What Are Server Management Panels ?

In this post, I write about Server Management Panels, which provide a graphical or command line based interface for managing your servers.

In this post, you will find a list of control panels that can help you in management of servers, user accounts, and installing content management systems and apps. I have updated this post since int was last published in September 2020. Over the past Year and a half, some projects have stalled, while new server panels have begun. Like before, this list has options in Freeware, Open Source, and Freemium segments. Majority of server management panels cater to Linux Operating System.

You can listen to the audio version of this post by clicking below

Introduction: Server Management Panels

A server management panel provides a graphical or command line based interface for managing your server. Some common server control panel features include:

a. Installation of database server such as MySQL,

b. Web servers like Nginx and Apache,

c. Setting up firewall and SSL certificate,

d. Creating user accounts and websites using content management systems such as WordPress.

Server Management using a Control Panel

Majority of the readers who have used shared web hosting will familiar with using a web browser based panel for managing the servers. Most providers offer CPanel, Plesk, or DirectAdmin based web hosting control panels. Thus, the concept or idea of a web based control panel may not be new to many of us. However, the installation, configuration and management may not be familiar to most. In many online forums, Facebook groups, and sites such as Quora and Reddit, users ask questions like “Which is the best server management panel?”

Many blogs are written with similar titles, such as this one.

My trigger for writing this post

There was a similar discussion on LowEndTalk a few months ago. The discussion yielded a good list of panels for servers, in the free, freemium, and paid only pricing range. In the next section, have listed some of the panels that I have read about or come across in many of the discussions. 

Mysql managment- Ajenti. Blog of Amar Vyas Server-Management-Panels.png
Managing MySql in Ajenti Web based server control panel

The fallacy of “Best” Server Management Panel

This question “Which is the best server management panel?”, itself is rather pointless. After all, different people may have different requirements and constraints. Some of these are :

  • Familiarity with Linux and or command line,
  • Ability to manage a server,
  • Trust in a third party service (convenience versus delegation),
  • Budget (free or open source versus premium panels)

The more relevant question in my opinion, should be,

Or “How do I select a Web Hosting Panel?”

But that is a discussion for a separate topic.

Below is a list of panels I have come across in different discussions. This list is in no particular order. I have installed and played around with a few of the server management panels, and will share my thoughts on them in subsequent posts. Some are good for site monitoring, installation of web apps and Content Management Systems based on Laravel. You can find one click installers for OctoberCMS or even WordPress. Some panels offer API in free or freemium tier. Others offer premium features for paid versions.


Free/ Open Source Freemium Paid
Cloudpanel Core Admin Bunnyshell
EasyEngine Runcloud Forge
aaPanel Virtualmin Server Avatar
VPSNoobs CentOS Web Panel Gridpane
Cipi Cloudron Cleavr
HestiaCP Keyhelp DirectAdmin
Ajenti   cPanel
ISPConfig   Webuzo
Agenti   Interworx
Floxlor   SpinupWP
Webmin   VEPP
Centminmod   Plex
Slickstack   Ploi
Tinycp   Virtfusion
Webinoly   ServerPilot
VestaCP/MyVestaCP
Wordops    
Types of Web Based Server Management Panels.List compiled by A Vyas, Updated March 2022

Froxlor Control Panel
                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Dashboard of Froxlor Control Panel

When I started looking at the world of servers and server panels, I noticed that different hosts used different web panels. For example, my first web host, GoDaddy, used a different panel whose name I do not recall. (I know, but you have to start somewhere!)

Later, I signed up for a WordPress hosting Plan by Hostgator. I learned they used a crippled version of CPanel. In 2017, I came across one of my hosts, and domain registrars, Rorarii. They use a custom form of cPanel, that might slightly resemble Interworx. 

Majority of web hosting services offer hosting based on cPanel, DirectAdmin, Plex, or similar commercially available web hosting control panel.

Open source alternatives include Froxlor, as well as some new ones which are under development. Github is a good starting point to look up some of them. Several blog posts have lists of cloud control panel or open source control panels to manage Linux servers. And of course, Wikipedia has an entire dedicated page on web hosting control panels.

Dashboard for CloudPanel
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Dashboard of Cloudpanel

Features of Server Management Panels

When we look at server panels such as Runcloud, Serverpilot, and Server Avatar, we begin to notice some commonalities.

The common features in these web based cloud or server management panels include:

  • They have control panel with a graphical interface. A command line tool, may be optional in some of them.
  • Most of the panels require the use of Linux (or BSD). Some even require or recommend Ubuntu 18.04 20.04. Others like Centminmod or CentOsWeb Panel require of course CentOs. HestiaCP or VestaCP recommend Ubuntu or Debian 10.
  • Almost all panels require a KVM based Virtual Private Server.
  • The setup for every server control panel is quite similar:
  • Some may or may not offer the option of setting up a mail server.
  • A web hosting control panel, through which you can install content management systems, such as WordPress. There are tools to add your domain name. You can add virtual hosts as well.
Account Adminitration Menu for APISCP. Blog of Amar Vyas

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              VPSNoobs: Account Menu

 


Resources

  1. 21 Open Source/Commercial Control Panels to Manage Linux Servers (tecmint.com)
  2. 10 Best Cloud-based Control Panel to Manage Servers & Websites – Geekflare (geekflare.com)
  3. Comparison of Top 11 Open Source Hosting Panels in 2020 (znetlive.com)
  4. Let’s Compare: RunCloud vs Forge vs ServerPilot – SitePoint (sitepoint.com)
  5. Capterra and ProductHunt have some more reviews for web hosting server control panels
  6. I may do separate reviews on the following: Cloudpanel, VPSNoobs, Runcloud, Server Avatar, HestiaCP, Cleaver, and Gridpane. 
Web Based Server Management panels. Image by Amar Vyas Server-Panels.jpg
Web Based Server Management Panels

My notes from testing server panels

Almos all of the panels require PHP; there are panels for Python and other languages, such as APISCP

  1. Cloudpanel –> I found it to be an impressive panel with a simple and clean interface. Works quite well with a good set of VHosts and content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, and many more.
  2. Cloudron <– During installation and configuration, getting errors, need to install this panel again on a VPS and test further.
  3. HestiaCP –> I found it to be lightweight and easy to install. It works well with Debian 10 on a 1 GB OVZ.
  4. VPSNoobs –> This panel is based on Cipi, I experienced issues with the dashboard, possibly a browser issue otherwise okay
  5. Cleaver –> Good, fast in testing. Learnt about it from Betalist, tried it while it was still as a free trial.
  6. Server Avatar –> lots of issues initially with connecting VPS initially, had to reach out to customer support to set up the VPS. In testing around August 2020, configuration was easy!
  7. Runcloud –> Had considered their LT deal as alternate to GP
  8. Gridpane –> Pick of the lot. Mature, robust stack. Premium product, justifies the premium.
  9. Centminmod –> Did not try, so cannot comment.
  10. Webuzo –> I tried installing Webuzo through Virtualizer, but got configuration errors. Need to try again at a later time. The installation at the click of a button is convenient. However, I miss the opportunity to peek under the hood and learn what is going on.
  11. CentOS Web Panel –> I first experienced this panel while using the shared hosting plan by Illy Hosting. From a user’s perspective, it was a breeze to configure. I was able to do the basics- add a domain configure DNS, create a WordPress site. I haven’t used CentOS Web Panel as an admin, therefore cannot comment on this option for server management panel form that angle.
  12. Openlitespeed –> Installation worked well, configuration was quite easy, though I experienced some SSL issues during configuration, which is user error.
  13. Cyberpanel : I did not spend enough time with Cyberpanel to comment on its efficacy.

 Server Control Panel. Blog of Amar Vyas

Webmin Server Control Panel. Source: Wikipedia. Blog of Amar Vyas
Webmin Server Control Panel. Image Source: Wikipedia

Server Panels for Python or other Languages

I will leave you with a a screenshot for apiscp for now. In a later post, I might write more in detail about these and other panels such as Pythonanywhere


This post was updated on 2022-03-20
Published
Categorized as Web Hosting