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cpanel-alternative1

Introduction

If you’ve ever purchased web hosting or helped a client with setting up their site on inmotion, hostgator or godaddy you’re very likely to have come across a control panel known as CPanel.
It is a very VERY popular, powerful and awesome control panel to manage your websites, emails and various other things, it’s the most used hosting control panel in the world and I love working with it.

The problem with CPanel is that for individuals and tinkers who runs their own servers, and want to host their websites on them, CPanel is not free and will cost you around $14.95 USD / Month ( FromLicensePal).

Therefore I’ve often looked for alternatives to CPanel, both for curiosity and because I wanted something free that i could throw on a VPS and host web development client’s websites as well as my own little projects and such.

Often the ones I find are either outdated, doesn’t work or horribly insecure, I’ve looked around the internet extensively as well as looked at other blogs giving their alternatives to CPanel, one of the most comprehensive that I could find was Lord Matt’s blog.

Keep in mind that this list is based on my requirements and experiences and there might be better control panels out there that suits your need better.

These are all in random orders and I didn’t want to rate them  or call one better than the other, some of these might not suit your needs and some might be perfect, it’s all subjective…

For anyone wondering, the WHM part of the name CPanel/WHM is theWeb Host Manager part of CPanel, it is the back-end part of CPanel where you setup hosting plans and configure the server.

CPanel Alternatives

ServerPilot

Website: http://serverpilot.io
Documentation:  https://serverpilot.io/community/

ServerPilot is a relatively new Control Panel type application that you don’t have to install on your server in order to use, it is all in one central location which connects to your server using their “agent”.

serverpilot-screenshot

To use ServerPilot you need to have a fresh Ubuntu 14.04(Because it’s the latest Long Term Release) server, and run the command that is specified in their documentation, this will install the serverpilot agent and set up all the necessary stuff for you, once that is done, you simply login tohttps://manage.serverpilot.io and click Connect Server, you will then be prompted to name your server and give the ServerPilot agent a password, you then get a command specific to your server and user that you will need to paste into the terminal on your server via SSH (or using something like Putty on Windows)

ServerPilot also keeps your packages up to date, monitors the system and gives you a nice interface to look through all of the statistics, logs and usage.

ServerPilot also makes it really easy to deploy PHP applications by separating each app with its own system user, SSH/SFTP account and even PHP Version.

You can also quickly and easily setup a database via ServerPilot.

ServerPilot is geared a little more towards developers more so than end users, but if you are a developer or a power-user, this is definitively a tool to checkout!

serverpilot-logoThere is a free version which gives you unlimited websites, firewall configuration, server security updates AND API Access (Awesome!).

If you are interested in SSL/SPDY(no clue what that even is), Real-time analytics and additional SSH/SFTP accounts and priority support, then there are paid plans for $10 and $45 USD / Month.

The referral link below will give you $10 USD in credits that you can use to test the paid version if you want.

https://www.serverpilot.io/?refcode=6870b842bed1

Psst: Check out DigitalOcean and get $10 free credits!

digitalocean-banner

Froxlorfroxlor

Website: http://froxlor.org
Demo: http://demo.froxlor.org/
Documentation: http://redmine.froxlor.org/projects/froxlor/wiki (outdated and half broken :( )

Probably the control panel with the most organized and easy to navigate interface is Froxlor, it’s an open source project that is licensed under GPLv2, which basically means you’re free to copy, use, modify and distribute the software as long as you make your changes available to the original source, you can also include it commercially but you must disclose that your product uses froxlor… here is a better explanation of GPLv2.

So Froxlor seems to be one of the cleanest and most modern-looking control panels of the bunch, it allows 3 various types of users, Administrators, resellers and customers.

The customer-type user’s dashboard is very clean and easy to navigate, which is a good thing because you want to just give your customers the URL to their control panel and have them be able to figure out what everything does pretty easily, there is no confusing wishy-washy technical terms that might confuse an untrained client.

It unfortunately does not include a file manager, but it lets you create an FTP account very easily, this does complicate things for clients, but if you’re a freelance web designer or developer, you’re the one who should be handling uploading and setting up their site anyways.

froxlor-dashboard

It’s open source as well so if you really need this you could probably make it yourself, or somehow integrate the web-based FTP solution;net2ftp with some sort of “if user is logged into the dashboard, grab his user details and plug them into net2ftp and let them browse their site”-yness, or look around on the internet for someone to create a plugin.

VestaCPvestacplogo

Website: http://vestacp.com/
Demo: http://vestacp.com/demo/
Documentation: https://vestacp.com/docs/

VestaCP is a project that I’ve actually contributed to, even thought it’s a very small contribution,  I translated it to Norwegian and it got included in the main package as of version 0.9.8-9. :)

You’re welcome fellow Norwegians, if you see some mistakes in my translation feel free to submit corrections to info@vestacp.com, and they will provide you with a translation file that you can edit.

vestacp-dashboard

Anyways, VestaCP is also really simple to install, with only 2 simple commands that you’ve got to run on your server there is very little interaction required from you under the installation process and the only issue I came across was with Exim.

The error I got was due to the fact that I used a version of CentOS that came with the full lamp stack and a mail server pre-installed, therefore Exim did not work for receiving emails, although I could send them.
The web-mail that’s included with VestaCP is the best and the most beautiful web-mail available for free; RoundCube.

It has a billing module for WHMCS which is awesome, you can set up various hosting plans in VestaCP that you can sell to your clients, although I’ve not played with this feature yet, It seems like it’s stable and being continually updated.

Kloxo

Website: http://lxcenter.org/software/kloxo
Demo: http://demo.kloxo.com:7778/ (Dead :( )
Documentation: http://wiki.lxcenter.org/index.php/Kloxo_Installation_Guide

Kloxo is a control panel made by LXCenter, the same people who created HyperVM, which is a popular virtual machine manager type thing that I’ve not researched very well and frankly don’t care about.

It’s interface is very similar and most likely inspired by CPanel, so if you really love CPanel’s interface, then this might be a good option for you, as far as I know there is also a script installer ala softaculus available for Kloxo, I have not tested it and do not know how well it works, but it’s there if you need or want it.

kloxo-demo

The demo for kloxo was down when I tried it, and it seems like there are no other demos available.

According to their website Kloxo integrates with WHMCS, Hostbill and AWBS (Two of them are overpriced, guess which ones), this is a plus for me as I intend to use WHMCS or BoxBilling to manage my billing and hosting for my freelance clients.

Kloxo also allows you to have re-sellers, so you could practically resell your hosting services as well for some additional income, although it will quickly become a mess if you try to do this as a one-man-show.

So all in all, Kloxo pretty much has all the functions you need from a web hosting control panel, I’ll check it out further and update my review once I’ve got my VPS up and running.

UPDATE, there seems to be lots of bugs in Kloxo, there is a fork calledKloxo-MR created by Mustafa Ramadhan that fixes most of the bugs, but i’d personally stay away from this panel…

zpanel-logo

ZPanel

Website: http://www.zpanelcp.com/
Demo: http://zpanel.tk/
Documentation: http://www.zpanelcp.com/support/documentation/

ZPanel is a very nice control panel that got all the features you would expect to find in a web hosting control panel, there is a file manager, ftp account administration, MySQL database and user administration, a DNS/domain manager, and webmail(RoundCube).

It’s really quite feature packed and provides everything you would need for a personal website.,

I looked around a bit and found a zpanel provisioning module for WHMCS, a provisioning module is pretty much a “user buys hosting from you, then the software automatically sets up a user account on the zpanel server”-type thing, it is a third-party module and it haven’t been updated since 2012, but it might work… maybe.

It’s dead.

The documentation on the site is kind of lacking… This wouldn’t be my first choice for providing hosting to clients, but for a personal website on a VPS somewhere in the basement, it would work just fine.

Here is a theme that aims to make ZPanel look very much like the default CPanel theme:

Cpanel Theme for ZPanelCpanel Theme for ZPanel

Also dead.

A very nice option for hobbyists who just want a quick and easy way to administer their website.

Not suited for my use case, but I’d use this for my own website if i didn’t have CPanel and only hosted this website.

Update: ZPanel seems to have been abandoned, but a new project called Sentora is being developed by the original team and based on ZPanel, it might be something to checkout as an alternative.

ispconfig-logo

ISPConfig 3

Website: http://www.ispconfig.org/
Demo: http://www.ispconfig.org/page/en/ispconfig/online-demo.html
Documentation: http://www.ispconfig.org/page/en/documentation.html

ISP config 3 is kind of a massive beast, I think it has pretty much every feature you would ever need when administrating your hosting, it offers 4 user levels which range from:

  • Admin
    • Can configure the server and administer all users
  • Control Panel Users
    • A “Control Panel” user is pretty much a customizable user that has access to ONLY what the administrator specifies, you could for example configure this to only have access to the file manager or to only administer mailboxes.
  • Resellers
    • Resellers are what you would expect, they are allowed to resell a set amount of resources that is allocated to them by the admin, resellers can then create their own packages and resell them.
  • Clients
    • Clients can use resources that the reseller has assigned them or they can use whatever the administrator has allowed them to, its pretty much fully customizable.

ISPConfig is a very feature rich control panel and does so many things that it can get kind of overwhelming for new and inexperienced users, that they’ve got a 300 page manual should be all that is needed to say about that.

But everything that can be done with CPanel can be done with ISPConfig 3 it seems, this is pretty much the ultimate free control panel.

Although I did find that it’s sort of unnecessarily difficult and tedious to install, there is no single command auto-install, you have to do everything half-manually, I’m not a fan of that approach, but if you like that sort of thing, ISPConfig 3 is perfect for you.
There are a few unofficial and unsupported auto-install scripts made by various members of the community, they might be something to look at if you’re like me and prefer that the system install itself.

Honorable Mention

These are cool control panels that does not fit into the category of web hosting control panel, but they might be something you want to look into for server administration.

Ajenti

Website: http://ajenti.org
Documentation: http://support.ajenti.org/

ajenti-dashboard

the most visually pleasing of the bunch in my opinion although I find it a little bit too complicated, as i don’t really understand what half of the options mean, but I’ll cut it some slack since it’s not built to be a web hosting control panel.

It’s a server administration control panel, although it has a plugin called Ajenti V that adds website management functionality, i found it to be very lacking and way too complicated to use, BUT, it’s still in its infancy, i’m sure its going to be great in a couple of months/years.

Summary

And that is the top 5 CPanel alternatives that I could find and that I thought were the best ones for my specific  use case, your list might look different, but it’s all subjective, I chose to not rank any of them by numbers as i think those kinds of lists are silly and clickbaity.

I hope this post helped you find some alternatives to CPanel, and I hope I somewhat inspired you to download some of these and try them out on a local server or on a Digital Ocean droplet.

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