Hosting Control Panels – What You Need to Know

 When it comes to choosing a web host, most of us read reviews or compare how one plan stacks up against another in terms of price and features etc. We seldom give much thought to what control panel the host is using for their clients and whether or not that will suit our needs. The mindset is typically whatever we’re given that’s that we’ll just plod on and make use the best we can. This for the most part is fine as pretty much all web hosting controls panels do the same sort of thing. They allow you to manage databases, ftp users, e-mail accounts and some will even allow you to install software at the click of a button.

This article is not going to become a recommendation list of what hosting control panels you should be using. Most of the time you won’t even have the luxury of choice. Instead we’re going to discuss a few of the more common platforms that you’ll find running on the various web hosts that are operating in the market today.

Plesk

Plesk is one of those control panels which quite frankly divides opinion. Some hate it, some love it and that primarily has to do with what you’re used to. If you’re a cPanel user and you come across a Plesk control panel in the wild, it’ll probably frustrate the life out of you. However, if you’re a first time user and come across Plesk given it’s ridiculously feature rich and advanced you’ll probably think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. In terms of functionality, it does everything you could possibly want to do via a control panel and more. If I had to label one criticism it would be that it’s fairly resource intensive but with the sheer amount of control you have across all aspects of your account I guess you’d come to expect this.

cPanel/WHM 

This is the most popular control panel on the market today. Cpanel for the management of individual accounts and WHM (web host manager) for the management of the upper level, domain/account setups specifically. Whilst it’s not as feature rich as Plesk it makes the absolute basics of setting up e-mail accounts, forwarders, databases, ftp users, web stats and add on domains a walk in the park. Everything is handled from an easy to follow single page interface with no complex page/function structure like you’ll find with Plesk. If you ever want a “default” control panel, cPanel would be it.

Virtualmin

If there is one thing cPanel users don’t like it’s the license fee that comes with it. Virtualmin however does not have that issue as it’s free, open source and extremely powerful. It’s growing in popularity primarily as a result of this but it’s also an extremely capable piece of software in its own right. Once you have mastered the install it’s extremely easy to work with and offers a fantastic set of tools for managing websites, mailboxes, applications and more. It is based on the ever popular Webmin control panel.

DirectAdmin

DirectAdmin or DA as it is often referred to is another control panel you might want to consider if cPanel or Plesk isn’t particularly your thing. It’s easy to use, fast loading, extremely stable and has quite a niche community supporting it who are willing to answer any questions you may have extremely quickly. A typical shared license is only $29 per month which makes it a viable option for anyone who needs a robust platform to manage their website properties and it comes with some fantastic DNS clustering and spam management applications to boot.

Maybe one of the above has taken your fancy and the next time you’re looking to take out a web hosting plan maybe you’ll give some thought as to what platform you actually want to base your site on. There are advantages with each of the control panels mentioned above but obviously most people tend to stick with what they’re used to from the past even though there might ultimately be a better application for that users specific needs.