The original Russian question, or "server for yourself"

    Or a comparison of hosting control panels, Introduction

    This article aims to present the results of objective testing and analysis of the capabilities of the new version of the ISPmanager 5 Lite hosting control panel, which was announced on November 19, 2013 and to compare its capabilities and convenience with two competitors (cPanel 11.44 and Plesk 12). The analysis of the panels was performed from the point of view of the hosting user and the convenience of managing a separate web hosting account. I do not consider the official release of ISPmanager 5 Business as an answer to my pressing needs and decided to put together the known facts. I have been working with hosting companies (not exactly as a user) since 2008 and I have something to compare with.

    How and with what we compare

    ISPmanager 5 Lite - demo access


    Comparison criteria

    The installation and initial setup process.

    Panel Features:

    • Domain and subdomain management;
    • Configure FTP users;
    • Setting up mail accounts;
    • Work with files on a hosting;
    • Database management;
    • Backup;
    • Web server statistics;
    • Convenience of migration between hosters (servers) within one panel;
    • Additional tools.

    Control Panel Design:
    • Convenience, clarity of inscriptions, buttons, indicators, all controls in the panel;
    • Convenience of navigation on the panel;
    • Switching between tasks;

    Installation and initial setup process

    From an installation point of view , the only panel that loves its user is ISPmanager. In this panel, the entire installation process is reduced to downloading the auto-installer script from and launching it, with the subsequent selection of the desired product. Everything else will be done automatically.

    Figure 1. First run wizard of the installed ISPmanager

    Installing cPanel and Plesk panels will require numerous preparatory actions related to skills that not every user has, as well as much more time for the installation scripts to work. Given that scripts are run from root in all cases, it is not clear why the creators of cPanel and Plesk did not bother to include preparatory actions in their installers, but require the user to run the commands manually in the console.

    Panel Features

    Although all panels provide the “living wage” of the necessary hosting management functions, the largest variety of tools is presented in cPanel. And ISPmanager is characterized by limited capabilities of a regular user who does not have admin rights.

    ISPmanager Lite user is not available:
    • anti-spam settings (available in the Pro version);
    • restrict access to the site from certain IP addresses;
    • performing backup (available in the Pro version).

    Domain and Subdomain Management

    Among the three panels, ISPmanager and Plesk provide the greatest opportunities for managing domains and their DNS records. But in ISPmanager the user can get confused by the breakdown into www-domains, mail and just domains. Plesk presents the best combination of a variety of settings, understandability and logic of the management interface grouped around each domain. CPanel has fewer options available, especially cPanel has very limited DNS record editor capabilities.

    FTP User Management

    Regarding FTP user rights management and connection control, cPanel stands out among its competitors thanks to tools such as setting disk quotas, controlling FTP sessions and providing ready-made configuration files for FTP client programs. The disadvantages of ISPmanager and Plesk are: the lack of additional assistance in connecting users via FTP, the inability to limit the use of the disk to FTP users and the lack of control over FTP connection sessions.

    Email Management

    The main features of managing mail users are provided by all three panels: creating and deleting users, forwarding, answering machine (ISPmanager - with less features than competitors), automatic sorting of incoming mail. But in ISPmanager in the Lite version, some important functions are inaccessible to the ordinary user. In this panel, a simple user does not have anti-spam control.

    The greatest features for managing email users are cPanel. The advantage of the panel is the wide range of settings for protection against incoming and outgoing spam, three options for the web-mail program, as well as the presence of an already installed mailing program. An important advantage of cPanel is easy access to download ready-made configuration files for 10 email programs for any email user.

    Figure 2. Email configuration and management tools in cPanel

    In Plesk, everything is optimal - there are all the functions for managing mail users, as well as anti-spam. You can use antivirus to check mail. Unlike cPanel (ISPmanager offers this in the Pro version), this panel has the ability to limit the intensity of sending messages by users.

    Work with files on a hosting

    In all panels, there are standard functions for managing files and folders online: creating, deleting, setting rights, copying / transferring, downloading and uploading files to hosting, creating or unpacking archives, editing text files, scripts and HTML pages.

    But each panel has its own nuances:
    • ISPManager features a convenient interface, the ability to download files not only from disk, but also by URL and a powerful text editor based on the Ace project. This editor supports many themes, syntax highlighting 110 programming languages ​​and markup.
    • cPanel is distinguished by the ability to connect the user’s folder on the hosting, as a local disk in Windows Explorer (WEB-disk) and WYSIWYG-editor, allowing you to create HTML-pages for novice users.
    • the interface in Plesk is clear and there is a WYSIWYG editor; this panel has a characteristic convenient detail - all list items can be selected using the checkboxes in the left column.

    Database management

    Among the three panels, cPanel provides the most comprehensive database management capabilities. This panel is the only one that provides automatic error correction functions in the database and in cPanel all functions are divided into sections, which makes life easier for an inexperienced user.

    ISPmanager has a conveniently organized interface and has an advantage in the functions of export / import databases accessible from the panel, and any specific actions are available in php MyAdmin.

    In the Plesk panel, in the database management section, the disadvantage is the inability to give access to one user to several databases.


    All three panels make it possible to manage backups manually, create a full or partial copy, download it to your disk or to a remote FTP server, upload the copy to the hosting.

    But cPanel, although it provides an intuitive interface, has two important drawbacks:
    1. only partial copies can be restored;
    2. There is no backup scheduler.

    The Plesk panel provides a convenient interface and all the necessary functions for working with backups. The advantage of this panel is the ability to set a password for backups that are stored on another server or local user drive.

    The ISPmanager panel provides the greatest opportunities for managing backups and scheduling them automatically. But there is a big drawback - powerful backup tools are available only to administrators.

    Web server statistics

    Although all three panels provide access to web server logs and error logs, cPanel provides the greatest convenience and variety of tools. CPanel user can get a variety of statistics, or use any of three programs: Webalizer, Awstats, Analog.

    In ISPmanager, awstats is available to the regular user (if installed and active). The advantage of ISPmanager is the ability to automatically rotate and archive logs.

    In the Plesk 12 panel, the user in the general section displays information on the use of server resources, as well as three sections with statistics, including analysis of statistics on the web interface of the well-known Webalizer program.

    Convenience of migration between hosters (servers) within one panel

    All three panels support the ability to transfer a user from server to server under the control of the same panel using the mechanism for creating and restoring a full backup. But the transfer of the user, his sites and databases to the server under another panel turns into a complex procedure that requires a fairly high qualification.

    Additional options for installing web applications or CMS

    Here cPanel looks pathetic in comparison with competitors. To automatically install web applications on the user's site, ISPmanager and Plesk use a script library in a special APS format. In ISPmanager, the script library has 241 web applications, in Plesk - 339 including commercial applications.

    In cPanel, its own installer has ... as many as 7 applications, including WordPress

    Panel Design Comparison

    The quality of the control panel interface is determined by how quickly it gives the hosting user access to what he needs. And the user needs three things, first of all: to understand in which section of the panel he is located, to clearly understand what actions are accessible and inaccessible to him, what is turned on and off from the services, and how to quickly switch to another section of the panel that he needs.

    UI Convenience

    From the point of view of convenience, comprehensibility and speed of perception of information, the best is the ISPmanager interface, Plesk is harmoniously designed, and in cPanel many screens are overloaded, full of heterogeneous elements.

    In ISPmanager, opening sections are located on tabs that can be left open and convenient to switch between them. Some tooltips duplicate the signature of the icon and therefore uninformative.

    Figure 3. ISPmanager 5 Lite control panel interface

    Using the mouse and the Shift key, you can select objects for group operations. The activity of the object is indicated by a small light bulb (if on, the light is yellow) in the line of the object and the parameter column.

    In cPanel, each section and subsection occupies the entire workspace at the top left, the name of the item where the user is currently located is displayed. Further, everything is arranged sequentially: the first thing the user sees is the video guide button and the form for creating a new object, and only below is a list of existing objects, their properties and text links to possible actions with the object. The selection of objects for group operations is not provided.

    In the Plesk 12 control panel, sections of the interface are designed as a series of tabs and the color of the “label” of the active tab clearly shows the user where he is. Buttons containing an icon and an inscription lead to the panel functions. When you hover over a button, a detailed tooltip is displayed, which is an important advantage of the Plesk interface.

    Figure 4. Plesk 12 Hosting Control Panel Interface

    Convenience of navigation on the panel

    From navigating the panel you need speed, the ability to get to the desired section with minimal effort, and in this ISPmanager is beyond competition. To navigate ISPmanager sections, a menu is used that is constantly located in the left frame and provides instant one-click access to any section or subsection of the panel. For the user, this is the most convenient and quick option.

    CPanel has traditionally had a bad navigation experience. Moving from section to section only by returning to the main screen and clicking on the desired icon.

    In the Plesk 12 control panel, moving between sections is done using the horizontal menu at the top, which looks like tab shortcuts, and in the section below there is a similar menu of subsections.

    Switch between tasks to be solved

    In cPanel and Plesk, individual sections of the panel can be opened in parallel in other windows or in a browser tab. ISPmanager has a built-in bookmark mechanism in the panel itself, the user can conveniently switch between different tasks.

    Fig. 5. Button for opening the ISPmanager menu item in an additional tab


    So, among the three panels under consideration, cPanel and Plesk provide more opportunities for ordinary users, and ISPmanager Lite without administrator rights is very limited in functionality. Despite the confusing navigation and a variegated set of tools, cPanel is convenient for an inexperienced user. Naturally, in the case when the administrator set everything up and provided the user with a ready account.

    Accordingly, taking into account the combination of the cost of licenses on the panel and their technical capabilities, it is logical to install cPanel or Plesk to provide shared hosting services.

    And ISPmanager Lite, being very easy to install, not demanding on resources and providing the administrator with sufficient functionality, is ideal for its own virtual and dedicated servers. This is the best choice in the “server for yourself” mode when you need to quickly and conveniently launch your own web server. Our estimates of the three panels are shown in Table 1.

    Tab 1. Assessments (subjective) of the three panels based on the results of the comparison (5 - the best rating, 1 - the worst)

    Fig. 6. Final rating of the three hosting control panels. In

    addition, we give a comparison of the cost of the panels for various subscription options.

    Tab 2. The cost of licenses on the hosting control panel. For comparison, the Plesk option “Publishing the Web Host” was selected, since cheaper panel options are limited in the number of domains.

    To improve the usability of ISPmanager Lite it is recommended:
    1. add automatic generation for each account configuration files for FTP client programs and e-mail;
    2. Install and enable the Web-mail program immediately, by default.

    Таким образом, рассмотрев в течение сентября 2014 г. трех лидеров среди панелей управления хостингом, и сравнив их по 13 параметрам, мы пришли к выводу, что в категории “сервер для себя” ISPmanager Lite вне конкуренции. Что касается версии Pro и ее расширенных возможностей для виртуального хостинга, мы расскажем вам в марте 2015 г. Если, конечно, Вы дочитали до конца. До скорых встреч!

    P.S. Полный анализ, из которого хабровская статья является выжимкой, пока не выкладываю, ибо когда даю ссылку на внешний ресурс на хабре, получается какой-то казус. Если будет интересно и чтобы не получилось так, что я чересчур хорошо отзываюсь, например, о Плеске, под каждое высказывание есть статистические выкладки.

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