Web Hosting Control Panels
What's a Web Hosting Control Panel?
Once upon a time, it was difficult to start a web hosting business. Put briefly, systems administrators had their work cut out for them. Not only configuring and updating a Linux or Windows server with all the best software, but also in tediously managing web, email, and ftp accounts. Those days are now long over.
The modern web host may still have use for a systems administrator, but they can now breath easy (or easier). Dozens of web hosting control panels are now available, which act as an interface between the end user and the web hosting administrator. Dozens of previously complicated tasks are now completely automated, and hundreds of features delivered directly to both the webmaster and administrator all in simple web interfaces. This hub will elaborate on a few of those software options available.
InterWorx is a web hosting control panel with a lot of very unique features. Firstly, it contains all of the essentials- managing web sites, various analytic software, FTP and email account management, etc. InterWorx is set apart from other all of the other major web hosting software options in three key ways:
- InterWorx supports load balancing / server clustering. This may not seem like much at first, but to any webmaster that has tried to host a very large web site, it's easy to understand why this is huge.
- InterWorx has real-time graphs, using RRDTool, for over a dozen aspects of server performance. This is more of a luxury feature, but gives a great visual snapshot of server health that can be somewhat addictive both for a server administrator and the webmaster.
- InterWorx is very command-line friendly. Unlike cPanel and Plesk, there is a CLI interface to InterWorx that rivals the web interface, and it is very easy to customize an InterWorx server without interfering with other control panel applications (in fact, InterWorx itself is run from a completely separate install of Apache and MySQL, meaning that alterations to your web sites server configurations are completely harmless to InterWorx functionality).
cPanel is the most widely used web hosting control panel. It's interface is very simple for beginners, and it contains a web interface that is visually very impressive to the end-user. Because it is so widely used, it has also been subject to dozens of very serious security exploits, so it is even more important than average when running a cPanel server that you understand how to secure your server beyond that of the original install, and keep supporting software up-to-date.
cPanel comes with perhaps the most administrative features of any control panel. While it does not currently contain a number of graphs or clustering support as with InterWorx, a cPanel server contains a very complete list of features for most web hosts, and interfaces with more supporting software (such as billing and support systems).
Plesk is a web hosting control panel maintained by Parallels (formerly SW-Soft). Parallels is the same company responsible for a variety of virtualization software. In general, Parallels software is more popular amongst small business users than web hosting companies. That said, Parallels Plesk control panel does contain the majority of the features seen in both cPanel and InterWorx.
Plesk control panel also plays especially nice with other Parallels products. When teamed with Parallels Virtual Private Server flagship application (Virtuozzo), systems administrators can move from managing virtual infrastructure, directly into a Plesk web application control panel of a customer, all in a single click. This is perhaps the greatest benefit of running Plesk. Parallels has also placed a lot of emphasis on SaaS applications (Software as a Service), and has the largest suite of instantly-installable applications from the web. While this is also possible with the two pervious software options, only Plesk provides the option to also purchase paid applications from this common web interface, and to install these, giving a cut of the revenue back to the hosting provider.
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