Best free alternatives to cPanel in 2019

– I am looking for a free alternative of cPanel
– I moved to cloud servers and cPanel is too expensive, are there any alternatives?

cPanel has been single-handedly dominating the market of a “GUI for web hosting” and “web hosting control panels” for a little over a decade now. If you have been using a shared hosting account, you would possibly be thinking of it as a “free software”, which simply isn’t true. I haven’t used it since about 5 years but the last time I checked it was $35 USD per dedicated server. That’s a LOT of money in context of a massive infrastructure. As more people are now moving out of shared hosting environments and embracing cloud servers, management and setup of these servers have become their primary concern now. Most of the people that signed up for a $5 DigitalOcean server or an AWS account with credits wouldn’t know how to actually manage a Linux server because they haven’t had to do it so far and having a GUI is really important for them as they aren’t really well-versed with the Linux terminal.

This massive shift from traditional web hosting providers to cloud infrastructure has people looking for alternatives of cPanel. Because obviously it wouldn’t sense for you to pay $20 for a cPanel license when the server itself costs about $5. Also, not to forget the fact that cPanel is a huge resource-hog and wouldn’t work well with cloud infra. Considering the need the hour, I am going to discuss 3 free alternatives to cPanel that you can make use of if you are one of these folks.

Is a control panel really necessary?

If you were to visit any enterprise IT company to understand the way they manage their infrastructure, you would notice they don’t really use any control panel. It is REALLY important to understand that control panels are simply a thin wrapper with “GUI” slapped on them which makes the task execution simpler for beginners. However, if you aren’t really well-versed with server management, sooner or later you would run into issues where the functionality of GUI would be very limited and you wouldn’t know what’s going on with your server under the hood and why is it not performing.

Also read – How to host your website using Nginx.

This tutorial explains how to host your website without any control panel with a simple Nginx setup. This is the best way to move forward in my opinion, as you are also introduced to the linux servers using terminal and you save a LOT of resources that any control panel would require in order to function. With that said, let’s move onto the options that you might want to explore.

Open source alternative to cPanel in 2019

#1 – Webmin

Webmin is one of the most established open source web hosting control panel available. Webmin is field tested and has been around for more than a decade. Webmin works with all Linux operating systems such as Debian and RedHat based distributions. Not to forget, webmin has a highly active community to get help.

Primary features of webmin:

  • DNS Management
  • Database Management
  • User Management
  • Configuration Mangaement
  • Multi-server support
  • Firewall / fail2ban Management
    and much more.

#2 – CentOS Web Panel

If you are working with a CentOS server, this is possibly the best choice for you. I have personally tested CWP back in the day and it worked like charm. An exclusive feature of CWP is the “auto-fixer”, this features iterates over most of your configuration files and fixes them automatically in case there was a mistake. A few people also refer to it as “self-healing”.

Primary features of CentOS Web Panel:

  • DNS Management
  • Database Management
  • Email Management including 3 different GUIs for webmail
  • Separate control panels for admin and users
  • User Management
  • Pre-installed CSF Firewall
    and much more.

#3 – Froxlor Panel

Froxlor is marketed as a light weight alternative to Webmin and appears to have really impressive GUI. Comes with an exclusive feature of “Built in Lets encrypt Support”, which means you can install free SSL certificates to all of your domain names right from the GUI without having to go through the trouble of generating one from the terminal. Do know that Froxlor works only with Ubuntu.

Primary features of Froxlor:

  • All the features mentioned with other panels
  • Support ticket management
  • Traffic analyzer and logs
  • Customizable design (CSS)
  • In-built Lets Encrypt support
  • Ability to create Reseller accounts
    and much more.

Honorable mentions –

There are a lot of other control panels available around on the internet. However, I decided not to mention them as I personally have no experience with them so I wouldn’t prefer leading you to them. Hence, I’ll just mention them here for you to contemplate.

#4 – Ajenti

#5 – Vesta CP

#6 – ISP Config

I have heard a lot about ISP Config and it being one of the most stable control panels out there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t include it in my primary list as I have no relevant experience with it. I do encourage you to check it out though.

#7 – Yuno Host

I would like to reiterate the fact here that all of these panels are only meant to help you simplify the tasks in case you aren’t familiar with Terminal or don’t like to work with it for some reason. However, you are bound to run into problems the moment something breaks. It is important to understand the concepts of Linux as an operating system, specifically about web hosting such as DNS, Databases etc. I would highly recommend you start reading up on these subjects if you are planning to manage the server on your own because cloud servers are completely self-managed.

Published by Nishant

With over 9 years in the industry, initially started as a Linux administrator and transitioned into DevOps Engineer. I work with deployment and infrastructure automation as well as application release management processes.

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