Choosing A Hosting Control Panel

 

Introduction To Choosing A Control Panel

Gone are the days of using command lines to control websites. As a host or even as a reseller it is essential that you are able to offer a feature rich control panel that is simple to grasp. Not only can a good control panel ensure your customer’s happiness it can also help to reduce the number of queries you receive and, therefore, the amount of time spent dealing with queries. There are a vast number of control panels available ranging from the free, general user license Linux only control panels to multi-functioning cross platform commercial control panels.

Factors To Consider

Determining which of these control panels is ideal for your needs will mean consideration of several important factors. As well as looking at cost, which is obviously an important requirement, you will also need to consider the features that each offers, how simple it is to master, and obviously the compatibility it offers. One overlooked factor that you should also take into account is your typical customer base and their requirements. As a major host supplier it can be difficult to know what all of your customers require, but if you offer hosting to a specific group of people then you should be able to match your control panel to your customers.

6 Of The Best Control Panels

Below we have put together a list of six of the more popular and potentially beneficial control panels available. This list shows some of the major differences between the most popular of control panels, cPanel and Plesk, as well as some of the less well known. There is even a free open-source control panel. You need to be extremely careful if choosing a non-commercial product like this because if something does go wrong you may struggle getting the support that you need.

CPanel

CPanel is the most popular and most widely used of all control panels. It is compatible with various different Linux and Unix operating systems but not with Windows servers. If you offer Windows plans then you will either need to combine cPanel with another control panel of look elsewhere.

The reason that cPanel has become so widely used because of the number of features it includes. The Graphical User Interface is also easy to understand, if a little crowded on occasion. The inclusion of Fantastic script installation makes it very easy to get to grips with, which can also be said for the administrator equivalent of WHM.

WHM, or WebHost Manager, enables resellers and host companies alike the flexibility to offer different features to different clients dependent on the hosting package they purchase. CPanel isn’t cheap weighing starting at $425 for one year. However, all licenses are calculated per server and allow an unlimited number of domains.

 

Support with cPanel and WHM is very good. When purchasing annual packages, support extends throughout the period of the license. However, one off licenses are also available costing $1225. As standard these provide 12 months of support with further years available at $200 per annum.

Upgrades are released on a frequent basis with cPanel. When purchasing yearly licenses all upgrades are also included in the price enabling you to upgrade with the latest additions and patches as well as any necessary upgrades to the latest software. With one off purchases upgrades are included for the first two years with additional years costing $300 each.

Clearly cPanel is not for purchase by individual hosting customers but its popularity means that many looking for affordable hosting rich with powerful features look specifically for cPanel hosting. If you are able to offer this then you could gain valuable customers. CPanel may be expensive but it is probably the most beneficial of all the control panels, however, be prepared to purchase a Windows specific control panel as well if you offer Windows hosting.

Plesk

Perhaps the only real contender to the control panel popularity throne is Plesk. Plesk has one major advantage over its Linux only competitor; it offers versions for Linux and for Windows servers. Another advantage is the quite sizable difference in price. However, it is important when looking at a price comparison to consider the extras that cPanel offers.

The Plesk interface was quite clearly designed with Windows users in mind. This is true not only of the Windows pack but also the Linux pack, both bearing some striking resemblances to the operating system that many of us are well accustomed to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it means that Plesk offers a friendly interface and for Windows desktop users it will be very easy to navigate.

There are a lot more options when it comes to Plesk software. The standard purchase does not include many of the features that your customers might demand but these can be added on at a very reasonable price. The Plesk Plus for Linux/Unix, in particular, looks to be a very good bargain when compared to cPanel. Costing $1,199 it is similar in price to the one-off cPanel single server purchase. However, the Plesk offering provides a lifetime license for unlimited domains on 10 servers. This provides an impressive bundle of software and an array of applications that can be managed according to individual domains and users.

 

Prices for Windows packs work out to be around the same price. Obviously, the difference in price between Plesk and cPanel is a big draw. Plesk does offer an interface that to many is as useful if not more so than the cPanel one. By purchasing bundled packs of licenses and applications it is possible to make Plesk a very cost effective control panel for your needs.

Support packages do need to be purchased either as part of a bundled product or as an add-on to your license. Separate packs are offered for email support and phone support costing from $249 and $499 respectively, when purchased with your license. The license you purchase, however, does include upgrades and updates to you software.

While Plesk isn’t as well known or popular as cPanel yet it does offer a lot in terms of customer usability, reliability, and cost effectiveness. It also offers products for both Windows and Linux based servers giving an all round package. There are no single user licenses available with Plesk; the software being designed for commercial operations. By offering add-ons and bundle packs Plesk control panels can be purchased cost effectively and easily. Plesk also enables you to alter the features available to each of your customer’s domains according to the package they have purchased.

Helm

Helm is a Windows specific control panel designed to manage multiple servers from a single point of entry. With a graphical user interface that is highly reminiscent of Windows XP it will be very easy for your customers to get to grips with its navigation and use. The interface offers you the capability to re-brand by choosing from several different skins, although they are essentially just different colours, and add your own website or company logo to the header.

If your customer base requires functionality and is not as interested in using cPanel or Plesk, the two most popular control panels, then Helm is an excellent alternative. It offers affordability being far less expensive than the two major market leaders and combines this with ease of use for your customers and just as importantly, ease of use for you.

 

Pricing is worked out according to the number of control servers and remote servers that you have. It also includes a number of free additions to whichever bundle you pick giving it true value to anyone that chooses it. A single server with 20 domains costs $99.50 and a single server hosting unlimited domains costs an impressively low $449.50. Prices do vary for multiple servers.

Whether you’re looking for a single server, affordable Windows control panel or you have a large number of servers and require complete control Helm is a very good option. It is affordable, easy to use (for everyone), and offers good features.

Hosting Accelerator

Hosting Accelerator is another Windows compatible control panel. It offers massive support for numerous different types of server including but not limited to 8 mail servers, 4 statistics servers, and 2 FTP servers. This combined with the software (Instant messenger, mail software, and free statistics) make it incredible value for money.

The amount of server support that Hosting Accelerator offers means that as a reseller or a hosting provider you are able to offer a similar level of service to your customers. The control panel and backend software also enables you to effectively tailor customer features according to the packages you offer.

The cost of the Helm control panel is very good, especially considering the amount of support and bundled features that you also receive. A single server, 5 domain license costs $99 and a ten server, unlimited domain license just $3743. Minor upgrades, from one control panel to an updated version of the same control panel, are included in the cost but apart from the included 60-day email package, support needs to be purchased separately.

Support packages are as varied as the main control panel bundles. Support can either be purchased on a per incident basis starting from $49 per incident for 24 web and email support. Yearly plans are also available ranging from $199 to $399 per year.

If you had to sum Hosting Accelerator up in one word, it would be flexibility. Minor hosts can offer their premium customers a powerful control panel using the cheaper bundles whereas major hosting companies can really take advantage of the cost benefits of purchasing large bundles.

Cube Panel

Cube Panel is a simple control panel that still offers a rich set of features as well as an extremely affordable price tag to boot. With Windows and various Linux packages available, Cube Panel is also compatible with the majority of server software making it an obvious choice for many.

Cube Panel offers a very simplistic layout to its user interface that is a breath of fresh air for those that struggle with the sometimes over burdened interfaces of other control panels. Its simplicity is part of its appeal and while it may not offer some of the dynamic features of cPanel or Plesk it does offer a very good range of features and functionality.

As with any valuable control panel it enables hosts and resellers to tailor the control panel they offer according to each individual customer and the package that they are currently paying for. The more they pay the more features you can offer.

If cost is an issue, you’ll be pleased to learn that Cube Panel is easily one of the most affordable of commercial control panels available. A 30 domain license is available for around $100 while an unlimited domain plan can be bought for around $400. What makes Cube Panel stand out from the crowd in terms of price is the ability to add multi-server management for just $125.

Unlimited email support costs $250 per annum or for greater support requirements the unlimited email support with 2 hours of remote access costs about $300. If you want Cube Support installed for you then this service is also available at a cost of $250.

Cube Panel is perfect for hosts working to a budget that don’t want to sacrifice quality in order to save a few dollars.

VHCS

VHCS is the only open source control panel we are looking at because hosting suppliers generally require the support and technical support that only commercial packages can really offer. We’re including VHCS because it is an extremely powerful and up to date control panel that also offers professional support for those requiring it. If you working to very little or even no budget but still require a functional control panel then VHCS, the open source control panel, is a very good option.

If you have good knowledge of control panel software and source code then the open source license that VHCS operates under enables you to download, edit, and even redistribute your resulting platform. This is an excellent way to offer a completely unique and branded control panel for those with the technical knowledge.

 Even as is, VHCS offers true multi-language support thanks to the efforts of community volunteers that strive to provide quality systems for no cost. It is also a powerful and impressive looking control panel that concentrates on server and site security as well as the open nature of its license.

VHCS can be customized completely to your liking, and if you don’t have the knowledge then you can pay the developers to do this for you. This is calculated on a per quote basis. VHCS installation can be purchased for roughly $100 and support packages are available in packages starting from less than $40. An annual unlimited web support plan costs with 24-hour response time costs equivalent to $125.

VHCS is ideal for the technically knowledgeable or those that want a completely unique control panel designed for them. It is also powerful to be offered to clients if you are looking for a free way to offer a control panel to hosting clients.

Conclusion

These six are only a small sample of the control panels available around the world. They do include a good sample of Linux/Unix compatible applications and Windows applications although because of the open source nature of Linux programs these are more readily found in free and low cost versions.

CPanel and Plesk are the two most popular and widespread of control panels. When many customers search the Internet looking for a new host they will often look for ones offering either cPanel or Plesk. However that doesn’t mean that the others don’t offer value. CPanel is certainly the most expensive and this is partly due to the number of people that already use it or are looking to do so. It is also due to the range of features and the inclusion of numerous dynamic page elements that can be quickly and easily installed through the control panel.

Your requirements will be determined by a number of factors including your client’s requirements, your level of knowledge, your budget, and the features you wish to offer. It is normal to offer varying degrees of a control panel to customers depending on the hosting package they subscribe to. All of the above control panels offer you the ability to control these settings as you see fit. While budget is obviously a very important factor in any business decision it is also important to weigh up the pros and cons. If you offer a very limited number of domains then it is unlikely that purchasing a cPanel plan will pay dividends but for large hosting providers with thousands of domains over numerous servers the costs are soaked up quickly and effectively.