Top Linux Hosting Control Panels of 2019 – cPanel alternative

Top Linux Hosting Control Panels

Server management professionals need to keep a lot of plates spinning in the air (so to speak) which isn’t always easy. That’s why Linux hosting control panel software similar to Plesk and cPanel were created, to help make their lives that bit easier. They offer toolboxes for busy professionals who have to deal with lots of domains scattered across dedicated and virtual private servers.

These kinds of Linux server management panels are popular with users because they’re good, but some are put off by the fact that they don’t come for free. That’s the reason why some folks opt for free open source Linux control panels. On paper they look to be on a par with the likes of Plesk, but can that actually be true? Let’s cast our eye over a few of these free hosting control panels and see how they measure up.

Ajenti

Ajenti is Linux server management software that’s designed to make website creation less of a chore. It boasts a streamlined and contemporary interface, intended to get you up and running with application servers, databases, and routing with a minimum of fuss. It’s comfortable handling apps written in a good selection of languages, including PHP-FPM, Python [WSGI], Ruby Puma and Unicorn, Node.Js, Exim 4 and Courier IMAP. Everything is pre-configured, so right from the get-go you can use virtual e-mails, DKIM, DMARC and SPF. The Ajenti Linux web panel is scripted in the Python language and it works on a good selection of Linux distributions.

CentOS Web Panel

CentOS Web Panel, as you might have guessed, gives you a clean installation of CentOS. You get a wide range of useful features, but there are far too many to mention here, so here are the edited highlights: Apache web server with Mod Security and automatic rules updates, Varnish cache server, Antivirus + SpamAssassin, Nginx as a reverse proxy, DBMS ( MySQL/MariaDB ) + phpMyAdmin, PHP 5.2-5.6 and 7.x, Postfix + Dovecot + Roundcube webmail, backup solution, Firewall ( CSF ), Softaculous one-click script installer to name just a few.

Froxlor

Froxlor is geared towards those who need to roll out installations of email and web servers in just minutes instead of hours. It has lots of uses, and the one that we are interested in is that of lightweight Linux hosting control panel.  You get integrated ticketing system support, different user levels such as customers and resellers, advanced SSL management, IP per domain, and more. All in all, Froxlor is a versatile Linux server management software with a lot going for it.

ISPConfig

ISPConfig is another Linux control panel that supports lots of different Linux distributions. It lets you look after one or many servers from the same control panel, regardless of whether it’s a virtual machine or a physical box. It’s happy to handle Apache/Nginx, Postfix and Dovecot/Courier, MySQL, PureFTPD, Bind/MyDNS and others too. There are four different levels of access, so you have the flexibility to have your users log in as administrators, resellers, email users or clients.

Kloxo-MR

Kloxo-MR is a fork of Kloxo. Casual users may initially find it a bit frustrating as it’s very richly featured for a free web panel, and by that I mean that it’s complex. It can take a long list of web and web cache servers in its stride, including Apache, Nginx, Nginx-Proxy and Lighttpd-proxy, Hiawatha, Hiawatha-proxy, Squid, Varnish, in and ATS. It also gives you support for billing software like AWBS, WHMCS, HostBill, TheHostingTool, AccountLab Plus, Blesta and BoxBilling. Kloxo-MR, lets you manage a MySQL/MariaDB server, mail server, DNS server, FTP server and more.

Sentora

Sentora is an open-source Linux hosting control panel that was brought into being by the original ZPanel’s creators. It’s perfectly happy running software like Apache HTTPd, PHP, ProFTPd, MySQL/MariaDB, Postfix, Dovecots and more, which simplifies the web hosting management process considerably. It also lets you extend its functionality with modules courtesy of the Sentora community.

Vesta

Vesta is a Linux hosting control panel with a straightforward and intuitive interface. It was conceived as a simple solution and they seem to have got that right. Functionality wise, Vesta lets you run a Web server, DNS server, FTP server, database server, email server, and much more. It also supports Nginx with no fuss and makes fast data backups a breeze. Vesta has advanced installation settings that let you install your server software quick as a flash.

Webmin

Webmin is a popular web-based Linux hosting control panel, used mostly for user account management, Apache administration, DNS and FTP configuration, and other bits and pieces besides. Many admins use Webmin to handle their LAMP stacks, but for lots of other things to, thanks to the fact that it’s so extendable. Webmin is a Linux control panel that comes with a fair few bundled modules.

How does Plesk Onyx do a better job than these other Linux control panels?

Good question. The short answer is that it does a lot more than its free competitors and it does it better. Plesk Onyx is Linux server management software with a whole host of automated and intuitive tools. It gives users of all persuasions a virtual tool bag that’s both versatile and comprehensive. There are various editions of this hosting platform. It supports Windows as well as various Linux versions such as Cloud Linux, Red Hat Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS, so it’s pretty versatile.

Other benefits include more than 100 extensions that you can use to increase the functionality of this Linux web panel. Multi-server management is available under certain versions. Docker, Github and Let’s Encrypt ( which gives you power over SSL certificates ) extends the list of tools you get with Plesk.

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Plesk is a hosting control panel that’s certified for use with all of the big cloud platforms, including Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. Plesk’s comprehensive list of great features places it well above the competition. The rolling approach to improvement means that despite being good, it’s always getting better, and responsive technical support means that Plesk users are never left alone with a problem.

All in all, Plesk is Linux server management software that offers users a lot for their investment. It outshines the free open source alternatives in many areas, which is why it has become the go-to solution for so many serious users.

Your guide to Linux server administration

Linux Server Administration

Managing a Linux server is not the same as managing a Linux workstation, and Linux server administration is miles away from running a desktop operating system like Windows or Mac OS X. Read this article to find out everything you need to know about managing a Linux server, whether dedicated or cloud-hosted.

What is Linux server management?

Technology staff that are new to Linux server management need to understand that Linux servers are different from the many Linux distributions available for workstation, or desktop use. As with Windows server editions, Linux server editions are more powerful and are built to serve high demands.

Linux servers include additional features for Linux server management that makes it easier to handle network administration. These management tools include advanced system administration features and the ability to administer databases too. Your Linux server edition is also capable of running advanced web applications and other services.

Choosing a Linux server means you get the benefit of high levels of security and solid stability, while retaining a large degree of flexibility. Linux server administration involves choices, one of these are which Linux distribution you prefer – choosing amongst CentOS, Debian or Ubuntu for example. Server administrators like the fact that Linux is open source.

The difference between a dedicated and a cloud server

If you’re planning on acting as a Linux server administrator you need to understand the difference between a dedicated server, and a cloud server. A dedicated server is a machine that is fully dedicated to your application. You rent this server from a company who acts as the owner.

Linux server management could also involve a cloud server. Here, your server could be a part of a pool of cloud servers, sharing physical resources with other server instances. Cloud Linux servers are typically run as virtual machines and have their benefits, including a lower management overhead. But some server admins prefer dedicated servers.

How to perform Linux server management for a dedicated server

We’ve mentioned that each type of Linux server management has pros and cons. Dedicated servers undoubtedly have perks, mainly centered around the fact that you have more control over the server. With cloud hosted Linux servers, the ability to customize is more limited and you have fewer choices around the exact operating system version and the applications on the machine.

On the flipside, Linux server management that involves a dedicated server includes higher responsibilities. First, your responsibilities around security are much tighter: while cloud hosts will install firewalls and other protective services a dedicated server will require closer security management.

Linux server administrators in control of a dedicated server should pay attention to the limitations imposed by SSH. Network services use this protocol for a broad variety of purposes, and server functions tend to create a lot of connections. These purposes range from remote login through to management consoles. Exceeding the number of available concurrent SSH sessions can cause service disruptions.

We mentioned firewalls earlier, a salient responsibility that everyone that practices Linux server administration in a dedicated setting faces is that of updates and patches. Many operating systems would automatically run updates on a regular basis, but Linux requires the sysadmin to trigger patches when these are available. Regularly installing Linux security updates are crucial and administrators are ultimately responsible for this on a dedicated server.

Finally, logs on Linux can be incredibly revealing. While the host is responsible for the smooth running of a cloud server, dedicated Linux server administration involves closer scrutiny. Whether it is the bootup process that needs debugging or a glitchy application, your dedicated server’s OS logs will tell you what the source of the problem is, quickly.

Managing cloud servers

Frankly, Linux server management involving a cloud server is a lot easier. There are some similarities with managing a dedicated server but there are quite a few points you simply won’t need to take care of. First and foremost, though some dedicated server providers will look after your hardware, many won’t, and dedicated server management could involve hardware management. With cloud servers, hardware management is not in the picture at all.

On the flipside cloud Linux server management involves constraints. You cannot customize too much with a cloud server because so many variables are under the control of the cloud host. In fact, you are sharing hardware which significantly removes customization options. Yet there is a range of choices with cloud providers, with some offering more opportunity for customization than others.

Also note that you are reliant on the cloud provider’s security arrangements. This could be a good thing if you have a very capable cloud provider, or a big risk if your cloud provider practices bad Linux server management. Yes, you can apply firewalls on some levels plus other security arrangements, but your options are nonetheless restricted.

The importance of server monitoring for Linux server administration

Server monitoring is clearly important, whether you are practicing Linux server management in a dedicated setting or in a cloud setting. Yes, cloud providers will monitor many aspects but any serious Linux sysadmin should use their own monitoring tools. Though every sysadmin needs to pick their tool of choice there are some tools that stand out. We think these tools are great choices:

  • Disk utility. Try iotop to check whether your disks are in good shape. It provides Linux server management experts with real insights into the efficiency of the input/output aspects of their machines. Reliable data transmission is key to server performance.
  • Monitor network traffic. Not sure what’s going on with your network traffic? Check out nload, which will show you what is consuming the most bandwidth on your machine and whether there are any network glitches.
  • Connection monitor. Hacking and cybercrime is a huge problem. Monitor your network connections with iftop, the tool that shows you the active network connections to your server. Any unexpected connection should be investigated as it could be the result of an intrusion.

It’s worth consulting an expert

The right choice between dedicated and cloud Linux server management requires a real think-through of your business needs and requirements. Get help with this choice, even though dedicated servers have advantages many businesses find that cloud server are better for their needs. This is because a cloud server can provide a release from many of the requirements involved in maintaining a server operating system.

If you do decide to pay for a dedicated server, make sure you have the right Linux server administration expertise to fully manage the machine end to end. In fact, the skills you have available to your business may very well determine whether you choose dedicated server hosting, or choose a cloud hosting solution.