Congratulations, your business has grown to the point that you need a dedicated server for your Web site. This is great news for your business, but it does increase your server management responsibilities. For one thing, you are no longer restricted to your Web host’s choice of control panel, so you will need to choose one yourself. There are many control panels available, but the two most popular are cPanel and Plesk. The best one for you will depend on your needs.
What Does a Control Panel Do?
A control panel provides a simple, browser-based point and click interface for creating and maintaining your Web site and associated applications. This includes your email and database servers, directories and FTP accounts. It is also where you install any customized software needed for your site and set up individual accounts for staff. With control panel software, you do not need to know computer programming to effectively manage your Web site.
Microsoft Windows Server 2003 actually has a built-in control panel, so you do not necessarily need to install another, but you may want to if you need more power than it offers. On a Linux server, you will need a control panel unless you actually do know computer programming.
You may already be familiar with cPanel, as it is the most common control panel used by Web hosting companies. It is also the industry standard control panel, offering:
- The most features and options, as well as the most power and flexibility of all control panels on the market
- Installation of an unlimited number of domains on a single license — a valuable feature if you intend to resell Web hosting
- Fantastico to automate installation of Web applications and customized software solutions
- A second program, Web Host Manager, where administrators log into management functions
Up to now, cPanel has been available only for Linux servers, but the company has developed Enkompass for Windows Server 2008. Enkompass is currently in beta but is expected to offer nearly all the same features of cPanel for Linux.
- Fewer features than cPanel in the basic program, but a large library of plug-ins for adding features
- A more streamlined interface than cPanel, although some users do find it more difficult to use and customize
- Installation of up to 30 domains on a basic license
- Upgrades to either 100 or unlimited domain installations
- Permission-based login for administrators and users in a single interface
Plesk is generally a good choice for small businesses that don’t need quite as much power as cPanel offers.
Both cPanel and Plesk are available as demos, so you can familiarize yourself with both options before committing to one. A 15-day cPanel Test License requires free registration, and Parallels offers online demos of Plesk Panel.