CPanel options and alternatives
Aegir is a free and open source web hosting control panel program that provides a graphical interface designed to simplify deploying and managing Drupal web sites. (WTF?) My excedingly low opinion of Drupal is well documetned so I won't get started again here. Sufficed to say that I have no idea why anyone would want this.
Call me a geek but the first thing I noticed was that this debian centric project was available on github. Yes, it is actively being developed looking at those time stamps.
As far as I can tell it is multi-user and has all the normal features that you might want including JSON and AJAX goodness on the UI. However the FAQ explitly says that Ajenti is a server control panel, not a hosting control panel and directs people to consider Webmin if adding PHP, email and other such things is needed.
AlternC is a set of open source Web Hosting server management software, whose aim is to promote self hosting by individuals. It provides users with an web-based interface to manage a web and mail servers the idea being that it should be easy for the non technical types.
My French is quite poor and even with auto translate there was never going to be the fullest of reviews here.
Primarily tested with Debian but probably works with most Linux distributions. Baifox was written in PHP but does not appear to be actively developed despite being "stable" according to the developers.
Baifox stores its configuration in an SQLite database. It is served using lighttpd so you can switch Apache off and still access it. Baifox is fully compatible with both PHP4 and PHP5.
I got the impression that PHP had to run in CGI mode so this might not be for everyone and to be honest I've not spent too long looking at it this time around. Baifox looks ok if you want to manage your own server but it is unlikely to be good for a multi-user system as CPanel is.
BlueOnyx is a CentOS oriented Control Panel which aims at delivering a turnkey server appliance for webhosting says the website. They estimate that BlueOnyx is used on 26,026 sites based on YUM Update hits.
DTC: Domain Technologie Control
One of the things that impressed me about this alternative to CPanel was that the website boasts of features not found elsewhere. Given how long we've been controlling servers this suggested to me that DTC was truly innovating. It is maintained by gplhost.com who offer it as part of their commercial offerings but it is licensed under the GNU GPL 2.1.
Domain Technologie Control comes closest of all the 2011 and 2007 listed control panels to being a true replacement for CPanel. allows the administrator to create web hosting plans that provide e-mail, FTP accounts, domain purchasing (and subdomains), SSH, and MySQL databases to the end users under controllable quota for the web sites that these users own. DTC also maintains the automation of billing, generates backup scripts and monitors traffic (per user and per service) using a single system, UID or GID.
From the description Domain Technologie Control (DTC) is a control panel aiming at commercial hosting. Using a web GUI for the administration and accounting all hosting services, DTC can delegate the task of creating subdomains, email, ssh, database, mailing lists, and FTP accounts to users for the domain names they own.
Easy Hosting Control Panel (new)
EHCP is another Free Hosting Control Panel focusing on Linux of the Ubuntu or Debian variety. It is designed for managing your hosting server.
According to one review EHCP has support for Nginx and PHP-FPM without upsetting or getting rid of Apache. Like most other control panels you can mange users, domains, email, FTP accounts etc.
I've not been able to learn much for this edition as I might like but users and developer are invited to talk to us in the comments.
Froxlor was founded by former SysCP (not listed in this edition) team-members as fork in February 2010. The road map is quite active based on a ticketing system which seems to have highly active development. The last update to the code was two day ago. It seems to have all the usual features.
The site seems heavily focused on supporting development (a very good thing) to the point tht I cannot even find a list of features (bad) or get a feel for what it does (bad).
However a tour of the admin login for the demo shows me that there is an active messaging system and a lot of very good configeration and control features that are laid out in a modern and intuative way including the ability to switch between three different flavours of web server; reseller support with user control and quotas.
There are features I can see here that I would like to see in the system that I use most often.
GNUPanel is Debian-centric, however, a distro-agnostic approach was, apparently, planned back in 2011 but two years alter I would say do not hold your breath because blue does not suit you. GNUPanel is written using PHP 5 and initially designed to run on 32 or 64 bit Debian GNU/linux. The autoinstallation feature offers Joomla, phpBB, WordPress and osCommerce.
In terms of hosting and billing features taht CPanel has GNUPanel allows an administrator to create both public and private hosting plans.
GNUPanel 2.0 (new)
This is a compleate rewrite of GNUPanel and is due for public release in 2014.
i-MSCP Phoenix (new)
The i-MSCP Phoenix release is a fork of the open source ispCP itself a fork of VHCS. It has the dual license and lack of clarity issue where some code is under one and some under another. A full rewrite is promised.
Any people using it are invited to leave a comment telling others why they might like it.
This web host control panel is aimed at ISPs but should, I imagine, be suitable for any hosting environment. Like many of the free offerings it offers a billing and registration system as part of the control panel which makes it idea for a small scale host and a comparable replacement for CPanel.
As you might expect PHP is supported (available PHP modes: mod_php, FCGI, CGI and SuPHP) as well as jailed shell access, quotas, stats and the normal run of features.
According to Stack Overflow "Version 3 is used by many smaller hosters".
A fork of VHCS. The code that came from this project is released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL) while changes are GNU GPL. If clear licensing is your main concern this is not for you. From the site: ispCP is a project founded to build a Multi Server Control and Administration Panel without limits. Until there is an usable version a lot of time will pass by. This Control Panel should be usable by any Internet Service Provider (isp).
ispCP Omega appears to support more Operating Systems than other control panels. It's not been updated in a while which mght be a worry.
Kloxo (formerly known as Lxadmin) is an opensource web hosting control panel for the Red Hat and CentOS Linux distributions. Like many of the newer control panels this platform offers billing via integration with various web host billing softwares. It also is supported by installatron which is also available for CPanel.
Installation is via a script that you must download onto the server. I was not able to find any version information anywhere. Compared to Froxlor there were a heck of a lot more open bugs which I found to be most off putting.
The first thing that struck me in 2011 about this control panel was the strapline "Managing a server should be easy". OpenPanel sadly still looks like the fairly new addition it was a few years ago and has only the basic features which makes it a poor direct competitor with CPanel even if OpenPanel is a good basic server control panel. There has been no significant release in a few years as far as I can tell.
While there is a nice looking User Interface which uses JavasScript as any modern UI should there is also, for hardcore users, a Command Line Interface too.
RavenCore Control Panel (new)
I can tell you next to nothing about RavenCore. Apart from the fact it was written in PHP as a response to things like CPanel. It's on sourceforge and that's about all I can say at this time. It was started in 2005 and 0.3.6 was ready in 2009.
Server Pilot (new)
This is a cloud based approach to server management. This gives you the massive advantage that there is 0% of your CPU time being used by the control panel. Perfect for cloud based computing.
As there are a free and paid versions of Server Pilot it will be listed twice with the main review in the paid for section.
Softaculous (Auto Installer) (new)
This is a cloud based auto installer which works with several major control panels. There are some free elemnets to it and if you are looking for an auto installer to work with your CPanel alternative this may or may not be helpful depending on what you use and if it is supported (or if you want to set up support for yourself).
This control panel may or may not still be running. Chrome reports the site currently hosts multiple attack vectors and is unsafe at time of writing. At the next review I will check back to see what is going on. You might want to check out ispCP Omega which is a fork of VHCS.
WebsitePanel is a complete portal for Cloud Computing Companies and IT Providers to automate the provisioning of a full suite of services on Windows servers. Says the site. The powerful, flexible open source WebsitePanel platform gives users simple point-and-click control over Windows Server applications including IIS, SQL Server, Exchange 2010, Sharepoint 2010, OCS, Lync and Hyper-V Deployments.
Again this is an area where users are invited to use the comments to tell us how this compares to using CPanel although largely, I imagine, that it does not; being much more about server control than web server control.
Zpanel is written in PHP and only PHP. It runs on the classic AMP Stack: Apache, PHP and MySQL but can be used on almost any OS. It is available on Github.
As I said before any project that can be forked on GetHub makes me happy but it is a trip through the module repository that really makes this a gem to behold. For example I found Zantastico X which is an auto intaller script that you can add to your server perfect for helping your users get set up. Other modules include one for custom error pages and one for phpMyAdmin which is by far the best or at least most well known MySQL admin tool going.
Main features include all the usual culprits: databases, email, domains, RoundCube integration, phpMyAdmin (again) and so forth. And like CPanel it supports resellers.
Development is active and has seen 10 major versions over ten years including at least two complete rewrites - now that's dedication for you. The current project leader and head developer is fellow Brit Bobby Allen although this project apprently started in the USA which is where all of the technical support are based.
The Webmin.com family of Free CPanel alternatives
Webmin is a free and comprehensive suit of control panel packages. It is licensed under the BSD License according to sourceforge.net. There is a pay for module that you can buy but that is another story.
As you would expect it runs under linux (as a hack you can get it to work on windows too). It requires PERL which should not be a problem unless you have a very strange set up. It bundles apache, spamassassin and all the stuff you would expect from a good rival to CPanel.
Indeed Webmin does a lot of the low level work and the user management but it is not so easy to set things up without Virtualmin which trust me is 90% of all you will use.
Webmin has some little brothers - Usermin (which handles users and comes bundled), Cloudmin and Virtualmin (and Virtualmin Pro) which I will cover in a second. Usermin lets your users manage stuff while virtualmin (GNU GPL) simplifies a whole bunch of stuff. It is virtualmin that has a pay for edition.
I have used Webmin with Usermin and virtualmin (GNU GPL) on a server or two since 2007 and I have to say that it still does it's job well enough for me to not want to change. Webmin (with Virtualmin) does a lot of what CPanel does. It does not however offer autoinstall and billing but there are modules that can.
Virtualmin (GNU GPL)
Virtualmin makes the server management side of Webmin much, much better. Setting up a new website without Virtualmin is a pain as you will be needing to edit and alter all the different settings yourself. Virtualmin makes that much easier as it does all the config stuff for you.
Being a geek that loves GitHub it's nice to see that Virtualmin supports setting up git repositories. Perfect if you are hosting a lot of code.
If you use Webmin get this module.
Cloudmin (GNU GPL)
Cloudmin is a UI built on top of Webmin for managing virtual systems, such as Xen, KVM and OpenVZ instances. Using Cloudmin you can create, destroy, resize, startup, shutdown and restrict multiple instances using different virtualization technologies from a single interface. It also has a full command line API that can be used to manage virtual systems from a shell script or via HTTP requests. Cloudmin (GNU GPL) is limited to managing a single Xen or KVM host system.
More information is to be found on the Virtualmin home page.
Non-Free CPanel Alternatives
There are more I could have added but each of these were recommended by actual users in actual discussions in actual forums (so that I noticed) over the past few years.
CPanel / WHM
The main "alternative" is CPanel itself. After all it might be worth considering. It is, after all, popular or at least widely used.
With the impressive range of quality free packages and many less expensive non-free control panels I can give you no realyl compelling reason to use CPanel unless it really does feature something none of the others have aqnd you absolutly must have.
ISPmanager is available in three flavours - Lite, Pro and Cluster. While the Lite edition is intended for a single server/owner the Pro is aim at web hosting companies and so most closely matches CPanel in terms of competitiveness.
While not the cheapest solution on the market the lifetime license helps to cap the cost as investment if you plan to sell hosting to others. Bill Manager will step in to help manage that aspect of your business.
After CPanel this is possibly the next biggest system used. It is part of the Parallels collections of offerings along with H-Sphere. My experience of Plesk has been pretty darn poor but I have not used it in some time. I found it too sluggish to be much fun to use but that might have been the server so don't let me put you off.
In both other reviews I said that On price Plesk is not-at-all competitive from what I have been looking at. They seem to be more focused on telling you how great they are than on getting you to a sales point. They have still not changed and the price point is unknown to me.
When you buy hosting choosing CPanel always pushes the price up so I have guessed that Plesk scales better and costs less per user on larger deployments. With the impressive range of quality free packages and many less expensive non-free control panels there is still no reason in my mind to purchase Plesk.
Server Pilot - full review (new)
ServerPilot is a secure, lightweight, centralized control panel designed for developers hosting websites on their own servers. This is a cloud based approach to server management. This gives you the massive advantage that there is 0% of your CPU time being used by the control panel. Perfect for cloud based computing. ServerPilot will install and optimally configure services such as Nginx, Apache, PHP, and MySQL onto your server and then monitor the server to keep it healthy.
There are a free and paid versions of Server Pilot it will be listed twice with the main review being right here.
If you want things like SSL deployment or Real-time stats then you are going to need to go for the pay monthly per server option which starts at US$10.00 but can go as high as US$199.00 depending on what you need. I have no idea what web operation needs to pay a hundred quid a month (US$200) but one has to hope that it it truly amazing service and some serious hand holding going on there. The price plan could get crippling if you were suddenly popular on large scale news and sharing sites like slashdot, digg, reddit, facebook etc and if you needed to scale to tens or hundreds of cloud servers for a few days... ouch?
On the other hand the free price point would keep your scale servers running nicely and might be a good way arround that with only your core servers running paid for?
There's quite a lot of technical stuff going on in the background that you would be best advised to go and read for yourself if you are interested in asynchronous public-facing webserver vs process-based and scaling PHP process threads.
InterWorx offers the standard range of features as well as a focus on cluster and node configeration. It offers an API so yourself and resellers should be able to offer a custom payment interface if you or they are good at programming or can afford to hire some coders. At it has an API it should also integrate with HostBill if you don't fancy rolling your own payment system. It works well with clusters of servers (which is somthing CPanel and Plesk do not boast) and should scale well.
InterWorx boasts a fully brandable reseller hosting and packages system which works well if you are looking to establish a turn key business opportunity should such a thing still exist in today's saturated market.
The price is much more expensive monthly than Server Pilot although that is mainly to keept he support going there is the option to buy it with six months support and an unlimited dureation license.
H-Sphere is from the same people that bring you Plesk but was in past reviews the only paid control panel that I noticed specifically supports billing and payment. H-Sphere also allowed for Private Label Resellers which if you are thinking with your business hat on might make this the control panel of choice. If you are trying to save money a lot of these features are available on the free control panels so be sure you need all of the features before you splash out.
H-Sphere was not the cheapest option on the market but now that it is in bed with plesk I can find no pricing information at all. In imes gone by I have told that on a single server H-Sphere consumes more server resources than other major single server control panels.
SolusVM is a virtual server control panel from SolusLabs Ltd. It is a system that is perfect for clode setups with master and slave servers. Price wise it is one of the cheapest and although there is no free version the cost caps out at US$10 a month.
Obviousely this is also good for hosting providers wishing to sell VPH - Vertual Private Hosting with vertualised servers.
Forum support seems good and I would love a chance to play with this software on someone's servers just to get a feel for how it works.
While "not a free offering" the lifetime unlimited license is still just US$299 but you are on your own support wise after 90 days. Alternatively you can pay by the month or year like most other paid control panels for ongoing support and upgrades etc. This is expensive monthly than say, Server Pilot, but a better price than CPanel.
The feature set is exactly what you would expect (yes, resellers too), leaving nothing that was obvious out (aside from billing). Back in 2007 I was impressed that they support your users with the site-helper program which still seems good. They also had a forum which seemed to be a reasonable community when I first reviewed them and although I stand by my statement that I have definitely seen worse only some open source projects could truthfully claim they do better with support that way.
As ease of use goes you need only the operating system and a copy of the software on your server and the set up does the rest. This might be good for those that do not fancy getting into the nuts and bolts of the system. The install is handled by the vendor remotely (for free).
They support most flavours of Linux but not Windows. In terms of apparent value for money these guys still beat CPanel hands down. If that were not enough they maintain a site to hold comprehensive end user guides so your users don't need to keep asking you which are only a little bit starting to show their age. It's all rather impressive although after all these years (since 2011) it could still stand to learn a thing or two from the newer Open Source control panels and offer integrated billing and payment.
According to some reviewers Direct Admin many believe this the best control panel alternative to cpanel which doesn't break the bank. I have no idea who these many are or why they might make such blanket claims as a suitable replacement for CPanel but it does look like qutie a meaty offering
The Webmin.com family of Pay For CPanel alternatives
These last few exist as a group and so I have left them until the end of the pay for (non-free) CPanel alternatives. The short story is, as the free version, that everything here builds on Webmin (which is also free).
The pay for, super "pro" version of webmin's vertualmin for those that want all the power. The webmin site says Both the Pro and GPL versions are built from the same codebase, so all bugfixes and some new features go into both of them.
Virtualmin offers four methods for managing your server: Web, mobile device, command line, and remote API. Virtualmin is always available, no matter where you are or how you want to work. - this is the only one so far to make anything like this sort of claim.
Price wise this pro version comes in a number of options with the unlimited domains option (what else would you want) still being less expensive than CPanel and WHM. However the CPanel alternative part is free (see webmin up the page a tad) with just the multiple virtual hosts manager (the workhorse of hosting) carrying the price tag.
This mix looks good resulting in a well maintained website and an active looking community. Worth considering but if you don't like the price there is still the free version which while lacking some of the most sexy modules is a fully featured thing and not a crippled package.
The pay for, super "pro" version of webmin's cloudmin for those that want all the power.
Cloudmin Pro is the commercial version that you have to pay for. It includes numerous features not in the GPL version, such as support for Xen, OpenVZ, KVM, Vservers, EC2 and Solaris Zones, as well as the ability to manage multiple host systems. It also gives customers access to a wider range of system images, and commercial support. To learn more, visit the Virtualmin website.
The focus of CPanel is hosting companies that sell shared hosting often as their primary business. As such CPanel prioritises reselling, billing integration and email hosting which is fine if that's what you are looking for. However if you just want full control over your server, want to manage a cloud or have some other need then you might want to consider if it is truly a CPanel Alternative you want or simply a web based control panel to make your job easier.
This section of the CPanel Alternatives review is a summary of the existing control panels listed by theme in order to help you create a shortlist of possible candidates forthe best CPanel alternative for you.
If I have not short listed your favorite platform. If you are screaming Matt, do you not know that Platform X is ten times better than CPanel? then please feel free to educate me in the comments section below.
Cloud computing has come long way from where it was in 2007 when I first started writing this review. And each solution I have listed focuses on different strengths and is suitable for different tasks. For example if you are familiar with Webmin then Cloudminor Cloudmin Pro on the other hand if you are provisioning Windows based cloud solutions then WebsitePanel is what you are looking for. InterWorx and SolusVM are good for vertulaised servers, Server Pilot is great for cloud based administration and provision of a server while Softaculous is what you want for cloud based provisioning of auto installed scripts.
Free Reseller & Business Solutions
This is an area where the free offerings continue to trump the paid for ones - reseller and business use. Specifically the integration of billing systems. While Webmin Group of software could offer reseller support it really would need Virtualmin Pro to get things off the ground. So that leaves the following Free Reseller Supporting CPanel Alternatives.
These are solutions that really caught my eye that, were I making a recommendation to a client, might make my short list.