. Today, 30% of all websites run on WordPress and David’s passionate about making the web a safer place. That’s why he suggested working on this project for the WordPress CMS, as well during the Cloudfest Hackathon.

One of Plesk’s main goals is to make the web a safer place and ease the workload that comes with managing WordPress and Joomla! sites. Find out more about the toolkits we developed to facilitate your working life by clicking below.

Project number 5 was already a huge success during last year’s Cloudfest hackathon. Arnold explained that Domain Connect is an open standard that makes it easy for a user to configure DNS for a domain running at a DNS provider to work with a Service running at an independent Service Provider. The user can do so without understanding any of the complexities of DNS. This project is very valuable and it’s kind of surprising that it has not been initiated and realized years ago. This project had the most contributors by far with up to 12 people working on it at the same time.

The result was a step higher than we thought

The Cloudfest Hackathon lasted 3 days with 55 coders working on 6 different projects until the late evenings. This edition had brilliant minds behind it like Timo Kargus, David Jardin, Sabrina Waltz and our CTO Jan Löffler.

Plesk at Cloudfest Hackathon 2018 - I'm a nerd - get over it

This team managed to create a unique and inclusive setting for innovative projects and brilliant code in a laid-back atmosphere that we won’t easily forget. And they happily confirmed that the new open-source thinking everyone brought to the Cloudfest Hackathon was a huge success.

The idea is to move further in this direction and to aim for more participants and open source projects across different CMS next year. Cloudfest’s organizer team will soon be in the early planning stages for 2019’s edition. And we can tell you now – us Pleskians will be involved in one way or another. Stay tuned.

What is a Control Panel? Everything you need to know

Managing web services offered by a hosting provider used to require extensive sysadmin knowledge, including the ability to control server services via CLI. For some experts, this can be an effective way to manage servers. But for most system admins, a control panel with a GUI presents a much easier way to manage and monitor all hosted services you use.

This smoothens how you manage your services – be it web hosting, mailboxes, server databases, DNS settings and more. Monitoring is another important control panel function. And the better hosting control panels will offer you ways to stay abreast of CPU, memory and bandwidth use.

Superiority and functionality of panels will vary. But what you need to look out for is a user-friendly GUI, the ability to run Cron jobs as well as advanced security features. Let’s go for a full run-through what your next control panel should look like, what to expect, and what you shouldn’t settle for.

Basic elements of a Control Panel

Effectively take charge of a website hosting environment and make sure the website control panel you choose offers the following essential, basic functions.

Domain and DNS Management

You depend on domains to access website resources. Hence, your control panel should have a section that lets you manage everything about the domains you’re hosting on your server. This includes new add-ons and subdomains, or managing existing ones.

Subdomains

Subdomains allow you to create a separate website area or an entirely new website. All while still using your main domain name. So it can be useful to add a prefix to your website domain name, such as support.domain.com. Your control panel needs to allow you to create as many subdomains as you need. The power’s yours!

Add-On Domains

Most control panels will give you the option to add a number of domains to the hosting environment. You’ll find these as “Add-on domains”. Now, you can choose to assign an add-on domain to a specific website. Or you can simply park it if you currently don’t want the domain to point to any website. Note that a parked domain can point to an existing website. So in this case, every request for that domain is simply redirected to another website of your choice.

DNS Management

Can you imagine if all your DNS data was scattered? You can usually host all the DNS data for a domain on your hosting environment itself. Including the entire range of DNS records, like nameserver and A records, MX records and TXT records. The right hosting control panel for you will allow you to fully customize DNS for each add-on domain you host.

File Manager

Organization is key. How can you keep track of all your the files on your server? You need an easy way to upload, remove and manage these files. So your control panel should present a GUI that enables quick and easy file management. The simpler, the better. Because whether you use a CMS such as WordPress, or not, file management is a basic daily task for admins. Solving CMS issues is also much quicker with a file manager. There is an alternative – enter FTP (File Transfer Protocol), still supported by most control panels, to be honest. But FTP requires using a separate software application which you’ll need to set up on the side.

Mailbox Management

You’ll have multiple email accounts (also known as mailboxes) associated with each domain. Your control panel should come to the rescue here too by letting you create, remove and otherwise manage these accounts. It’s common for web hosting packages to include POP3 or even IMAP email free of charge.

Mail forwarding is another important feature you should look out for. Doesn’t matter whether you are forwarding to an internal email account or an email account hosted elsewhere. Another common practice for control panels is allowing you to configure anti-SPAM solutions ( including DKIM, SPF and DMARC ). Handy because it lets you monitor and protect incoming emails against blacklists and open-source filtering databases.

Here are three great tools that free you from junk email by the way.

Logging and Monitoring

Every system administrator should stay on top of key usage statistics, such as visitor counts, memory use and the total use of bandwidth. A control panel will help you identify websites which use excessive amounts of server resources. As well as enable you to avoid high bandwidth charges – before it is too late.

Advanced Control Panel Features

Not every control panel offers the same features. Although you should make sure basic elements are covered, we recommend you consider the following features too when you evaluate a control panel.

Security: TLS/SSL

The ability to manage TLS/SSL is an essential feature of your control panel. These encryption features prevent your confidential data from getting intercepted. So you can protect user credentials and credit card numbers that hackers can effortlessly steal, via something as common as an unsecured wifi connection.

Check out 5 tips to make your site and server more secure.

Further Security Features

Here at Plesk, we expect all control panels to offer more advanced security features in this day and age. For example, you can get protection against HotLinking. What’s HotLinking? Well, it’s when an unscrupulous website owner links videos or images on your website. And then they display these media assets as their own content.

There are two problems with this. First, the website is stealing your content. Secondly, it’s stealing your bandwidth. HotLink protection can restrict the access other servers have to image files on your server.

Also, consider that you need to be able to block access to a web server directory in all cases. Unless there’s a file that the web server can load, such as index.html. Leaving directory access unrestricted can lead to security threats taking hold.

Read more about why Security is important and how Fail2ban, ModSecurity, and Firewalls help.

ModSecurity

Have you thought about unauthorized users? Included in some control panels, ModSecurity is an application firewall that’s operated on an open-source basis. And it helps you monitor applications, while also logging activity and implementing access limits where necessary. One way of blocking access is by blocking IP addresses. ModSecurity will help you do this.

It also helps to have SSH access, which gives you encrypted file transfers and logins. Useful to configure the remaining services that you cannot configure via the control panel.

Automation

There’s only so much time in a day, right? And you don’t want to be working round the clock. Automating server maintenance is useful for system administrators because it frees up time they can use for other tasks.

Many control panels allow you to use Cron as a scheduler, which runs scripts at specific times on specific days. Great for automating server tasks like database view updates, performing backups and checking your site for broken links.

Custom Error Pages

Standard rule of System administration – Glitches will happen. And you don’t want to serve an unprofessional error message to customers, revealing who your hosting provider is. This is where the custom error message comes in.

You can customize a range of messages in a worthy control panel, including the typical “404 – not found” message. Your messages can, of course, be more descriptive and contain elements including your company logo and instructions on finding help.

Managing Databases

The bigger the website, the more users and the more content involved. Larger websites will manage content by means of a database. Any CMS, such as WordPress, will install a database on your web server. As is the case for most e-commerce platforms.

In turn, many hosting services supply MySQL as an open-source DBMS (Database Management System). Your control panel will let you add, configure and remove databases as you need.

Custom versus Commercial and Open Source Control Panels

Web hosts tend to offer one of two types of control panels. One is a commercial or open source control panel. Usually purchased from a third party, like a million other web hosts around the world. Or you can have a custom panel that is proprietary to the web host, often developed in-house. Custom control panels can be very clean and easy to use. But be aware that they are sometimes unexpectedly limited in functionality.

Some custom control panels, however, are a real mess and become more of an obstacle when it comes to server management tasks. Beginners can also struggle to switch from a custom panel to a more fully-featured panel later on. If you choose a host that uses a popular control panel, like Plesk, you’ll find you can easily switch to another host without needing to re-train your staff on the new control panel.

But if you’re confused, see which made our list of hosting control panels for 2019.

So why have a Control Panel?

You’ll find control panels included in almost all hosting packages. The control panel your host uses is unlikely to be the most important factor you consider when choosing a host, but it’s an important consideration nonetheless.

And as with any software product, the optimal way to evaluate a website control panel is to experience it yourself. Most panels offer a live online preview or free trial which helps you evaluate the functionality and GUI user-friendliness. Plesk offers a free trial, so while you’re here, check it out and see how it feels.

It’s a good idea to try and perform the routine tasks you regularly perform and to compare how long it takes you. A visually-stunning control panel is not necessarily the most effective tool. Luckily we’re a bit of both. But don’t take our word for it. Try it out before you decide, and get in touch with us if you need to.