cPanel Control Panel and Parallels Plesk Panel are the two most popular control panels for the management of a network or website. Each platform of course has its own layout and set of features, so each has different appeal. How to choose, then? This article is an assessment of how cPanel compares to Plesk so you can decide which one might be the right choice for you.
I looked at a number of different opinions to assist with this piece. I referenced an article by Matt Hartley for Locker Gnome, an uncredited piece for Worth of Web, and one by Taniya Vincent for Bobcares. The piece is set up as a literature review – looking at the different points made by each source independently (as opposed to going step-by-step according to topic).
As 948 of 1000 of the world’s top IT professionals will tell you (source: Better Homes & Gardens), the best way to decide between cPanel and Plesk is simple:
- Look at a few different opinions – as with any binary, people are often one-sided.
- Get a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each CP.
- Flip a coin. Best out of 199 flips. Carefully chart your flips.
Perspective 1: Locker Gnome
This article looks at the initial establishment of a website using each of the two control panels. This helps give a sense of how intuitive each system is.
Plesk Setup & Overview
According to Hartley, Plesk is extraordinarily easy to use. As soon as Plesk loads its first screen, you add a domain and start following prompts, which are essentially a series of “Next” buttons to different screens allowing you to turn on/off different features, activate your FTP client (for loading files to the server), etc. As Hartley writes, “I cannot overstate how ‘droolingly’ simple Plesk makes this – it’s almost frightening.”
So the system is highly intuitive. Also, though, it’s not just simple/intuitive but extremely efficient. Rather than having to enter into different screens by navigating or searching, support for different languages of code (Perl, Python, PHP) is a toggle-option on one of the setup screens, as is your domain’s policy – just a step-by-step series of decisions.
Following the setup of one domain, the Plesk system moves on to establishment of e-mail accounts, creation of subdomains, etc.. It is a simplified system that Hartley does not see as oversimplified. He sees it as an easy, painless way to establish, organize, and manage websites.
How is your coin flipping going? Are you to 50 yet? Or have you just been reading? Just reading, huh? Wow, you really love to read – or you just aren’t into flipping coins. Huh. I’m going to jot this down in your psychological profile. Please continue.
cPanel/WHM Setup & Overview
Simply the name of this control panel makes it problematic to Hartley. It’s not in fact one control panel but two. To him this is excessively complex for anyone using the system for the first time. So that is a strike against it regarding ease-of-use.
Perhaps part of the problem with cPanel, based on Hartley’s observations, is its strong popularity – which has meant that the company has wanted to be careful about changing any of its functionality because people get used to the system being organized in a certain way, even if it’s not entirely intuitive.
Choosing between cPanel and WHM when you first enter the system is confusing. If you’re trying to set up a website, you might think that WHM seems right, since that is the web hosting management portal. Here was the intuitive flow that Hartley followed, which ended up being frustrating:
- Click into Basic cPanel/WHM Setup
- Enter default nameservers
- No place immediately here to add a domain or proceed through a step-by-step series
- Click home
- Enter into account details
- Enter into configure the server
- Enter into multi account functions
- Click cPanel link
- Scroll down screen – click on create new account
- This works.
Hartley views navigation of this system as dreadful. He does point out that for a user who is highly experienced, and especially one who is already familiar with cPanel, the control over the server may be preferable – all in all, though, his thumb is up for Plesk.
I’m going to go out and start flipping a coin for you. Just a second – I need to find a coin. Could I flip a credit card? No, that doesn’t seem right. Maybe I can flip my shoe. No, the weight isn’t unevenly distributed – classic rookie flipper mistake, trying to substitute tiny metal cylinders with footwear. Gosh. It’s time to get laundry quarters anyway.
Perspective 2: Worth of Web
This article looks at the two platforms in terms of five major characteristics: OS support, interface, cost, setup/UX, and migration.
Generally speaking, Plesk is favored by Windows users, and cPanel is favored by Linux users. Plesk is gradually catching up regarding its breadth of OS support.
Everyone likes a GUI that is easy-to-use. Like Hartley, this article argues Plesk is the obvious choice. However, the familiarity of cPanel by itself is compelling – things are “where you expect them to be” if you are a veteran of that control panel.
This is somewhat of a tossup. cPanel has only one option, which is unlimited and annual. Plesk allows monthly subscribing but is slightly more expensive for small numbers of domains, significantly more expensive for unlimited use (almost double the price).
This piece again follows some of the same logic regarding setup and intuitive use of the system as did the Locker Gnome piece. It points out two distinct ways in which cPanel is a little tougher to use:
- Separation of roles – two different applications for two different types of users. Plesk, on the other hand, allows login from a single position, with administrative entry giving access to a more robust set of features.
- Setup – initial setup that is not all in one place, no handholding. Plesk, in contrast, offers a step-by-step process similar to initial download of a new Windows application.
According to this article, migration is the main difference between the two systems (although it seems that UX and OS friendliness/compatibility are other key ingredients). Migrating to a different server is free with both platforms. Transitioning to a different control panel involves buying advanced migration features for either of the two control panels.
Okay, I’m back from the bank. Yeah, I got a roll of quarters. Sorry it took me so long. I went ahead and started a load of whites too. I use generic detergent because I don’t care if my clothing gets clean. It just makes me feel good to wash it. Anyway, clear off the table for the 199 flips. Move all your interior decoration magazines please.
Perspective 3: Bobcares
This piece, similar to the Worth of Web one, looks at a number of different features for the control panels. However, it divides them up to discuss them one at a time per platform.
- Exceptionally fast load times – Very quick and efficient on the majority of servers. cPanel does not rely on an external database, which greatly improves its performance.
- Better functionality – cPanel packages that you get through a hosting service will typically contain a stronger set of features. cPanel is better integrated with a wide swath of applications. This integration means that you have more options for easy and efficient operation on it than you do with Plesk.
- Stronger reseller hosting – Both systems offer reseller hosting, though cPanel’s system is more long-standing and refined. You can create hosting packages, manage accounts, and monitor the usage of resources through the reseller system – simple model and easy access.
- Linux specificity – Well, this is not entirely true. Enkompass is available for Windows users, but it has not gotten very good reviews.
- Annoying maintenance – Configuration and security is time-consuming, with regular updating and patching to keep the system free from intrusion.
Okay, let’s see. So, we are at 48 heads and 46 tails, right? Wait a minute, I think we forgot something. Which side stands for which control panel? Otherwise we’re just flipping this thing for no reason. Let’s flip the coin 199 times to determine which side stands for which.
- Allows clustering – This system is easier to use with a number of different servers. You can manage all of them from one GUI. Web servers, database servers, FTP servers, and all other types of servers can all be managed from one central location.
- Windows friendly – Both major operating systems are supported. Web hosts have access to a fuller spectrum of clientele. The clients themselves can choose between whichever operating system they prefer.
- Full Windows compatibility – The integration between Plesk and Windows is strong – it’s fully integrated, for instance, with Microsoft SQL Server.
- Bad third-party compatibility – Plesk is not integrated with many independent apps designed for Linux. Plesk can be used with Linux of course, but it is not nearly as versatile as cPanel is for that OS.
- Slower loading – Plesk, to put it simply, was not built for speed. It can become particularly slow on Linux servers. Even on very strong servers, Plesk can sometimes require a lot of patience.
Hm, I think we made the same mistake. I’ve flipped the coin 126 times now, and it’s dead even at 63 apiece. However, I can’t remember exactly why we’re flipping the coin – to determine which side is which control panel, but how exactly does that work? I think our logic is a little fuzzy.
Summary & Conclusion
There are certainly pluses and minuses of each system. The basic gist is this:
- cPanel better for Linux, Plesk better for Windows.
- Plesk generally easier to use.
- cPanel generally faster at loading.
Good luck. Let’s stop flipping the coin. I don’t feel like we are getting anywhere. I’m kind of embarrassed for having suggested it. Go back to reading your magazines. As soon as you get your degree, I want 1940s Algerian decor in here. It can be your thesis project or something.
by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood