cPanel and Parallels Plesk Panel from the point of view of the hoster. Part one

    Hi, Habr. Not so long ago, I came across an article in, in which the editors of the site compared the two most popular hosting control panels abroad - cPanel and Parallels Plesk Panel. I decided to translate this article for two reasons. Firstly, there is no bias in it, the features of each product are transmitted as correctly as possible. Secondly, in Runet I didn’t have to see full-fledged reviews of hosting panels: apparently, it’s customary for us to discuss any specific “sores” or advantages of this or that solution, without paying special attention to the product as a whole.

    While translating, I tried to pay special attention to some details of both products, which are fundamentally important from the point of view of the hosters. I would be happy if the text and tables will be useful to the community.

    Under the cut - part one (there will be three in total). It contains the configuration of the test hardware and a direct overview of the functionality of the panels. The second and third parts will be devoted respectively to the integration of panels with other software and automation issues in hosting, as well as to summarize. I will publish them tomorrow and the day after tomorrow .

    At the very beginning, team states for whom it was reviewing. The target audience of the study:
    - Hosters of all sizes, including large ones (from 1,500 clients)
    - Hosting resellers
    - Web developers who create sites for customers and conduct these sites themselves, thus having an average of 60 clients
    - IT specialists and end users.


    You can love or hate this or that hosting control panel, but the fact remains: this type of software is necessary for both providers, and resellers of hosting services, and web developers, and just those who have a website.

    Hosting control panels provide standardization of the most popular scenarios for working with web hosting clients, directly with sites, email accounts and other services. Accordingly, a good and easy-to-manage hosting panel is one of the factors of the provider's business efficiency. The clarity of the interface for the end user reduces the number of customer calls to support. Of course, along with this hosting control panel also solves traditional tasks. With its help, servers are configured, software for security is configured, and in some cases, all kinds of internal and external operations related to hosting management are automated. In general, the panel performs many different functions, so its choice should be approached with all responsibility.

    What are we comparing?

    For hosting professionals, it is important that the control panel is capable of the maximum possible for this category of software. The motive for buying software “for growth” is absolutely correct. It is better to get redundant functionality than at one point to find that a particular panel is weak at the knees to serve an increasing number of customers or to introduce new services. Moving to a new panel is fraught with rummages and failures. In the best case, it will make your admins nervous, in the worst, it can irritate clients and provoke the departure of some of them, which is extremely undesirable, since attracting each client is expensive.

    The Hosting News commentators diligently listed the specific features of each panel in terms of each target group.

    Iron for tests

    Just as a theater begins with a hanger, hosting starts with servers. used for review two almost identical Supermicro servers with 16 processor cores, 12 GB of RAM and two 7200 rpm Western Digital enterprise-level hard drives. with SATA interface. The operating system on both machines is CentOS 5.5, Linux Kernel 2.6.18-194.17.1.el5 # 1 SMP.

    For starters, a comparative overview of the capabilities of the solutions being investigated. To begin with, we analyze what is useful for the hosting panels of each category of users.

    For website owners, web studios and other IT professionals

    Parallels plesk
    Email. The simplest and perhaps the most popular service from hosters. Both panels support both POP / IMAP and the web interface. The functionality is rich: creation of accounts, mail forwarding, black and white address lists, auto answer, mailing lists and anti-spam.

    Mail settings are collected in one tab, all downtime is clear. Spam is filtered using SpamAssassin (always on).
    Horde Webmail has an address book and calendar. Atmail is offered as an alternative to Webmail and is set in a few clicks. XandMail is available for free from the application catalog. Anti-virus can be turned off manually.
    I liked it: you can screw on external email applications (SquirrelMail, RoundCube), while the user settings will be saved.

    Mail settings are scattered in different windows. Spam is filtered using SpamAssassin (configured by the end user).
    What I liked: catch-all is enabled by default. Cool: there is a utility for checking the route of email delivery.
    Users are provided with three email clients - Horde Webmail (with detailed default layout), SquirrelMail and RoundCube.

    File management. Both panels have a convenient interface for managing files, supporting both basic operations (creating, editing, deleting) and a number of advanced functions, for example, setting access rights.

    The Parallels Plesk Panel File Manager is easy to use and includes everything you need for basic file management. Change files - through your WYSIWYG editor, from which you can convert to more than 100 formats.
    The cPanel file manager asks for confirmation from the user to change a directory.
    At the disposal of the user are three different editors (text, code, HTML), compression and decompression functions, as well as the general functionality typical of file managers.

    Logs and statistics
    Plesk by default displays statistics graphs through AWstats. You can switch to Webalizer in just a few clicks. Access logs and error logs are also maintained. They can be included in the Manage Logs menu, and they will be available along with statistics on disk usage and traffic by one service or another (FTP, HTTP, POP3 / IMAP or SMTP). The panel saves and archives logs by default.

    cPanel has many statistics options. You can switch them through the WHM-interface.
    These options include: AWstats, Webalizer, schedules for using the Internet channel, access logs, error logs and statistics of the “Webizer” on the use of FTP.
    Database management.
    Both panels include phpMyAdmin (a good choice) and phpPg Admin.
    Plesk Strength is a user-friendly interface for creating databases and adding users to them.
    CPanel also has no problems working with the database.
    Liked. Rights management in MySQL (user roles for each database) is possible through the database management interface.
    Plugins and add-ons
    Plesk integrates an application store (more than 200 items), where assemblies of popular free products (such as WordPress and Joomla) are available. Delivery and installation of assemblies is carried out in one click - thanks to the proprietary APS standard, which includes Parallels as a contributor. Life hack for the admin: GoSletters for webmasters are integrated in Plesk, with the help of which the admin can configure the site for better visibility by its search engine and put contextual advertising blocks on the site to monetize traffic.
    There is no app store in the current version of cPanel, but it’s possible to connect Google tools for Webmasters and install many free modules through WHM.
    Website Creation
    Parallels Plesk Panel 10 comes with a built-in Parallels Panel SiteBuilder, which, in turn, has website templates (with some content - for clarity) for different topics. The site builder is very thoughtful and extremely flexible. This makes it one of the most powerful options in Parallels Plesk 10.2. Very cool: Literally in a few minutes, without any HTML skills, a fully functional and attractive website is created for any occasion. Cool: SiteBuilder has support for Google Adsense and the Google site search service.

    There is no site builder in cPanel - only a WYSIWYG editor in the file manager.
    Testing and debugging sites
    Plesk Panel 10 allows you to create a debug copy of the site in just a few clicks to test the changes before putting them on real hosting (which is especially convenient in conjunction with SiteBuilder). Yes, it does not hurt to read the manual, but once you figure it out, and then everything will go on the machine. editors managed to complete this task in just 12 seconds. The bottom line is that you take the current content of the site, put it in a separate test environment, make the necessary changes, check how they look / work on the site and with a good conscience publish the test version instead of the current one.
    CPanel does not have the function of debugging sites, but you can perform this task manually: create a subdomain, create a copy of the database and files, edit the configuration file, and then repeat all this in the reverse order when the test site is ready to be launched.
    SSL features
    PleskPanel 10.2 has an SSL interface for purchasing SSL certificates and installing them on a site.
    Liked: you can purchase a certificate from the control panel through Business Manager.

    cPanel also provides SSL management.
    user management
    In Plesk Panel 10, much attention is paid to the role model of user access to the control panel, to FTP, to billing, etc. This is important if you want to allow other people different access levels for different types of work with the site.
    Allows you to create sub-accounts in a few clicks for special services, such as email and FTP.
    UI usability
    The Parallels product interface has become significantly more pleasant in operation compared to the ninth version of the Plesk Panel. Available text help and video tutorials. Cool: Plesk has several display modes. By default, the mode for shared hosting is enabled. But there is a Power User mode. It is designed for small hosters or for web studios who prefer to sell hosting services through themselves and manage their clients' sites quickly. In Power User mode (for VPS hosting or for hosting on a dedicated server), billing and reselling options are hidden. They are simply not needed here. Power User Mode helps to focus only on those options that are really necessary for a particular user.

    cPanel is an extremely logical interface, for which the panel is loved all over the world. Help is available in a special section. Cool: cPanel has video tutorials open to the provider's clients. According to the developers, the lessons will help reduce the need for end-customer support by the staff of the hosting company.

    Versions for VPS. Both panels offer them.
    The RAM requirements for the standard Plesk version are 170 MB, in the VPS optimized version - 57 MB.
    The RAM requirements for the standard cPanel variant are 252 Mb, in the VPS optimized variant - 94 Mb.

    For resellers and web developers

    Parallels plesk
    Creation of accounts. Although this process is automated and simplified through a variety of APIs, creating accounts from the dashboard remains an important operation. Both panels offer an indicator of password strength and thereby help eliminate the main security gap in the web - weak access codes.

    The logic of adding new customers is simple and straightforward. Since Plesk Panel 10.2 can work both with Business Manager and separately, make sure which version works for you. The BM version has more fields to fill out (company, fax, etc.). It is important that when adding a client to the control panel, it is not automatically added to BM. I liked it: in the window for adding a new client, you can immediately select a subscription and a service plan for it. And here you can add various additional services to the selected subscription.

    When creating a new account, the panel does not ask for unnecessary information. By default, an account is created with resource limits. To change the limits manually, you need to go to a special menu. Liked: the brevity of the menu and the speed of the panel. Great password generator.

    Account / assembly templates. Both panels have many options for configuring basic (email, disk space, etc.) and advanced (special applications and management tools) functions. Therefore, the panels do their job perfectly.

    PleskPanel 10.2 allows you to fine-tune account templates. Service plans are templates for consuming resources and for additional add-ons over the base tariff, which can also be included in hosting services. Any changes made to the tariff plans will be applied to existing accounts. Integration with Business Manager also allows you to create service plans not in PPP10, but in Business Manager. The rights assignment system allows you to set user access to special programs and features inside a panel that looks at the end user. These are DNS, backup, spam filter and site statistics. Liked: For each user, you can set a limit on the number of connections.

    cPanel “understands” hosting plans as service packages. You can create a custom package in which there are resource restrictions and account settings. If you make a change to a package, it will affect all existing packages for a specific hosting plan. New settings will be applied automatically.
    The main client and resellers (access levels) can restrict the access of individual users or user groups to applications and features from a specially created Feature List for a user / group. Feature lists are assigned to packages, and so new accounts are created using them.
    CPanel does not have its own billing system. Liked: option for video tutorials.

    Account management
    Parallels Plesk Panel 10.2 has a custom role structure with the ability to separate individual customers and resellers. Cool: you can transfer a subscription to another user.
    The cPanel system resembles Linux, where each user must have their own account and log in under it. If he wants to create his own system account, he must register as a reseller.
    Domain management
    PPP 10.2 has a section for managing DNS configuration and other settings that are set from the default template. DNS is configured in the panel, which is available to the end-user.

    Cool: the user can manage the default DNS settings. For some hosters, this is good, for others - bad. But in the settings you can remove this feature from the number of options available to end-users, for any of them or for all tariff plans.
    There is a remote clustering option in the standard, which allows you to synchronize zones between servers with cPanel / WHM and DNS-only servers. Liked: clustering is carried out in a few clicks.
    Resource Report
    PPP 10 provides both simple and advanced ways to control resource consumption. Liked: accounts are sorted on one page by type, by disk space usage and the number of applications used.
    cPanel provides almost the same capabilities as Plesk Panel 10.2, but when viewing resource statistics, you need to navigate through many different pages within the panel.
    Ease of Use / Navigation
    One URL for both users and admins. Same interfaces for versions of Windows and Linux. Friendly, easy to learn interface.

    There is a search - you can find the location of the functions. Functions are named so that makes them intuitive. Almost all operations are available no more than two clicks from the main page of the control panel.

    For large web hosts

    Parallels plesk
    System requirements. Here are the minimum system requirements under which the panel will start. In normal life, using a minimum is not recommended.
    266 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM (1 GB, if there are many accounts on the server; when using SiteBuilder, the minimum required is 768 MB), the hard disk is 10 GB.
    Funny: the panel will start on a server made in 1998!

    266 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM (1 GB, if there are many accounts on the server; when using SiteBuilder, the minimum required is 768 MB), the hard disk is 10 GB.
    Funny: the panel will start on a server made in 1998!

    OS support
    CentOS 5.x, 4.x; RedHatEnterprise 5.x, 4x; Ubuntu 10.04, 8.04 LTS; openSUSE 11.3, 11.1, 11.0, 10.3; Debian GNU / Linux 5.0, 4.0; CloudLinux 5; WindowsServer 2008 SP2, R2 (Datacenter, Enterprise, andStandardEditions); WindowsServer 2003 R2, SP1, SP2 (Datacenter, Enterprise, Standard, and Web Editions)

    CentOS 5.x, 4.x; RedHat Enterprise 5.x, 4x; FreeBSD-RELEASE versions 7.3, 8.0, 8.1; Windows (WindowsServer 2008 R2 is supported by cPanel's Enkompass product)

    Email, mail server and anti-spam
    PPP10.2 comes with good old Qmail. Postfix service is also available for installation. Spam Assassin can be deployed optionally. Parallels Premium Antivirus is available for a fee.
    cPanel uses Exim, which is constantly being improved during development. Exim maintains logs and supports additional functionality add-ons.
    Spam Assassin is also there, it supports black and white lists. The virus is protected by the free
    ClamAV plugin .

    Configuring Apache
    Plesk by default provides RPM based Apache server configuration (to always have the most current version with security patches), which can be changed by installing additional modules or another RPM. Shared hosting templates can be changed through the system administrator interface.
    cPanel / WHM offers access to very detailed Apache HTTPD server configuration settings, including changing the httpd.conf file and its directives, changing PHP and SuExec, changing memory usage settings, and a number of other important options directly from the control panel.
    Site Isolation. High Density Web Hosting Supported
    Plesk uses FastCGI to isolate sites by default. SecureLVE is also included in the control panel when Cloud Linux is deployed as an OS.
    cPanel uses suPHP by default.
    Backup and restore
    Both panels support these options at the user level, at the server level, and also allow you to configure automatic backup / restore.
    In PPP10.2 there is a Backup Manager, with which you can backup only the configuration, or the entire server. In addition, the backup can be configured and uploaded / deployed to remote servers. Cool: the recovery interface allows you to skip those repositories that conflict with the current server configuration.
    CPanel backup settings allow you to backup with or without compression. There are backup planning options, skipping backups for individual users, backups of remote servers and backups of only configurations. Backup and restore are launched both on the command line and through the web interface. Cool: the backup process is especially good if it goes from cPanel to cPanel and through the cPanel interface.
    Account Migration
    In PPP10.2, it is easy and simple to transfer accounts between Plesk servers (Windows and Linux) using the Migration Manager. Accounts created on cPanel are almost as easy to transfer - just enter the root password.
    Very cool: cPanel offers several types of account transfer (bulk or single) from one cPanel panel to another cPanel panel or to another cPanel product. Most types of migration can be done by entering a user password, which is convenient for users who switch to another hosting.
    Database. Both panels support MySQL and PostgreSQL.
    PostgreSQL support in PPP 10 is easily installed from the panel installer. Remote database servers are supported natively.
    cPanel supports PostgreSQL right out of the box. A convenient installer is included. Remote database servers are also supported.
    Status Monitoring Tools. Both panels are ready to monitor the status of the server, these functions are located at the distance of one or two clicks. Monitor CPU usage, RAM usage, disk usage.
    Monitoring tools are located at: Home> ServerTools> System statistics interface, although the Health Monitoring Suite really considers statistics. Data is displayed in real-time graphs for Apache, MySQL, CPU, memory - you just need to check the box. In addition to displaying statuses, simple indicators have appeared that will allow even the user without technical training to understand how the server is there - OK or NOT OK.
    Services for stopping / resuming / rebooting are located at: Home> Tools> Services Management. Very cool: the disk load graph and the swap usage graph will tell you when the server might crash.
    CPanel / WHM has a list of running processes, a button for forced termination of processes running in the background, a page with Apache server status. The restart function is implemented through the Restart services menu. Liked: WHM can be configured to alert you by email when server load becomes critical.
    Billing software
    About the functionality of Business Manager, you can write a book. We will talk about the excellent integration of this product a little later, but now it’s important to note: you get a billing solution out of the box, and it’s completely free. Very cool: billing from PPP10 works with cPanel servers.
    CPanel does not have billing software, but this panel supports third-party systems. True, they will have to be bought separately.
    OS updates are delivered through Yum. Using Parallels, updates can be rolled onto specific services that are managed from the panel. The update menu is available in the Server Tools section. There you can enable / disable updates or micro-updates. If enabled, critical software such as proftpd will be updated. Major updates are delivered as RPMs. Cool: customers receive notification of updates 30 days before its release.
    OS updates are carried out through Yum, updates for applications (MySQL, Bind, etc.) are set separately. It is possible to configure the update of the control panel itself, depending on the version (Stable, Release, Current, Edge), in this way to measure the risks and possible functionality of new versions.
    Liked: both major and minor updates can be delivered automatically.
    Ease of use / level of control
    PPP 10 is well insured against user errors. When managing through the web interface in PPP10, it is very difficult to break something by clicking the wrong button.
    cPanel / WHM provides enough opportunities for the end user to click on the wrong one and break something there. At the same time, there are a lot of opportunities for repair.

    If you read to the end - thanks :) Tomorrow will be the second post of the series. Stay tuned for updates on this blog.

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