Question

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

Posted June 29, 2013 102.2k 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:
Ajenti
Domain Technologie Control (GPLHost)
FreedomCP
ISPConfig 3
Kloxo
OpenPanel
The Hosting Tool
Vesta
Virtualmin GPL/Webmin
zPanel
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?
6 comments
  • 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.

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46 answers
alexdo May 21, 2020
Pinned Answer

Hello, all

This is a really interesting question that I’ve seen before and would like to share my opinion with the rest of you.

There a lot of web panels available (most of them are free to use) that you can choose in order to manage your server. What I can recommend is to try them as in this way you can see if it really suits your needs.

I will list the top control panels that I recommend:

CentOS Web Panel
Vesta CP
Webmin
Ajenti
ISPConfig

and of course I need to mention Plesk although it’s not free it’s been available for a while and it’s always been the main cPanel competitor. It has a lot of build-in features and a lot of plugins that you can install and you can always reach to their support team if needed which is something that might come handy in time.

You’ve now got some great options if you want to use a control panel with your server but you don’t want to pay for a license. I’ve tried to lay out most of the available options, but which one is best will ultimately depend on your individual needs.

Regards,
Alex

UPDATE:

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
@vnttn05:

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.

UPDATE:

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:

http://www.softaculous.com/board/index.php?tid=4475&title=I_just_want_the_control_panel,_not_all_the_apps
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