The Definitive Thread on Open Source Control Panels/ cPanel Alternatives: Part I

June 29, 2013 70.1k views
Greetings: I've been digging around the DigitalOcean ("DO") forums & UserVoice threads, looking for insightful recommendations on the various Open Source Control Panels ("CPs") out there. DO clients use an array of various CPs and I'm hoping to whittle the list down to 1, 2 or 3 highly-recommended CPs. It appears, based on my cursory, anecdotal evidence, that the following list represents the most popular CPs among DO users:
Domain Technologie Control (GPLHost)
ISPConfig 3
The Hosting Tool
Virtualmin GPL/Webmin
This topic has come up repeatedly in the DO community forums; but, rarely, do any of the responses offer specific, insightful reasons why someone prefers one of these CPs over others and/or why someone prefers one of these CPs over cPanel--despite the cost of a cPanel license. Based on the number of times this question has been posed in the DO forums and the number of times cPanel has been requested in the DO UserVoice threads, I'm hoping that we can have a robust comparison of all of the Open Source CPs out there; so as to alleviate the need for anyone else to ever ask this question yet again. Here are some ?s that I'm particularly interested in learning more about: 1.) Which of these Open Source CPs have you tried? 2.) Which CP do you use now? 3.) What did you not like about any of these CPs? 4.) Why did you choose the CP you're currently using? 5.) What makes cPanel worth the cost, over any of these Open Source CPs? 5.) For those that are not using any CPs, but have researched/studied any of them: What are some of the (a) strengths and/or (b)weaknesses of the various Open Source CPs? So... what do ya'll think?
  • Zpanel / webmin
    Support opensource development

  • A very preliminary report:

    Until recently I had only worked with CLI and cPanel (as well as some proprietary CPs here and there, mostly without names, but all forgotten). Currently I am experimenting with setting up mail servers on VPSs using Ubuntu and CentOS, and in that context I have begun using Webmin. The reasons for my choice are that it is one of the first open-source CPs I became aware of, that it appears to support a very wide range of distributions, and that it is easy to install (especially on Ubuntu). This covers questions 1, 2, and 4 (I cannot answer questions 3, 5, and 6 yet.) :-)

    So far I am quite satisfied with Webmin, and I will try Virtualmin, as well, soon. Some things appear to not be doable via the CP, but perhaps this is more a sign of my limited experience than of the CP at hand, but going back to using the CLI on occasion is not an issue for me.

    For the next few weeks, while I am developing smooth procedures for setting up a secure mail server on various distributions, I will likely continue to use CLI and Webmin/Virtualmin. But eventually I will want to look into other CPs as well: ISPConfig, Ajenti, VHCS, Kloxo (especially when using CentOS), and EHCP (especially when using Ubuntu). Since I am using VPSs with at most 512MB of RAM, the question of how much RAM each of those CPs use will be one of the deciding factors in my long-term choice.

    Will report more when I have more data. :-)

    (BTW, it is nice to see that the focus of this thread is on comparing the functionality of various CPs and not a quest for "the best" CP. After all, what is "best" depends on a user's objectives and circumstances.)

  • Good idea for a question. Here is my input.

    Sentora is not on your list, but it is an evolution of Zpanel and it might be something you encounter. Be aware. I setup my VPS completely, and Sentora then corrupted its own MySQL database. There is no recovery from this known problem other than to de-install everything: MySQL, PHP, Dovecot, etc and re-install. Questions about this long-standing problem on the Sentora forum remain open and unanswered. Maybe they'll fix this in a future release?

    My setup Ubuntu 12.04/Apache2/Sentora 1.0. The data corruption didn't destroy my domains or my domain dbs, but since the /sentora/ path is injected into everything I wiped the slated and am starting over with a new panel. Liking ISPConfig, WebAdmin and VirtualMin but have not installed any of these yet. Researching now.

  • ISPConfig easy, easy to use, very very hard, complex, manualy to install. I hate.. I will go webmin+virtualmin. top download and bigest comunity.

  • My choice was ISP Config because i was a newbie and they had step by step tutorials. While the cli always gives you the control you need, ispconfig make common tasks even easier. I have been running my home self hosted websites for 4 years now with ispconfig with no major issues. The only issues i had so far were my insecure php code or because i didn't update on time got exploited, like with latest ssh exploit.

  • Vesta CP is definitely the best choice, easy to install and also has great performance, I love that it uses Nginx and also SpamAssassin and fail2ban. That makes for a more secure installation, and the control panel is clean and easy to manage I wrote a small tutorial on how to install with these features here Note: this is for Ubuntu 14.04 but should work for most Linux distributions.

42 Answers

Just tested Ajenti. RAM usage after clicking around in the control panel is 79MB.

Looks potentially promising, however not as nice and intuitive to find things like in zpanel, kloxo, or webuzo.

Also can't find phpmyadmin at all, which is something I need integrated with my control panel.

I tested Ajenti, ISPConfig, Kloxo, Vesta, zPanel and Virtualmin. After a lot of testings, my conclusion is: if you want to run big business, you should consider ISPConfig or Virtualmin. Those two are reliable, solid and very complete.

I´m using Virtualmin.

I didn´t like the installation process in a lot of CPs.

I choose Virtualmin because of the easy installation process. One line of code, and it installs everything to you.

cPanel is reliable, solid and easy to use. But Virtualmin too. My transition from cPanel to Virtualmin was very smooth. It also have scripts installer (eg: if you want to install wordpress automatically). One click, and it do it for you.

The only bad thing is the design. The default theme is outdated. However, there are some themes on the web, I developed Finally Virtualmin Theme. You should give it a try.

What annoys me most about some of the open source panels is they need to be put on a fresh installation of the server, I want to add a CP to my current installation.
  • That's it... So annoying having to set up a new machine every time you're willing to try out a new CP. And please guys don't tell me to Snapshot a spun machine with the basics, because the basics that will work for one CP are not the same that will work for another, and that makes it so boring.

I added Webmin/Virtualmin to my non-fresh droplet w/4 WordPress sites on a Multisite install, w/o having it wreak havoc ('knock on wood; knock on wood'). If you're feeling adventurous, you could take a Snapshot of your droplet; install Webmin & Virtualmin; while being in a position where you could quickly spin another droplet w/your Snapshot in the event that it doesn't work out or you simply don't like the CP, and then destroy your current droplet.
I was facing this question myself just the other day. I've used ispconfig3 before with another cloud service, and as a beginner to setting up cp's at the time I found it relatively painless due to all the "Perfect server" tutorials out there that include ispconfig setup info. I found it fairly easy to use as well, although I always found the interface a little ugly, purely from an aesthetic viewpoint. For my first droplet I've gone with Ajenti and quite like it so far. I only plan on running a single website on this server and Ajenti seems nice for managing on that scale right away, where as I found ispconfig to be more about setting up multiple sites / users etc.
tried and using Vesta for tests, for free - the best for non sys admin. Very good design easy to understand what and where, works fast, has built in nginx reverse proxy support

Try Virtualmin GPL/Webmin or ISPConfig 3. Both have the capability of managing multiple VPSs. ISPConfig 3, however, does NOT have LDAP support (but that's not a big deal for some).
This is an old topic that has never been properly answered in all the thousands of threads about it on the internet. I began reading these threads a few years ago, and after trying webmin/virtualmin, ispconfig, and kloxo, I found kloxo to be the most solid and well-developed. Since I am not running a hosting company in which large numbers of users would access the control panel, all the fuss about kloxo's security was not a concern to me.

Another reason kloxo was appealing is because it was the most similar to cpanel, which I had used for a few years before switching to VPS.

However, as I am now switching to DO, I am interested to see if there are any newer and better control panels out there. While kloxo is excellent, and easy, and solid, it seems it is not under very active development. I would like something more up-to-date if possible.

DO has made it so easy and cheap to create droplets that I can create one for each control panel I would like to test. This will only cost a few cents, since I will only be using them for the time it takes to test, then destroying.

My personal criteria are as follows:

1. I just need to be able to easily administer several domains with common features like redirects, mail, mysql, phpmyadmin, SSL, etc. The basics, as you would see in cpanel.

2. I need it to be lightweight, for the obvious reason that I don't want to pay for a bigger droplet.

So far, here are my results:

RAM usage after fresh install (MB):

Kloxo: 50
Virtualmin: 135 (later dropped down to 102)
Zpanel: 81 (later went up to 99)
Webuzo: 92-97

User interface:

Kloxo is decent, but looks slightly dated
Virtualmin is totally out, not even a consideration.
Zpanel definitely wins on design, but their website does not give installation instructions, need to find it in the forums. Searching modules is also done through the forums, instead of via a separate module system like drupal has. Not as full-featured as kloxo, for example, only allows for very simple cron schedules.
Webuzo is a strong contender. It is the most like cpanel, and by far the easiest to install and get working. However, I have not been able to figure out how to get rid of the long list of common app installers it offers. This is annoying.

I'm going to test a few more, but now leaning toward trying zpanel. If it can be optimized to make it as lightweight as kloxo, it will probably be sufficient for my needs.

It would be great if others could test some control panels and leave their impressions. It would be great if there were an industry standard, similar to drupal in the cms world, that everyone could agree on using and improving.


Webuzo, although really excellent in so many ways, is unfortunately out. Cannot remove the long list of installer apps in the free version. This is confirmed here:,_not_all_the_apps

Just tested Vesta and am super impressed! OK, the user interface is not as pretty as zpanel with all the nice little icons, but it seems really smartly done. It is also, by far, the fastest control panel I have ever tried.

RAM usage was at 88MB after install and went up to 93 MB after clicking around a bit. If everything actually works as it should, this may be a winner.
So it comes down to Kloxo, Zpanel, and Vesta.

Kloxo is tried and true. Very full feature set, and everything works well. Also quite easy to use with a cpanel-like gui. Only problem is that it is not under active development, and it feels a little bit old, like there might be something newer and better.

Zpanel looks like it might be the solution to everyone's control panel problems. It is beautifully designed, and all features are in the form of "modules" that can be added or removed. The forums seem fairly active, however the "community module store" doesn't seem to exist. This makes one wonder if it ever will exist, and how unfinished other aspects of the project are.

Vesta is simplistic and sleek and smart and definitely the fastest performing of all. There is a sense of minimalism, but everything I need. The creators are clearly onto something very good here. The main problem is that the forums are all in Russian!

Zpanel and Vesta are not fully open source projects and the developers charge for professional support.

I want to choose the one that is fully open source, has an active community of developers and users, is modern, and will still be the control panel of choice 5 years from now. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to exist right now.

So, I will be doing some further testing and probably choosing between Zpanel and Vesta.

Anyone else?
Zpanel is very pretty, but has a slightly amateur feel to it, as if it wasn't thought out or executed perfectly. This is reinforced by the fact that I have just spent a lot of time trying (unsuccessfully) to upload and test a simple drupal site. Apparently, it is not possible to use zpanel simply on the server ip, you must use a domain, or change a lot of configuration files to make it work. Web root is in a nonstandard location, so I had to search their forums for that too. Finally, I have given up on testing it because these things, and some other small details represent a less polished approach to the control panel's structure and implementation than others such as kloxo and vesta.

Vesta was very easy and intuitive to upload a site for testing, done in minutes, everything perfect. It doesn't let you do things like alter the php file upload limit from within the control panel (one of kloxo's many little features), but it is simple enough to just edit php.ini for that.

Also just found froxlor, another new control panel. It looks nice, but unfinished. At this point, there are so many that seem potentially good, but just aren't getting it quite right in some way.

Why can't we have a one-size-fits-all open source control panel that, like drupal, allows all its features to be added or removed as modules. I know, zpanel and virtualmin do that, but they are not the ones. Zpanel seems it was not created with sufficient mastery, and virtualmin is just totally outdated.

Who is going the create the drupal of web hosting control panels???
@pensivedog: I recommend giving Virtualmin a shot. The UI isn't that pretty but it works quite well and is much better than zPanel security-wise.

" and virtualmin is just totally outdated." It's not -- the UI just looks outdated.
I've been using zPanel and agree with most of what has been said about it. Installation was tricky and not well documented. i had to use a completely fresh droplet. i had problems trying to use my ip address as the domain during install and ended up having to reinstall with a domain name.

to it's credit the interface just got updated and is even better than before. It's very easy to create new users and set up domains, databases and ftp accounts.

Is it standard with everybody that you have to create DNS entries with digitalocean as well as on your control panel? that's been a little annoying since it's redundant but maybe i'm still just not installed correctly.

The biggest problem i have with zpanel so far is not being able to create a catchall email for my mailboxes. there are mixed messages about it online but none of the instructions i have tried work. the zpanel modules site has finally launched but is poorly populated.

Also to make an ftp user who is restricted to a single directory you have to go into zpanel's mysql records and make changes manually.

I'm thinking about making a new droplet for a single site and don't want to go through the process of installing zPanel for it.
It sounds like ajenti or vesta might be best for that?

I guess my priorities are:

1. easy and fast to install on fresh droplet (even better if possible on active droplet)
2. looks good (tbh)
3. php.ini settings per domain basis
4. phpmyadmin
5. catchall email alias

Maybe you could also consider Core-Admin ( It provides a server administration console for several servers so you can handle with a single user hosting, mail, dns and ftp.

It has a Free Edition without domain limits. There is also a commercial edition that includes technical support and extended features.

Hope you find it useful!
I've written a blog article comparing Froxlor, Ajenti and Vesta.
My conclusion was that Vesta clearly is the most appropriate for my needs.

Maybe it's useful for someone:
Hey folks,

About to embark on an endeavor to test a few of these out myself.

So far, it looks like Ajenti, simply because of it's beauty, will be the one for me. Granted, it will also need the functionality I am looking for as well.

Regarding Core-Admin, it appears there are a few themes you can grab online to "re-skin" it. Check this out and this one

I'll be sure to post my results to help aid, assist, and inform!

I was interested in using ServerPilot until it asks me to fresh reinstall ubuntu, nginx, apache and mysql. That sucks because not only have I installed all those (except Apache which I don't need) but I also spent hours modifying those for security and custom settings. I don't want to loose all those settings just for installing a Cpanel! Too bad since ServerPilot seems to tailor specifically to DigitalOcean servers.

Is there good alternatives without having to reinstall everything? Thanks!

Wow, this is probably the best thread on DigitalOcean about free cPanel alternatives, so I'm posting my thoughts and questions here!

I've had my sites on a VPS with cPanel for about 10 years and am REALLY thinking about moving to DigitalOcean and trying a free web panel alternative.

I'm finding that I'm drowning in options and information and not sure what path to take. The big issue is that once I move all my sites to a new Web Panel, I don't want to have to move again since doing so is a total pain / nightmare!

Ideally, here's what I'd like to find:

  1. A comparable system to cPanel so I can host multiple "accounts" (websites) as a reseller and give each account access to manage their own sites. I want something rock-solid and a good mix between features/complexity/ease-of-use

  2. Support for “one button install / update” scripts. These make managing software and especially keeping family and friend’s installs of WP always up-to-date and SUPER easy since I can force upgrade all of them with one button. I currently use Softaculous with cPanel integration and it works great!


I think, right now, my top choices are:

1) CentOS Web Panel
2) Virtualmin
3) Sentora

Which of these (or any other web control panels) would you recommend based on what I'm looking for?

Also, I've heard some people say that "free = not secure"... but is that really the case? I mean, a lot of apps / scripts (Wordpress?) are "free" and a TON of the web is built upon them. Are we really forced to use cPanel if we want a quality and secure control panel?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and comments!

1.) Which of these Open Source CPs have you tried?
Ajenti - Looked nice, not very powerful.
Webmin - Very powerful, but not much in the web server config side.

2.) Which CP do you use now?

3.) What did you not like about any of these CPs?
Either looks, or learning curve. I've not used cPanel for a long time, I've been using Plesk until I went to DO, now I don't use a CP.

4.) Why did you choose the CP you're currently using?
I don't use one.

5.) What makes cPanel worth the cost, over any of these Open Source CPs?
No idea.
One thing that I don't like about any of these is the lack of support for scaling. My personal favorite (though not open source) is InterWorx. It supports high availability server clustering and has an abundance of nice looking real time graphs for everything. Plus NodeWorx is just smooth to manage- love seeing the status/basic commands for all my daemons as soon as I log in instead of a wall of icons.

Webmin and Kloxo are neat too, but none of these seem quite polished enough to compete with the paid panels. Yet, anyway.

ServerPilot is built for PHP developers running apps on their own cloud servers. It's not a control panel for selling mass-market shared hosting.

ServerPilot isn't open source, though much of the code that runs on your servers is auditable. It's a hosted (SaaS) application with a lightweight agent that runs on your server. Security is a major priority of ServerPilot and the security model was designed by a security researcher.
In brief, which CPs is the best and free?
@Kamal Nasser: thanks for the reply. The DO people seem to have what it takes, I vote for them to create the perfect hosting control panel :)
Dropping in here late!

Oops, try again...

@pensivedog, I'm wondering what you don't like about Virtualmin ("not even a consideration"). From my brief excursions, it does everything *I* need, but maybe I'm short-sighted. I don't love the non-email logins, but that's pretty minor. It's not very beautiful, but it seems to have everything.
I personally don't like Virtualmin just for the fact that it's not very pretty. There, I said it. I've had to set up 10+ servers at a time for companies and having to look at that interface for hours at a time drives me nuts. You can change the theme but I prefer something easier on the eyes out of the box. Virtualmin however has more functionality than any other free control panel I've ever used.

Vesta CP is by far my favorite for it's ease of use and modern interface. It's very simple to use but doesn't come close to the functionality of Virtualmin and may be TOO SIMPLE for some. A lot of the posts in their forums are in Russian so that might be a turn off for some as well. For me I like the multiple server administration from a single panel.

For a balance of functionality and ease of use I like ZPanel. They have had security issues in the past but you can take steps to tighten security yourself. It's probabily the closest you can come to an out of the box cPanel like experience for free. They even have a theme that is a cPanel clone as well. One thing to note is ZPanel can only control a single server.
@randall: thanks for that. I have no problem with the look of Virtualmin, and love the functionality. I'm just wondering if there are other arguments against Virtualmin/Webmin, like holes in the functionality, bugs, security issues, etc.

One thing that is required for me is Mailman integration. Virtualmin does this (although it still suffers from the problem of requiring a unique list name *per server*).

Has anyone tried using Open VZ
Hello everybody,

I was looking for a free control panel too. I've just installed ServerPilot to test.

But, look at Froxlor. I haven't try it yet, but it looks good.
By the way, do you know a control panel only for emails ?
Dear OP,

I will be very pleased to read Part 2 of this thread, since it seems Part 1 has tailed off into the usual allegory and list of personal likes and dislikes without any 'hard' information, or becoming ~ in any way shape or form ~ "The Definitive Thread on Open Source Control Panels/ cPanel Alternatives" it set out to be.

Shame. When I read the title I went and made myself a cup of coffee and sat down prepared for a good read.

Well, the coffee good.

Can anyone tell me what a "DO" is?

I wish they had a cheaper version for DirectAdmin..

Server pilot seems very limited in its scope. Still did not figure out what it was meant to do.

I am currently using "EHCP", but still found many bugs.

Made my initial web page, previously set up, inaccessible through a Forbidden error. I'm sure this is an easy problem to solve, but it wasn't an assignment I appreciated being given.


  1. Minor issue: Warning on webpage that it's uninstallable only by rebuilding the server.
  2. Medium issue: The file manager is not tree'd.
  3. Major issue: CWP uses this @^#%^$ new "light grey on white" theme that just drives me into a rage. (The whole purpose of a monitor is to be able to see. How it is that been forgotten?!)
  4. Major issue: CWP uses unexpected locations for files like httpd.conf and places like webroot. I strongly prefer the locations of these files to be in the places Apache, PHP, Tomcat, etc. would place them if installed separately. I dislike having to hunt around for them.

Dealbreaker: Apparently no file manager.

Dealbreaker: Lots of web reports about major security flaws.

Dealbreaker: Not (yet) available for CentOS 6.

Saw their website. Would try it out but it's not available for CentOS-based systems, just Debian and Ubuntu.

Most CWP's
I see no reason why these had to be built such as to require them to be installed on a clean server, or to require their own flavor of applications such as Apache et al. Create these things modularly. If Apache or PHP or whatever is already installed, ask for its location. Alternately, if we must be forced into using the web panel's version, then ASK ME where important things like httpd.conf and webroot location are to be located and display the individual program's suggested default location as a option.

I had big experience with ZPanel, but now I'm with ISPmanager
The biggest problem with free panels (like ZPanel) is that you can not be sure how long they will be supported by developers. You may build you website around it for years. And then they will say you: "Bye-bye man, we don't have more interest to update it". So I decided to not ever again use free stuff.

I choosed ISPmanager because it has all premium features, which cPanel has but comes for a lot more cheaper price. It developed since 1997 and still feeling good, so I´m sure that product will be live for a long-long time.

For those of you who never tried ISPmanager here is it's

Open source projects can not compete with commercial products when speaking about support of new versions of Operating Systems, when speaking about security and Support of course.

Tried Sentora - had some problems that I couldn't figure out. It proved unreliable for me, but I'm a hobby web developer, so it may have just been my shortcomings!

Vesta CP - what I have been using for over a year. Works great and reliable. After figuring out swapfiles, I had a lot less problems with mysql crashing. I also set up a cron to check if mysql has crashed and reboot it if it has, as I was still occasionally having sql crashing problems.

ISPConfig 3 - haven't tried it, but my question to the good folks; I'm looking for a mail list manager and it seems as though ISPConfig 3 integrates with MailMan GNU. Anyone have a comparison between vesta and ISPConfig 3?

I've struggled with VirtualMin/Webmin (actually I didn't know the difference)
I started with Ajenti, then Zpanel and by now I'm moving from Sentora to VirtualMin. There's no better choice than VirtualMin with this theme or the new theme Authentic. It's a killer.

The best option I believe is zPanel which is smooth and its UI is user friendly.
It is horrible to pay 15 USD each month for cPanel.

zPanel has a new name viz sentora which is more awesome and secure.

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