cPanel sucks? Plesk is worse than cPanel? Well... not exactly, but consider this.
Okay, so I wrote that headline intentionally to draw eyeballs to it and get clicks. But, I truly do rank them in that order. Stay with me here... I've used cPanel and Plesk for years and years and years professionally when I worked at web design companies and they definitely have their place in the world and are great, powerful, and useful tools to manage lots of websites. But, the little under dog VestaCP needs a bigger spotlight shown on it and I'm here to tell you why.
I'm gonna start in order from my least favorite to favorite for this blog post. That order being Plesk, cPanel, and VestaCP being my favorite. In each section I'll go over what I like and don't like about each one.
Plesk - Innovative Hosting Control Panel
What I like about Plesk
You can tell when you're using Plesk that there was a lot of thought put into the interface and programming behind it. It really is extremely powerful with lots of settings and features. The interface is very nice looking and streamlined. There are a TON of things to dig into and configure. When it's working it works really well. If you're a business that manages a lot of websites then this is a great tool to keep them all organized and configured properly.
You can manage multiple sites from the dashboard, run updates, and monitor the performance from within the Plesk dashboard, making it quick and easy to manage many websites. If you like WordPress or other popular content management systems they are already integrated to make it easier to manage and deploy websites using them and keep track of them. It'll run on most popular versions of Linux, which is most likely what you're going to be using for web hosting if you're serious about running a web hosting server or web hosting company. It's also highly customizable if you know what you're doing.
What I don't like about Plesk
I realize everyone has their opinions and reasons for what they do and don't like and what I say here is probably going to rub some people the wrong way. Especially those that have been using Plesk for a long time, have mastered it, and swear by it. But, as someone that used WHM and cPanel for a long time before Plesk... Plesk was very overwhelming to switch over to and get used to using.
Even if you're an experienced webmaster, the first time you use Plesk is very overwhelming and you'll find yourself having to learn how to do things that you already understand the concept of because Plesk does it all in a very different way. Everything seems backwards at first until you get used to it. So, you spend a lot time working Plesk instead of Plesk working for you. In my case, when I finally did get Plesk to behave and do the things I wanted it to do I couldn't help but think that was a lot of steps to get from A to B and it could have been done simpler. There is probably reasons for all the choices they made. But, as someone that has setup servers and websites from the command line alone it felt very unnecessary. Every time I had to log into Plesk to setup, fix, or manage a website I felt sad inside a little.
Plesk has so many settings and connections it's very overwhelming to look at. Again, it should be noted that this could also be seen as a positive thing for someone that likes, wants, or needs all of these settings. But, for me... I didn't. My goal here is to get a website up and running as quickly as possible. Rarely did we ever have clients that needed their own login access to anything. They are busy, lazy, or both and they don't want to log in and manage or fix anything themselves. They want to call our phone and say fix this, update this, change that. In fact, I wouldn't even trust most of them to log in to Plesk themselves no matter how few resources we actually allowed them to have to manage anything themselves. I'd rather be the one pushing the buttons so I know they aren't making things worse.
So, that being said. I've have to say Plesk sure isn't bad. But, it's over kill.
cPanel - Hosting Platform of Choice
cPanel and WHM, if you have access to that as well, are great. We used the crap out of these platforms more than any other when I was working at the web firms. It probably is the best for a corporate situation to manage other clients websites so you can look the professional part. No one is going to question your company when they see you're using WHM and cPanel. That's because it's been around a long time, it's mature, and it's trusted in the industry.
With the WHM you can set up all your clients and websites in one place. This also creates instances of cPanel that you or your users can use to login and manage even more fine details of each website individually like databases or Email accounts. Also, within the WHM you can set all kinds of limits to users, update, upgrade, or change how the actual Linux operating system is performing, and keep an eye on usage and performance levels of the actual machine that is hosting your websites. The mail queue is also a wonderful feature to have so you can make sure Emails are being delivered properly. It's truly a great piece of software.
With cPanel you can easily and quickly manage a website's finer details like DNS records, where applicable, databases and Email accounts as mentioned before, manage files, run backups, check stats, and more. Just like Plesk, you can again assign additional users to be able to login to cPanel and manage their own website to some degree depending on how much access you give them. It looks really professional when you send out login information to clients letting them know they have the power to manage their website's settings.
But, again, the same situation always happened. Almost none of our clients ever actually used the login, making the existence of cPanel pretty useless. It was nice to be able to let them know they have it, but most of the time they didn't know what that really meant or what to do with it. They would call in and let us know what they needed updated, changed, fixed, etc. It was almost 100% a tool for us to use in-house and that was it.
So, that leads me to the same scenario as Plesk. If no one REALLY cares if all these panels exist on the web server as long as their website and Email are up, running, and working... then is it really necessary to have all of these fancy things? Not to mention, it is not free to use WHM and cPanel. Some hosting companies provide it and it "seems" free because it's bundled into your monthly cost. But, they are getting paid to provide you WHM and cPanel one way or another. The cost isn't astronomical and if you're making substantially more than it costs to have it as a convenience on your server then it's fine. But, make no mistake, all panel software are crutches that are really only running commands on the command line that you could do yourself for free.
I think the worst thing about WHM and cPanel of all is that it has become so popular that many of the big name hosting providers will say they offer WHM and cPanel... but what they really offer is a modified version of it where some features are removed or hidden. They will make you pay extra just to unlock some of the originally included features of the software. I've noticed this with HostGator and GoDaddy. It's the reason I won't choose either of them as a hosting provider. Most people won't notice it and once you're in too deep you will just deal with it, and they know that. That's how they know they can get away with it.
You know, I would have happily used WHM and cPanel until the end of time. But, Google exists and so I got to looking around online for alternatives to these types of software and see what else is out there. I also left the professional web companies a few years ago because they were making me fall out of love for something I am passionate about. I wanted to work for myself and find my passion again. Leaving those companies was the best thing I ever did. I've found the passion again. But, starting all over meant every little cost adds up.
When I landed on VestaCP I knew I had found something special. It is a project that looks like it's being worked on and developed with lots of love and care. When I found the right hosting company to trust to hosting my online websites, projects, and clients I thought I'd give VestaCP a try. There is definitely still a learning curve using VestaCP just like any of the others because there are a lot of things you have to do manually to prepare your server for VestaCP. But, that's true of the other panel software too, it's just that usually you'll get a hosting provider that does all of that work for you behind the scenes so you never see it or deal with it.
Vesta Control Panel - Simple & Clever Hosting Control Panel
But, let me tell you, the first time I logged into VestaCP and saw it all working I was immediately in love with it. It truly is what they say it is: Simple & Clever Hosting Control Panel. The interface is clean and straight to the point. It's not over done, and it certainly doesn't seem like a beta or something that isn't quite finished yet either. It's just what it needs to be and nothing more or nothing less.
What I like about VestaCP
Once you get it up and running you won't really find yourself Googling how to use it, where things are, or how to fix any problems you're running into. Everything says what it is, is easy to find, and just works. After using the other big name softwares for so long I know what I expect to see and what I'm looking for and I can tell you right now... for being a free alternative there is nothing missing or forgotten. Everything you would need to do is there and it all just works.
It may not have all the fancy plugins and one click install features for a bunch of content management systems. But, I would wager that if you're someone setting up servers and websites, you aren't really concerned to much with that anyway. Installing something like WordPress from scratch is pretty easy. I never really understood the appeal of the one click install scenarios anyway. It's empowering to understand at least some basic knowledge of why and how things work.
Oh yeah... and did I mention it's free? They have a simple setup and installation process for you to follow and once you do it's just there and it's working. It's also very lightweight. When you're running a web server you want to keep as many resources available for serving pages as possible. I feel good knowing I'm not running some gigantic piece of software to do the same thing VestaCP can do with ease and quickly.
You can set up users just like the other panel software to let your clients login and manage their websites (which they probably won't as I've mentioned multiple times now), manage DNS, Email accounts, databases, PHPMyAdmin, you can set cron jobs, run local or remote scheduled backups, look at usage graphs and statistics, manage the firewall, start and stop services... and one of my favorite features that I find very fascinating and useful is that you can one click install free SSL's with Let's Encrypt and they take care of themselves forever! On the other panel softwares, maybe they are better now, but when I was using them I would have to set calendar reminders to go create new keys to copy and paste for each website every 3 months. It was a huge pain in the butt... and if I forgot I could be sure I was getting a phone call from a client that their website was down (it wasn't, it just looked like it to them because did I mention clients just want their website working and other than that they don't really care to know the details of what's going on?).
What I don't like about VestaCP
Perhaps the worst part of VestaCP is that it doesn't have the mainstream adoption that the other panel softwares do. Because of that, when there is a bug it can be frustrating to look online to find the solution. However, I haven't encountered any deal breaking bugs before. I have certainly had a few weird things once in a while, but I was always able to resolve them pretty simply. I've had WAY more irritating situations with the other panel software. That's probably it... and you can't really fault them for that. Everyone has to start somewhere. So, here I am doing my part to bring more awareness to it.
I'm using VestaCP for all of my websites and I have no plans to stop. It's just an incredible piece of software. It's changed how I deploy websites forever.