Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting may be expensive compared to shared hosting but offers greater flexibility. These plans are a web developer’s dream come true, customizable in every way, from Operating systems (OS) to specific applications and frameworks deployed.

Yet this flexibility comes at the cost of VPS hosting requiring more technical skill to handle. To overcome this, we look towards the web hosting control panel, which can ease many tasks significantly.

Understanding the Web Hosting Control Panel

Web hosting control panels allow easy access to web hosting management functions.
Web hosting control panels allow easy access to web hosting management functions.

A web hosting control panel is a graphic user interface (GUI) dashboard meant to allow easier control over web hosting accounts. Like all other applications, web hosting control panels come under different brands and offer varying features.

Standard features you’ll find on most web hosting control panels include domain name management, email account handling, and the ability to deploy web applications. Key differences between web hosting control panel brands lie in the details.

The VPS Web Hosting Control Panel Advantage

Unfortunately, shared hosting account users generally don’t have much control over web hosting control panel choices. They can opt for a web hosting plan with a specific web hosting control panel - but can’t customize or change it.

If you’re using VPS hosting, you can choose which web hosting control panel you wish to operate. Aside from differences in core features, web hosting control panels can influence your web application or website in many ways.

Most web hosting control panels offer utilities in core areas such as:

  • File Management
  • Domain Management
  • Database Management
  • Email Management
  • Application Management
  • Server Management & Security

Being able to choose your web hosting control panel means you decide if you wish to find one which is more lightweight, comprehensive, or offers other specific advantages.

What the Web Hosting Control Panel Doesn’t Do

Before you get carried away, the web hosting control panel isn’t perfect. It mainly helps in the administration and upkeep of your web hosting, making maintenance tasks a lot easier. Some core aspects of the web hosting plan still need to be done manually, for example:

  • Web server deployment and configuration (e.g. Apache, Nginx, etc.)
  • OS deployment and configuration

In some areas, the web hosting control panel also offers limited assistance. This limitation is especially true where scripts and web applications are concerned. Framework deployment is minimally supported, but you may still have to go for a manual deployment if you need something specific.

Choosing the Right Web Hosting Control Panel

Before you head off and start picking out your web hosting control panel, it’s essential to understand the impact they may cause. Two of the most important aspects to consider in your choice are:

  • Price - Some web hosting control panels require licensing fees to use, while others are available for free. This licensing fee adds to the cost of your web hosting, driving up operational costs significantly over the long term.
  • Performance - Since web hosting control panels run a GUI, they require more resources to run on your hosting plan. Your choice of web hosting control panel may affect the overall resource consumption.

Remember that just because a web hosting control panel is the most expensive or feature-packed doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right choice for your needs. You must understand what you’re looking for before making a choice.

Web Hosting Control Panel Options

cPanel and Plesk are two of the most common web hosting control panels currently available. They are mature and highly supported, and many web hosting companies offer either of them as a default.

cPanel is meant for deployment on Linux-based OS only, while Plesk is traditionally Windows, but more of a hybrid now. The problem with these two is that they fall under the same ownership umbrella.

That, coupled with monopolistic control over market share, means increasing prices. cPanel, for instance, has increased licensing fees multiple times over a relatively short period. If you prefer mainstream and don’t mind licensing fees, by all means - they are a great choice.

Other alternatives to consider include;

SPanel

Spanel is amazingly lightweight but fully cPanel compatible hosting..

SPanel is available from ScalaHosting, and it’s free to their VPS plan users. A self-developed solution, SPanel is lightweight but also fully cPanel compatible (in case you’re thinking of migrating).

The best part about SPanel is the inclusion of other innovative features from the host. They include SShield, a highly effective real-time cybersecurity defense tool, and the SWordPress Manager for integrated control over WordPress instances.

Webmin

Webmin is a hosting that's able to multi-distribution compatible

If you plan on running Linux for your VPS plan, then Webmin is a viable choice. It is multi-distribution compatible and has a very old-school GUI design. For those used to early Linux GUI interfaces, Webmin will bring back fond memories.

Despite somewhat antiquated looks, Webmin is a little more unique in that it offers control over the Apache web server. It’s also available in an open-source distribution so you can customize modules that fit your specific needs.

InterWorx

InterWorx hosting is suitable for web developers working with PHP, MySQL and Perl.

InterWorx is a dual-module web hosting control panel suitable for web developers who work with PHP, MySQL, and Perl. Its two modules (NodeWorx and SiteWorx) handle web hosting plan areas - server management and website management, respectively.

There is a catch, of course - this is also a commercial application. InterWorx licenses are sold on a per-server or per-VPS model. Thankfully, pricing is still a lot cheaper than cPanel; in fact, around half the price even at the lower end.

DirectAdmin

DirectAdmin is functionality and runs on various Linux distributions.

If you love cPanel, DirectAdmin is very similar in design and functionality. It’s surprisingly more lightweight despite being relatively feature-rich. DirectAdmin also supports the Softaculous script installer, in case you like to experiment with various apps.

As with cPanel, DirectAdmin runs only on various Linux distributions, including CloudLinux, Redhat, CentOS, Debian, and FreeBSD. DirectAdmin isn’t free, but the licensing fee is minuscule compared to the whopping price tags found with cPanel.

Ajenti

Ajenti is a open-source hosting control panel having a great deal of developer support.

Ajenti is another open-source web hosting control panel but one which includes a great deal of developer support. It’s Python-capable and supports the GEvent framework. If that isn’t enough, you can extend script support easily, thanks to the modular design.

While it isn’t the most streamlined web hosting control panel to operate, Ajenti only adds around five to 30MB of memory overhead per session. Running it the full monty with Python runtime and all libs loaded caps HDD usage at an estimated 75MB.

Conclusion

For web development, the web hosting control panel isn’t an all-powerful tool. Where it excels is in assisting you to more efficiently manage your web hosting server - reducing time spent on technical upkeep.

Shared hosting users don’t get a choice, so if you’re on VPS, take full advantage of the ability to deploy your choice of web hosting control panel. From performance to price - the impact may surprise you.

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