The majority of web hosts include access to cPanel to make managing your hosted website easy.
And while cPanel is arguably the most popular and easy-to-use control panel for managing your website, it's not perfect at all.
From time to time massive security flaws are found in cPanel's hosting and it's one of the reasons why you could look for alternatives.
Another reason is that if you don’t have cPanel included in your web hosting plan, you’ll need to pay for cPanel yourself.
Thankfully, when it comes to finding a website hosting control panel, there are some really strong competitors that are worth looking at.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the five cPanel alternatives that can help you manage your website:
- Plesk - Control Panel available on both Windows and Linux
- Froxlor - Open source cPanel alternative
- ZPanel - Free, developer friendly control panel software
- Webmin - Web-based cPanel alternative for system management for Unix
- Vesta CP - Simple and very quick open source control panel
$9.16 per month for up to 10 domains
Plesk isn’t free, but Plesk vs cPanel is a common debate in the web hosting community so it’s worth looking into as a cPanel alternative. Plesk costs $9.16 per month for up to 10 domains, or $13.75 per month if you need access to developer tools.
Plesk has an extremely friendly user interface, with all of the categories available within the website hosting control panel easily accessed from the left side of the page. The functions largely mirror those available in cPanel, with options for configuring your site’s domain settings, managing files, users, and email accounts, and creating databases. In addition, Plesk offers many of the same options for site security and encryption as cPanel.
Where the Plesk vs cPanel debate heats up is when it comes to versatility. Plesk offers support for both Docker and Git on Linux servers. More important if you’re running a Windows server, Plesk can be used with both Linux and Windows servers while cPanel is only available for Linux.
Price - free
Froxlor describes itself as a lightweight and free cPanel alternative that is best at helping experienced web hosts handle multiple sites. This control panel doesn’t include a built-in file manager, so you’ll need to be comfortable setting up an FTP and moving files around your site that way.
For any web developers who are building sites for clients, Froxlor is the ideal cPanel free alternative. The control panel allows you to manage the resources that the website owner hosts on their site. Plus, you can allow website visitors to generate support tickets on your website and then respond to them through Froxlor.
This panel also offers excellent security thanks to free encryption certificates provided by ‘Let’s Encrypt’. You can add SSL to specific sites and manage your certificates, as well choose whether individual domains are operating on IPv4 or IPv6.
Price - free
ZPanel is a true free cPanel alternative and is packed with many of the same features as the paid controller. As you might expect, it has a built-in file manager, FTP controls, database administration, and webmail features.
Another advantage to ZPanel is that it works with Linux, Windows, and OSX servers.
The interface even closely resembles cPanel, with icons categorized into different sections depending on what they are used for. Like cPanel, one limitation to ZPanel is that the controller has very little integration with additional apps.
While this can be limited for more advanced web developers, for new or intermediate website owners ZPanel offers all of the features you need.
In addition, note that ZPanel has relatively few website security features. There is no built-in method for encrypting your site’s information or webmail account, so you may not want to use ZPanel if you have eCommerce on your website.
This is also the case for any sensitive information that you might be storing on behalf of any other visitors, members, or subscribers to your site.
Price - free
Webmin is one of the most popular cPanel free alternatives largely because it offers all of the same functionality as cPanel without any of the costs. Webmin allows you to fully configure your website and gives you access to the server controls that can affect how your content is stored, managed, and protected.
The main problem with Webmin is that the application isn’t pretty. The organization can make it difficult to find the functions you’re looking for, and while there are several themes to choose from none of them seem to solve this problem of a poor user interface.
Note also that like cPanel, Webmin is only available for Linux servers running Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS. The Webmin code is freely available on Github, so advanced developers are freely able to modify the source code to tweak the control panel and its installation process to their liking.
5. Vesta CP
Price - free (support is paid)
Vesta CP has one of the best organized user interfaces of any website hosting control panel. All of the features, of which there are many, are integrated into a top menu that allows you to always keep all of the functionality close at hand.
Another nice user interface feature is the graphic data display offered by Vesta CP. The control panel automatically produces full-color graphs of web traffic and site bandwidth over multiple time periods, which makes it easy to monitor changes in how your site or your server are behaving.
In addition to the basic features offered by most control panels, Vesta CP includes multiple security features such as a firewall and the ability to disable the root user. While Vesta CP has come under attack from hackers, proper use of these security features should work to protect your site from relatively simple hacks.
What is cPanel & WHM?
cPanel and WebHost Manager (WHM) are the applications most commonly used to interface with a Linux server that hosts a site's content. cPanel is designed to allow users to manage multiple hosting accounts on a single server, which is why this application is favored among hosting providers. With cPanel, you can install applications to your website, change your site's Domain Nameserver (DNS) address, and manage your website's databases.
WebHost Manager is the application underlying cPanel and is responsible for mediating the interactions between cPanel and the server itself. WHM can be used to create individual accounts on a Linux server, which are then passed to cPanel for management. WHM can also be used to modify the features available to different hosting accounts within cPanel.
Do You Need a cPanel Alternative?
Technically, you can manage your website without a control panel. However, operating without a control panel is a very advanced and complex route that most website owners will want to avoid.
The main benefit of foregoing cPanel or any of its alternatives is that it’s an excellent learning experience. Managing a website directly from your server’s interface will teach you how to navigate a server, install and activate applications on your website, and fix things when they break in the architecture of your website.
Best cPanel Alternatives - Final Thoughts
While cPanel is the most widespread application for managing websites hosted on Linux servers, there are a number of alternatives available. Better yet, many of those alternatives are free and offer additional functionality, such as the ability to deploy them on a Windows server or to add plugins.
Did this guide help you find a free cPanel alternative? Let me know in the comments below!