When it comes to selecting a control panel for your hosting server, you might be in a perplexed stage. The industries hit-list items are cPanel, DirectAdmin and Parallels Plesk. I have played with these 3 and most of the times when I play longer, they screw me up. The one I’m comfortable with is cPanel and let me explain WHY !

cPanel :

Most colorful, most graphical user-interfaced and easy to understand/use — cPanel offers stuffs more than any other control panels has to.

They have many many custom Apps tied to their interfaces and are highly configurable by the users. This is a serious plus-point when compared with Plesk or DirectAdmin. Yes, its true, more features means more bugs. However, there will be a workaround/fix for them at the earliest. Newer versions with new fixes/features get released in the blink of an eye, while you have to wait for long for DirectAdmin or Plesk.

cPanel is very widespread, their forums answer about 99% of your questions/issues. If not their support ( the quickest among the lot ) will do it for you.

Upgrading your services ( like PHP or MySQL ) are very much simple when it comes to cPanel. The tool integrated to provide these upgrading tasks can include custom modules and you can run your server with 2 versions of PHP, set both of them with different PHP handlers. Cant imagine something like this in Plesk/DirectAdmin Yes, it is possible, but 90% of the time, things break leaving you with no option other than restoring the entire system. I still remember me sitting hours to install 2 versions of PHP in Plesk.

Quick installation setup’s using scripts is a great feature of cPanel, while you have to depend on yum commands in Plesk or DirectAdmin. Just take the example of PHP modules. How much headache’s it can cause in Plesk/DirectAdmin when you do not have the required versions of modules in the repo’s.

When it comes to emailing,  creating email accounts, tieing them with SpamAssasin or BoxTrapper , changing the mail server port, even the interface IP and so on… they are very much simple and time saving. On the other hand, when you attempt to do these stuffs in Plesk or DirectAdmin, it will present you with lots of issues and time-loss.

Creating a reseller account, assigning permissions to them, creating different packages to meet your needs — these are presented to you using a simple UI in cPanel/WHM. You would not have to worry about searching online for help on this. For a person who is not so acquainted with shell environment, cPanel will do you great heavens.

The Bandwidth statistics, raw access logs and much more logs, which can be viewed from the front-end give you a clear picture on the traffic/data with respect to your accounts.

One of the things which I like about cPanel is its system of Backup/restore websites. Either you can manually backup the required accounts or allow cPanel to do it automatically. When you have a backup file, suppose your developers screws off the entire site, you can quickly restore – without any headaches.. Something that’s missing in other panels ( ‘I meant the term – without any headches’ )

Also, migrating your domains b/w cPanel-based systems is quite wonderful and I guarantee you 99% success all time time. With others, I cant recollect the pains i go through with.

Upgrading your cPanel version is as simple as # /scripts/upcp.   With DirectAdmin too it is quite easy with the custom scripts located in # /usr/local/directadmin/custombuild/.. Plesk too has got a script,   # /usr/local/psa/admin/sbin/autoinstaller. But with plesk, you will have to answer a 100 questions before upgrading and higher the chances to fail.

cPanel has two interfaces, the WHM ( Web Host Manager ) for the root account as well as resellers accounts and the usual cPanel interface for the domain owners. These two are very very different in looks, with different login pages. On the other hand, Plesk and DirectAdmin, got single login for Admins and users ( with different menu’s )

Plesk – runs in both LINUX/WIN server’s. Its more of like a windows control panel ( what you see in desktop versions ), less features and might take more time for you to get acquainted with it. For Plesk, as features are less, bugs are less and things move on stable until you try to alter the usual builds. Not much help you will find in online forums.  Plesk support can be messy at times. They require you to have your server build only from the OS repo’s. If you install any 3rd Party repo or if you Plesk version is quite old, then its a goner. Forget about getting your issue fixed.

Plesk is for light-hearted guys, still living with black & white frames and quiet ones.

cPanel and Plesk are on the expensive side, whereas DirectAdmin is cheap. If you are thinking of running a small hosting environment, with not much screamers, you can go with DirectAdmin — Quite simple, efficient, not much features ( less bugs ) and stable.

So, I prefer cPanel over Plesk for real production environments and DirectAdmin over cPanel and Plesk for a startup environment !

Try their demo’s  at :

cPanel demo : http://cpanel.net/demo/

Plesk demo : http://www.parallels.com/products/plesk/hands-on-demos/

DirectAdmin demo : http://www.directadmin.com/demo.html