Web Hosting control panels compared
Over the last 6 years, control panel software has grown to become a sophisticated piece of code which WebHosting providers use to manage servers and help Website owners manage their accounts.
This article series attempts to compare the Four most popular Commercial Control Panels, Hsphere, cPanel, Ensim and Plesk. We’ve compared them based on factors like Licensing, user friendliness, reliability and features. Hopefully this will help new and seasoned WebHosting providers to make the right choice.
Control panels generally have two types of licensing schemes, a Yearly license and a One time license.
Yearly licenses allow Hosting companies to pay by year and receive full Support and Software Upgrades during the period.
The One Time license is generally 2 to 3 times the yearly cost and allows the Hosting company to use the software for life. These licenses typically include One year support and upgrades.
One Time License Comparison
This License comparison is based on both One Time and Yearly Licenses for a Hosting company requiring a License for 250 to 300 domains per server. All prices are per server.
- Ensim Pro – $599 for 250 domains
- Plesk – $599 for 300 domains (Charges more for extras)
- Cpanel – $1250 for Unlimited domains
- Hsphere – $1125 for 250 domains ($4.50 per domain)
A note of caution on One time licenses. One time licenses seem attractive to many because they believe they won’t have to invest in the software again. But 2-3 years is a long time in the Hosting business. Software runs out of date pretty soon, and become insecure as time goes by. Hosting companies who have purchased the One time licenses generally find themselves paying more than they planned on Software Upgrades after the First year rolls out.
All prices are per server.
- Cpanel – $450 per year
- Plesk – $59.99 per month for 300 domains
- Ensim Pro – No yearly or monthly license
- Hsphere – No yearly or monthly license
Do you run your hosting business in non English speaking country? Are your customers International? Then you need to have a close look at the Multi language support options in your control panel.
Many control panels have inbuilt support for various languages. In addition, they allow you to add and maintain additional languages. Ideally if you have a global clientele, prefer to go in for a control panel which supports the languages of your choice and allows you to add more, if you need to later.
- Hsphere – English, Russian, Italian, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Portuguese(Brazil) inbuilt. You can integrate additional languages
- Plesk 7- Catalan, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish language packs are available for $99 per language pack. No options for integrating new languages.
- Ensim Pro – English, German and Spanish inbuilt. No options for integrating new languages.
- cPanel – No inbuilt languages. You can integrate additional languages.
Control panels support a varied range of platforms these days. Yet broadly classified, WebHosts maintain Unix flavours and Windows as their main Platforms, depending on the type of apps and websites that their clients want supported.
Many Control panels have their roots in Linux, mainly Redhat Linux that still remains the Unix flavor of choice with many WebHosts. Worldwide demand for Windows hosting is on the rise and many Control panels have Windows versions as well.
If you are going to own servers with different Operating systems, it would be wise to consider whether you want to be able to manage them from one interface. This is called Multiplatform support. This allows you to scale to other platforms as and when you increase your hosting business. So choose a Control panel which supports more platforms.
Hsphere rates the best because it is well supported in both Windows and *nix. It has a clean interface for managing servers of different Operating systems.
- Hsphere – Windows 2000/2003, *nix flavours (Redhat Linux, Trustix, RedHat Enterprise, Whitebox enterprise, CentOS, FreeBSD). Multiplatform.
- Plesk – Windows 2000/2003, *nix flavours( RedHat Enterprise Linux, Fedora, FreeBSD, SuSE, CentOS, Debian, Ubuntu)
- Ensim – Windows 2000/2003, Linux flavours(Fedora, RedHat Enterprise, RedHat 7.x)
- cPanel – Windows unsupported. *nix flavours( RedHat Enterprise Linux, Fedora, CentOS, Debian, SuSE, Mandriva, Whitebox Enterprise, Trustix, FreeBSD)
Ease of use
For endusers, Control panel Ease of use matters a good deal. Endusers may be small business owners with little technical knowledge and slow Internet connections. If your customers are of this kind, you may want to consider this category.
It is important for the Enduser control panel to be uncluttered, fast and easy to use. Help in the form of Tooltips is also a consideration. A good control panel, will have the least number of clicks and pages that are required to get a task done.
- cPanel – Fastest control panel. Icon driven main page makes it easier to access all functionality in minimum steps. Tooltip Help is provided in each page. Cons – Limited documentation on site.
- Plesk – Fast control panel, but slower than cpanel, because of its Database driven architecture. Plesk 7.5 has a better Interface now. Better looking graphics. But some anomalies remain. For example, when a new account is created, inbox has to be created seperately for mail. More steps to get the same tasks done.
- Hsphere – In a single loaded server, Hsphere is slower. Speed improves on muliple servers. Ease of use is majorly affected by the number of steps it takes to get a task done. Averages to about 2 to 4 steps per task. Excellent Onsite documentation.
- Ensim – Has the slowest control panel in this comparison. Older look and feel. Has not really gotten out a new improved look and feel as yet.
Security and Reliability
Probably the most important decision you make for your hosting business is your control panel and the most important consideration when you buy a control panel is Security and Reliability.
Security. Hackers keep finding security related vulnerabilities in popular control panels almost on a daily basis. I don’t think there is a software yet written which has had virtually no vulnerabilities. What is important is how quickly the Control panel company provide fixes to these holes. How easy is it to update the control panel with bug fixes.
Reliability. How often does the software keep going down. Does it get easily affected by load. How many server wide issues does a software get on an average. A lot depends on how a software is configured and maintained, the number of users and the hardware configuration. Yet, the software itself plays a large role. We’ve seen hundreds of servers that are maintained uniformly, yet some are more stable simply by virtue of the software it runs.
- Hsphere – Rock solid control panel, once you have everything installed and configured properly. High learning curve. Good server side documentation onsite to help you. Lesser support costs.
- Ensim – Stable control panel. Well configured, it rarely goes down. However slow response to correcting bug fixes and vulnerabilities. Software can be easily updated with update scripts.
- Plesk – More buggier than Ensim, but found to have faster response times than Ensim.
- cPanel – Not very reliable. Bugs are detected frequently. However, fast response to bug fixes, generally within hours. It is extremely easy to incorporate patches, usually with just an “upcp”
Before you choose a control panel, carefully analyse your existing and proposed client base and your Tech support team’s Technical capability in these control panels, If you have a small localized client base, multiple language support may not be a big deal, but user friendliness may. To reduce your tech support costs, you may want to consider a reliable control panel. Whatever your choice may be, always ask around in forums like Webhostingtalk.com. There are literally thousands of WebHosts out there who have experienced each control panel personally and have quite vocal opinions about them.
About the author:
Sangeetha Naik heads Bobcares.com. She is the co-founder of Poornam Info Vision Ltd., Software and IT services company specializing in Linux based solutions for Webhosts and ISPs. Poornam Info Vision is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company with a team of over 140 engineers.
Sangeetha is a Computer Engineer based in India and has over 7 years of experience in the Hosting industry. Her articles have been published both online as well as in print.