Hosting Control Panels and Hosting Platforms: The Definitive Guide - Plesk

Hosting Control Panels of 2018 – The Definitive Guide

If you’re involved in managing servers for web hosting then you’ll appreciate the importance of having a simple, yet highly effective method of monitoring and looking after your hosting infrastructure. The most effective way of managing all the processes related to routine tasks of hosting infrastructure is to use a web hosting control panel.

Fortunately, this issue has been addressed by many hosting companies as they include their own hosting control panel or Graphical User Interface (GUI).

The web hosting control panel approach will allow you to monitor and adjust your server services from virtually anywhere with a stable internet connection. We’ve made this detailed guide to help you understand the most popular options available on the market and decide which one’s the best choice for you.

Common Hosting Control Panel Features

Most server control panels provide you with a massive set of tools. The overall list of features may vary slightly from product to product. However, here we’re going to focus our attention on the most typical categories of tools:

  • Domain Name System (DNS) management.
  • Control over DBMS. The most typical options are MySQL and PostgreSQL.
  • Server account management (user accounts setup/configuration, quotas, access rights).
  • Backups (full server backup, backups of separate accounts, backup automation/ scheduling).
  • Mailing infrastructure management (Exim/Dovecot/Postfix mail servers management, DKIM/SPF/DMARC configuration, IMAP/POP3/SMTP protocols support, e-mail accounts management, mail queue supervision).
  • SSL certificates management and automation.
  • Log files access and reporting.
  • Ongoing monitoring of all system services via a web-based interface.
  • Ability to install additional services and apps.
  • Support of Linux and Windows operating systems

As any other software on the market, hosting control panels have regular updates and various add-on packages. Top control panels have special enterprise versions with specific features:

Comparing Hosting Control Panels

Although each panel should, in theory, ensure a similar level of control, the actual situation may vary from panel to panel. Here goes basic comparison of the most popular hosting control panels and their features:

Plesk Onyx Webmin ISPconfig Zpanel
Backend language PHP, C, C++ Perl PHP PHP
Linux compatibility
Windows compatibility
DNS management
E-mail ( inc. SPF,DKIM,DMARC )
WordPress/Joomla! dedicated solutions
Extension Ecosystem

What are the major industry players? What each hosting control panel has to offer? What makes them different from each other? Here we go with the answers.

Plesk Onyx hosting platform

Plesk is a leading commercial hosting platform which dominates in the European market and is one of the major industry players in the United States. The platform comes in several editions and supports Linux (including Debian, Ubuntu, CentOS, Red Hat Linux, Cloud Linux) and Windows operating systems.

Plesk Hosting Control Panel - Dashboard

Plesk offers simplified and automated workflows for hosters and agencies, as well as provides its own ecosystem with more than 100 third-party extensions. The latest version of Plesk is integrated with Github and Docker. It has multi-server management features and is able to obtain or update SSL certificates automatically using the Let’s Encrypt service.

This commercial control panel gives you framework ready environment for Node.js, PHP, Python and Ruby On Rails. Is WordPress your favorite content management system? Plesk’s WordPress Toolkit is the ultimate solution to automate cloning/staging, ensure high-security standards and utilize mass-management features.

Hosting Control Panel by Plesk - Security

Plesk is an advanced hosting platform with a huge set of extensions. Giving you everything you may need to manage any Linux/Windows hosting infrastructure efficiently.

Try Plesk For Free! Buy Plesk


Another open-source version of hosting control panel is offered by Webmin. This panel consists of a web server and a number of CGI programs which update different system files directly (like /etc/inetd.conf and /etc/psswd). No doubt that one of Webmin’s strongest pros is its modularity, you’ve got hundreds of extra addons that can be installed and ensure the ability to control extra apps on their Linux systems.

Here we go with just a few features provided by Webmin out of the box:

  • Management of user accounts, quotas and groups
  • DNS services management
  • Samba management – file sharing & related services
  • Web/ftp/e-mail/dhcp/ssh/OpenLDAP/proxy  servers management
  • Mount, dismount and administer volumes, hdd’s and partitions
  • Built-in file manager
  • Firewall management

Its Cloudmin tool is capable of managing virtual systems including KVM, OpenVZ and Xen.


ISPconfig is a rather popular open-source hosting platform with efficient enterprise support. According to ISPconfig, it has reached 40,000 downloads per month. The product supports IPv6, OpenVZ and multiple servers deployment. Basic features of ISPconfig are in charge of majority of the typical tasks ( web/ftp/e-mail/ssh servers management ), however the installation process is still questionable, since a lot of installation steps are not automated.


Zpanel is an open-source web-based control panel that runs on a LAMP environment and supports an unlimited number of resellers. It’s compatible with Microsoft Windows and some POSIX family operating systems.

The web interface is highly functional and minimalistic. Administration panel consists of simple modules focused on certain tasks (example: Apache config, DNS manager, FTP accounts, and so on). Unfortunately, this software has not been updated since 2014 and might not be maintained anymore.


Ajenti is a Linux control panel written on Python and allows you to launch and configure websites in a fast and easy way. Minimalistic user-friendly interface makes it possible to setup app servers, routing, dns and databases in a matter of minutes. With Ajenti control panel you can setup applications in Python (WSGI), Php (Php-Fpm) and Ruby (Unicorn). Courier IMAP and Exim are configured from the very start, so you have the mail powered by DKIM, DMARC and SPF.

Ajenti is a good choice for those looking for cheap, entry-level control panel solution.


DirectAdmin is a web hosting control panel created for Linux servers. It currently supports CloudLinux, Red Hat, Fedora Core, CentOS, FreeBSD, Ubuntu and Debian.

Just some of the features included in this hosting control panel are administration tools related to DNS and email management, backups, system processes supervision, access to logs, built-in file management and multi-server setup, plus the possibility for custom web server configuration.

DirectAdmin offers a list of all the basic tools you’d expect from this type of hosting platform. And it can be considered a really good choice for new users on a budget.


This is another commercial Linux hosting control panel which originated in Russia. ISPManager supports a wide range of third-party software and can be purchased in two different versions, both able to handle multiple domains and users. You can choose between Lite – for individual use, or Business – to share and resell your hosting services.

Although ISPManager does not offer the full range of options that Plesk does, it is still very competitively priced and can be an option when you are not able to afford Plesk.


Core-Admin was initially designed as a centralized solution to manage multiple servers using one single web interface. This hosting platform offers you lots of built-in apps (example: real-time log analysis, IP blocking system, cron tasks management, etc.), sophisticated permission system and integrated real-time file-system monitor.

Core-Admin Web Edition and Free Web Edition were developed to meet the needs of hosting providers. Various features dedicated to handling mail servers, web servers and DNS servers make Web Edition a great choice if your main intention is to provide reliable hosting services or just manage your own network of sites.


Originally WebsitePanel started as DotNetPanel, which was solely dedicated to Windows web servers management. DotNetPanel developers invested huge amount of resources in developing the product which later became known as WebsitePanel. The main focus of current development agenda is concentrated on giving hosting providers access to powerful Windows hosting products, as well as to customer servers management ability. WebsitePanel project has evolved over time and it is no longer pure open source. Currently there are two known forks of WebsitePanel: MSPControl, non-open source windows hosting control panel and SolidCP, which works under Windows and Linux operating systems. Read more – Plesk vs WebsitePanel – Windows Hosting Panels Face Off


VirtualMin is an open-source control panel which comes in 3 different versions – GPL, Professional and Cloudmin.

The GPL version has the core part of features and offers 4 types of server management – via web-interface, mobile app, command line and API. The VirtualMin Professional gives you the power to set up or update many third-party applications, including the most popular content management systems like WordPress, Joomla and Magento. The multi-server control panel in the Cloudmin version is made to set up cloud services for enterprise clients. Another topic worth mentioning here is compatibility with Xen and Amazon EC2.

Professional and Cloudmin versions both come with commercial support.


Manage mass-hosting more easily with the AlternC control panel, a collection of highly-accessible software. This GPL-Licensed, open-source software installs automatically and allows for system configuration.

You can manage users’ accounts and various web services like emails, domains, ftp accounts, stats and more. It’s highly-versatile. AlternC is specifically built with the ‘Sarge’ version of the Linux/Debian GNU system. But you need other applications to operate smoothly. Namely: Apache, Postfix, and Mailman.

The AlternC control panel includes exhaustive help files for its API, allowing for a smooth and painless interface modification. While AlternC was originally written in French, an English translation is also available in the Debian package. And it can also be translated into any other language. Contact us if you’d like to volunteer translation help, currently only in French.

Lautre Net, and its members, were instrumental in AlternC’s creation. And now, organizations like Eitic, Koumbit, and Metaconsult are also helping to develop it even further.


Four of Sweden’s top hosting companies use the Atomia control panel, an offshoot of Troxo. Sweden-born Atomia AB started out developing hosting control panels for Loopia, Sweden’s biggest hosting company, way back in 1999.

With all this industry experience, Atomia thoroughly understands what web hosts and their customers want. From the typical blogger to the passionate graphic designer. Transforming the Atomia control panel into an inexpensive, modern and feature-rich hosting and server automation platform. Made for any type of hosting scenario.

Today, the Atomia control panel serves over 100,000 users across a million different domains. And Loopia continues to be Sweden’s largest shared web hosting provider with around 30% of Swedish websites registered through Loopia.


Baifox’s GPL control panel manages hosting platform services and is an alternative to industry leaders Cpanel, Plesk, and Ensim. The Baifox control panel is exceedingly lightweight and won’t interfere with server functions with heavy loads or CPU usage.

It only manages servers. Adapt the Baifox control panel to whatever role is necessary. And on top of that, Baifox will function perfectly within most Linux distributions, even Debian.

Before installing Baifox, you must first install services and configure your paths. Baifox is built primarily in PHP, with a little Javascript. It doesn’t need a database system. All configuration files are saved to XML, and it works under Nanoweb PHP servers, both PHP4 and PHP5.

Hosting Control Panel

Manage all variants of the Windows Server Platform with the Hosting control panel. It’s a complete collection of tools to make web hosting automation easy. You can put your services on auto-pilot with its multi-lingual support. And even use the Hosting control panel to create your own billing and invoice, automating all of those functions.


The InterWorx Cluster Panel (InterWorx-CP) is both a load-balanced cluster control panel as well as a dedicated server. The InterWorx Control Panel can even manage a dedicated server, and then expand that single server into a complete, load-balanced cluster.

In fact, only the InterWorx control panel is capable of this type of incremental expansion. InterWorx does all the difficult work itself. With no need for an advanced setup, you’re left to do what matters: build a burgeoning business.


Administrators, resellers, end users – the Zomos control panel’s easy-to-use interface is perfect for just about anyone. This is because the dynamic control panel runs on virtually all systems. So everyone can use it for any and all their web hosting needs.

The Zomos control panel comes fully-equipped. Four control levels, various translations, and operating systems. Plus, full support for the Apache Web Server, Bind (DNS), MySQL, PostgreSQL, Qmail, FTP, ezmlm, Webalizer, AWstats, themes and more.


VestaCP is a web hosting control panel offering maximum simplicity and accessibility. Its user-friendly interface benefits from a clear, simplified design, with impressive functionality. The VestaCP control panel is built to support you. Whether you’re running servers for the web, DNS, database, FTP, email, and numerous other applications. The VestaCP control panel is also designed to support nginx as standard and for immediate use. Data backups can be created too, with no hassle. Another benefit of VestaCP is the advanced installation settings. They enable you to choose the type of software you want to install on your server.

VestaCP is the web hosting control panel designed with simplicity in mind. All thanks to its simple and clear interface. In terms of functionality, VestaCP supports running a Web server, DNS server, FTP server, database server, email server and more. It also supports nginx out of the box and lets you create fast backups of your data. Equipped with advanced installation settings, VestaCP enables you to select which software you want to install on your server.

CentOS Web Panel

You need a fresh install of CentOS to use the CentOS Web Panel. It comes with an extensive portfolio of features, a list of which would consume more space than we can spare. But you can expect to benefit from CentOS web panel’s nginx reverse proxy. Plus the Apache web server (including mod security and automated rule updating), and MySQL/MariaDB + phpMyAdmin.

With the CentOS web panel, you can also take advantage of CSF Firewall. There’s also PHP 5.2-5.6, and 7.x, Postfix/Dovecot/Roundcube webmail/Antivirus, and the Spamassassin bundle. Moreover, you’ll have backups for files, Softaculous one-click script installation, as well as numerous minor features.


This control panel is an open-source development from the original team behind ZPanel. Their Sentora control panel encompasses support for various high-quality software types. Including various software like Postfix/Dovecot,  Apache web server,  PHP and MySQL/MariaDB as DBMS. This panel supports more too – all of which help to make managing your web hosting far easier. You can also take advantage of a user-friendly module system. It allows you to extend the control panel’s functionality by installing the Sentora community’s own bespoke modules.


This is one of the most commonly used web hosting panels in the United States. The product has two different “faces” – a user-level interface called cPanel and a server management part (WHM). This combination of interfaces unifies user-friendly site management to end-users and server management tools for hosting service providers.

cPanel is a Linux-based system and currently supports CentOS, CloudLinux OS and Red Hat Enterprise. Apart from GUI, cPanel provides CLI and API. Both features allow hosters and third-party software developers to automate system administration processes. There are many strong points for cPanel. High general system performance, command line utilities, AutoSSL and SNI integration, interface to CSF/LFD, EasyApache 4 and PHP-FPM. Plus the availability and support of DNSSEC and PowerDNS.


You can benefit from a wealth of high-quality features with the Kloxo-MR control panel. It’s a spin-off of the original Kloxo, including features missing from that version. The new Kloxo-MR supports an extensive list of web and cache servers. Like Nginx-Proxy,  Apache, nginx,  Hiawatha, Hiawatha-proxy,  Squid, Varnish, Lighttpd-proxy, as well as ATS. Kloxo-MR even includes full support for popular billing software such as WHMCS, HostBill, AWBS, AccountLab Plus, TheHostingTool, and more. Finally, Kloxo-MR will be able to manage your MySQL/MariaDB database and DNS/mail/ftp servers.


Server management is made easier with the lightweight Froxlor control panel. It packs its integrated ticketing system support, advanced SSL management, reseller and customer user levels, IP per domain, and more. These all combine to make the Froxlor control panel a high-quality option to manage your hosting platform.

Vdeck 4

We classify Vdeck 4 as a step forward in website management, ushering the next generation of control panels. The Vdeck 4 is available with an expansive range of tools to create sites. Including numerous design templates of a professional standard. You can use these to build your website without the need for an HTML back-end. The Vdeck 4 includes pre-installed scripts, e-commerce solutions and tools. All these give you the power to develop sites as simple or complex as you like. Endurance International Group brands like FatCow, easyCGI, Ipower, and Dots use Vdeck 4 today. And certain EIG companies still use Vdeck, despite it being an outdated panel.


i-MSCP (or Internet Multi Server Control Panel) came about in 2010 as the brainchild of Laurent Declercq. His goal? To create an unparalleled open source panel for business and personal application. He wanted his i-MSCP control panel to manage all shared web hosting with maximum simplicity and accessibility. He did not want there to be any need for human interaction with the server file system. The i-MSCP control panel is free for Linux servers alone, and it supports German and English languages for official websites. It also comes with a variety of modules in order to cater to Bind9, Dovecot, Apache2, Courier, and ProFTPd. You can even expand it with plugins or listener files, via its events-based API. GPL 2.0 licenses this control panel for free.

Storm Hosting Platform

Nimbus hosting responded to the need for easy to use server management software by developing its proprietary STORM hosting platform over an extensive two-year period. STORM focuses on performance and stability and is aimed at the needs of UK hosts whose clientele consist mostly out of web development and design agencies. The STORM hosting solution makes it really, really intuitive, quick and simple to manage client websites via an interface which is designed to be straightforward.

Deployment of Git repositories including Bitbucket and GitHub can be a particular bottleneck which is why STORM developers set out to streamline the deployment of repositories. Any server account that is connected to a hosting platform that runs STORM can make a mirror across a repository as well as branches, directly from a directory or an individual website on the server. You can choose between automatic deployment or deployment with a single click. Either way, it is much more efficient compared to using secure shell or file transfer protocol when you deploy Git repositories.

The key difference between STORM and Webmin or cPanel is that it is not installed on every single server that uses it. In contrast, a STORM instance sits on the servers that manage hosting, pushing across to a customer’s machine any needed changes. For this reason, you must host your application with its parent, Nimbus Hosting if you want to make use of STORM. It may seem like there is an extra step, but updates are practically instantaneous on STORM.

This central management paradigm means that STORM is particularly speedy and highly secure ensuring a stable hosting environment. The company surveyed its customers and found that 82% of respondents said that they noticed a performance improvement when they moved to STORM. In fact, STORM users can get ready to go a WordPress instance in less than ten seconds while the Hewlett-Packard G10 servers that are used by Nimbus Hosting boast 99.995% ongoing machine uptime.

New features are regularly deployed to the STORM hosting panel but these never require that customers manually update a panel that they use – updates are deployed automatically. With STORM administrators can set a whitelisted internet protocol address list which simplifies the management of users, including the ability to set an expiry date for whitelisted IPs. Both payment industry compliance and certificates from Let’s Encrypt can, with just one tap, be automatically activated. It’s possible to reset the full server, or just a single service.


ServerPilot enables the easy and straightforward hosting of WordPress plus any another website that works using PHP in the cloud, including many popular cloud services. ServerPilot is a contemporary edition of the centralised hosting maintenance software package and supports the latest Ubuntu LTS releases, from Ubuntu version 12.04 forward.

ServerPilot will install all the required software automatically, including PHP and database services and of course the web server itself. It also automatically secures your server by means of a firewall that makes use of iptables. ServerPilot also makes it very easy to manage multiple websites on a single instance of your server. It helps you manage databases, the version of PHP which you are using, and secure socket layer deployments too. It even includes AutoSSL which enables free to use secure socket layer certificates for all the websites you run on your server.

Note that ServerPilot does not work alongside centralised server management so you cannot from a central point control a multi-server environment with ServerPilot. You will need to configure each instance of your server from a freshly installed image and then connect those servers to ServerPilot on an individual basis. Note that cloning a server which is already live and connected will destroy the configuration on both the cloned server and the server from which you created the clone the server state will be incorrectly displayed.

Also, ServerPilot does not include a backup solution, you will be required to plan and set up your own way to ensure data redundancy. However BackupBuddy that works as a WordPress plugin is an easy option, it lets you schedule backups at an interval that suites you and that are stored in an external location. This can be in the cloud but the backups can also be emailed to you.


You can use the cloud-based ServerSuit to manage multiple machines or server instances running Linux with a single dashboard, no matter the platform you’re using. With ServerSuit you can instantly get access from a remote location to your Linux servers, performing remote admin plus multi-server automated setup routines. ServerSuit also lets you set up website hosting plus any mail server requirements.

ServerSuit utilises a cross-platform architecture which means that you can manage Linux-based servers using just about any computer device, whether phone or laptop. Most of the standard admin functions are already scripted so you don’t need to be a Linux admin professional to effectively manage your servers. You can add your choice of your own customizations and your custom configurations and also your own choice of custom scripts too.

The ServerSuit hosting panel has a wide user base, including digital agencies plus individual website owners and professional system administrators.

The integrations around ServerSuit are extensive. For e-mail, you get integration with Easy Mail Server, RoundCube Webmail Client, and LAMP+ Mail Package. For database services, you get integration with MariaDB and the ever-popular MySQL. There are plenty of other integration options too, all covering every common server service.

Pantheon Hosting Panel

Looking for a hosting system and control panel that can take care of both website running on WordPress and websites running on Drupal? Consider Pantheon. Operating as software product that is a very flexible platform as a service it includes plenty of support tiers, all available on a month to month subscription basis.

Pantheon applications do not make use of users’ servers, instead, Pantheon operates as a flexible SaaS that its developers built by making use of one of the most praised cloud platforms, Google Cloud Platform. The company is not on the stock exchange but privately held and is currently HQ’d in San Francisco.

Free for the developers of websites, who don’t need to pay to use it, Pantheon is a mix of web hosting plus monitoring and management and web development tools. Using Pantheon you can pick between the different version of Drupal including version 6 and version 7 and additionally install profiles such as Open Atrium. Existing data can also be, for the sake of convenience, automatically imported.

If you are running a Drupal-driven service or website you will find that Pantheon’s service, Multidev, does for your company’s website pretty much what a “software-defined data centre” does for its infrastructure. Every team participant and member can use all of the services that are powering your site, all on demand while building applications on a single platform. The result is that large website can launch faster while costing less to manage in the long run.


Elvis Plesky
Our fun and curious team mascot's always plugged into the latest trends. He's here to share his knowledge and help you solve your tech problems.
Showing 3 comments
  • Nobby6

    Nice, but what many of us want, is a control panel that does like above but, allows us to split off services, like we have all the separate servers each with a CP to manage the domain, website, any SSL, and databases, but, upon being added DNS details are added to a primary and secondary NS’s, that are independant of control panel servers, same again for email (wgich is very easy if using mysql/mariab, CP simply writes SQL INSERT statements to a DB and teh mail works from there independantly

    This keeps a separation of services, should web server die, mail still works, DNS still works, if mail storage system dies, web still works.

    I just wish someone would come up with this public solution, rather than all eggs in one basket.
    and using database for mail/ftp/etc is much faster than flat text files.

    (I say public because we use it on ex employers proprietory system, I ran the mail, multiple smtp/mx/pop3/imap/webmail servers behind load balancer, using postfix, dovecot. mysql and EMC NFS storage, all had ysql replication from master server and when host/customer added two zips into database and mail was setup, also had dns1 and dns2, templates on them executes with master server sshing with calling adddns , and web seever template calls – ssl was a pita it needed manual adding certs) tyou get what I mean this industry desperately in need off, we use now hostbill which supports a bunch of CP;s


    Well written! Very interesting article.

  • admin

    There is one more interesting panel “TinyCP”. I think it should be mentioned too.

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