cPanel is a great website management tool that often comes bundled with website hosts. It’s widely used and is something of an industry standard, but for the individual website hoster who likes to have their cake and eat it too, or for the hoster working on a budget and likes their customization, and the cost of cPanel for an individual server, per month, runs from $15-$20. That’s not insignificant, factoring the possible additions of server costs, or additional expenses from domains and other software clients. The good thing is, the Internet is vast, and there’s more than one free, open-source alternative to cPanel out there. Here’s a pick of our top four.
VirtualMin and WebMin are a Linux distributions and Unix compatible software suite that’s easy to install, and free under a General Public License. It doesn’t look as sharp as some other control panels, but there’s some deep customization available despite the simple-looking UI. For people looking to switch to dedicated or VPS hosting, Virtualmin/Webmin is also capable of importing websites from cPanel backups, making website transfer from shared hosts to VPS/dedicated ones very simple. It can also be used together with NGINX to act as a web server and speed up processing. There’s good support and Q&A threads that can help with a variety of problems that might arise.
zPanel has a lot of standard hosting features: a file manager, a DNS/domain manager, a MySQL database, to name a few, that make it an easy-to-use, but not particularly advanced control panel. With a simpler interface modeled after cPanel, it’s a good option to host client websites, though there are less server capabilities when compared to Virtualmin. zPanel is a great choice for beginners who just want to a host, and aren’t looking for much customizability or complexity in their hosting experience.
“Vestacp is quite easy to install and noob-friendly”
Simple and minimalistic, VestaCP runs on Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL and CentOS Linux distributions. It’s easy to use and install, with basic administrative and hosting features, like adding domains, webmail from Roundcube, log checking, statistics, and automated backups. There are less options for deeper configuration, so there are not options for offsite backup or subdomain and subserver creations. However, VestaCP has a good record with security, though credentials tend to be emailed in plain-text. And there’s an extra bonus for anyone looking to sell hosting to clients-a WHMCS billing module complete with a number of server plans.
Kloxo-MR is a fork of popular control panel Kloxo that has repaired several of the bugs of the latter, with a UI based on looks a little like Windows XP and cPanel put together It’s got a native autoscript installer that supports 100+ scripts. It’s also made by the same folks who worked on HyperVM, so turning a dedicated server into an OpenVZ/KVM environment is a piece of cake. The control panel only works on CentOS distributions, but the layout lends itself well to multiuser configuration. Kloxo also offers several billing features, such as WHMCS, HostBill and Blesta, as well as reselling.