cPanel vs Plesk: Control Panel Comparison
Last updated on Sep 9, 2016
When it comes to web hosting control panels, the choices and options are far too many. We have open source and free options, as well as proprietary ones. cPanel, Plesk, VirtualMin, InterWorx, DirectAdmin, you name it!
As such, it often gets tough to decide which web hosting control panel one should opt for. On one hand, as an end user, you need to know which control panel will make your life easier in the long run, on the other hand, as a web hosting provider, you should be aware of the pros and cons of the web hosting control panel that you are offering, so as to be able to serve your customers in a better manner.
cPanel and Plesk are two of the biggest names in this field, and each of them has a loyal following and user base, as well as a long list of advantages and disadvantages. So, which one beats the other? In this post, I will offer a comparison of cPanel and Plesk.
Most comparisons of cPanel and Plesk tend to be highly subjective and opinionated. However, I will try to refrain from that, simply because what is usable for me might be unusable for you, and vice versa. Describing a tool — be it an operating system, a web browser or even a hosting control panel — purely in terms of “X is more user-friendly than Y” rarely helps anyone, as all it offers is a subjective analogy.
Instead, I will attempt to focus on what each of these two web hosting control panels can accomplish. Let us begin with cPanel.
In the world of web hosting control panels, cPanel is the de facto leader. It is very popular, well known and reputed, and is used by the biggest as well as the smallest of hosting solutions.
cPanel, right from its inception, has evolved quite a lot. This proprietary control panel once used to have variants for FreeBSD (retired) and Windows platforms as well, but today, the focus rests almost fully on Linux servers. Combine this with the CloudLinux offering by cPanel, and you will immediately notice why cPanel is the biggest name when it comes to Linux hosting control panels.
Most of cPanel’s frontend has been coded in Perl. Support for custom plugins, IPv6, and multiple servers — everything is right there.
Plesk is another well known web hosting control panel, albeit it lags a bit behind cPanel in terms of sheer popularity. Plesk is also a proprietary offering, though it supports both Linux and Windows servers. Most of its frontend has been coded in PHP, unlike cPanel.
The fact that Plesk supports Windows hosting servers is what has given it a reason to be profitable: for quite sometime, there were hardly any decent hosting control panels for Windows servers, and Plesk managed to fill that void well. As such, while cPanel does dominate the Linux scene, Plesk has a stronghold on Windows hosting.
Head to Head
Once again, usability and design aside, both cPanel and Plesk tend to have a lot of similarities. For instance, both offer configurable reseller packages, RPM based installation, support for DNS synchronization, databases, users and permissions, and so on.
If both the web hosting control panels are so good, how does one pick the better option? I will divide the answer in two heads.
A. For End Users
The choice of web hosting control panel should, ideally, be dependent on your needs and not on the control panel in itself. For example, if you are running a WordPress website or something similar that requires Linux hosting, cPanel is the answer for you. Considering the fact that Linux hosting using cPanel is so popular, if something ever goes wrong with your web host, you will not have a hard time migrating away because any decent web host can migrate a cPanel account within minutes. Such universal usage of cPanel has made migrations and transfers really easy to accomplish.
Similarly, if your usage requires a Windows server, Plesk is what you need — partly because most Windows web hosts tend to use Plesk, and partly because cPanel on Windows is not available.
Now, when using either control panel, there is one small caveat that you should be aware of: a web hosting control panel is only as good as the web hosting provider. If your provider does not update the control panel on time and refuses to apply security fixes, your site(s) will suffer.
B. For Web Hosts
By default, all web hosts opt for cPanel for Linux hosting, so there is not a lot to talk about here. However, what if you were truly deciding which one would be a better tool to have?
Part of the reason why cPanel gets the good vote all the time is because of its universal acceptability, and as mentioned above, ease of migration to and from different servers running cPanel. However, Plesk does offer almost all of that — unfortunately, as a practical consideration, it hardly matters because if the target host does not use Plesk, any migration tool that Plesk offers would be futile.
There is one area that is often overlooked, but crucially important, and in this particular area, Plesk scores over cPanel. When it comes to security, the average number of days to acknowledge an exploit is 9 for cPanel, whereas just 1 for Plesk. And how long does it generally take to fix that exploit? For cPanel, the average number is 28 days, whereas Plesk generally resolves security exploits in 9 days (find the full whitepaper here).
The higher number of security threats can probably be because cPanel is more popular than Plesk, much like WordPress, being more popular than other Content Management Systems gets a higher number of security issues. However, the number of days to resolve or respond to a security exploit is nearly a month for cPanel, and for a premium product, it is slightly on the higher side. As such, for non-shared platforms, say VPS, a web host should not shy away from trying something other than cPanel. One good option would be InterWorx, that has had an impressive one-week resolution rate for security exploits as per the above mentioned whitepaper.
Choosing between cPanel and Plesk is pretty direct: if you are running a shared Linux server, cPanel is the way to go, simply because everyone else uses it, and when in Rome, do as the Romans do! However, for Windows users and/or Linux VPS or other machines, alternatives like Plesk do make a strong case, and if the users are not blindly accustomed to working with cPanel (much like once upon a time everyone was blindly accustomed to Microsoft Office and any other productivity suite just felt out of place), Plesk or InterWorx should be well worth considering.
What do you think of cPanel and Plesk? Which web hosting control panel gets your vote? Share your views in the comments below!
Sufyan is a contributor to a variety of websites and blogs about technology, Linux, open source, web design, content management systems and web development. Learn more about his works on sufyanism.com