A black hole exploit kit was used to invade many sites in the summer of 2012, all of which were thought to be running Parallels Plesk Panel. Many Plesk diehards undoubtedly considered turning to cPanel at the time, but Parallels believed it was in part an issue of people either not patching a security loophole or patching it but not changing passwords.
Either way, Plesk 11 was never vulnerable because of security improvements. Parallels got the word out. The brand has since recovered from the incident and remains one of the most popular options out there for server administration and website management.
This article takes a look at Plesk and what makes it a standout option as a server control panel. Granted, cPanel and Plesk have more in common than they do different. Those who are familiar with one control panel or the other will initially experience frustration finding where things are located, but features themselves are generally mirrored between the two applications. The standard differences between the two CPs is that Plesk is typically used with Windows, cPanel with Linux servers – though there is certainly crossover. Plesk is recognized for its ease of use, cPanel for its more consistent speed.
Fun fact: The first Parallels office opened in Booth 7 of a Bob Evans restaurant outside Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1974. The original intention of the company was to simply eat home-style pancakes and sausage links. When Parallels turned to technology, though, it quickly outgrew the booth, first moving to a large table (Table 4) and then to a full-scale office.
Plesk 11 vs. Plesk 10
Parallels stated when the new version of Plesk was released that it had made over 80 improvements to the previous version. The changes were made partially because of information from customers, and gauging from online forums, the improvements were popular with most commenters using the control panel.
Broadly speaking, the new additions to Plesk upgraded the technology and further optimized its performance, so that its speed has been improved both on VPS and dedicated servers (per Parallels). Features were also added to improve online presence. Free support is available with the purchase of particular licenses. All these changes were intended to help designers and hosts operate more easily and cost-effectively.
Note that the rest of this articles talks more broadly about Plesk. Some features discussed were added for Plesk 11, some for Plesk 10 (which of course are then a part of the new system).
Fun Fact: The first and most important decision the Parallels founders made once moving into the new office in 1998 was to purchase a sausage grinder. The executive team realized that if Parallels could master the art of sausage, it would never need to return to Bob Evans again (the company had been primarily maintaining its lease of Booth 7 due to sausage access). This strategy overlooked the strong role of pancakes, though.
Use of Linux with NGINX can significantly reduce the drain on CPU and memory – up to 50%. This focus on speed is important for Plesk since it has a rap as not meeting the speed parameters of cPanel. NGINX comes as a default install on Plesk 11. NGINX inclusion means sites and apps will respond and load faster.
Fun Fact: Parallels outpaced rivals in the Great Tech Startup Sausage Make-a-thon (GTSS-MAT), the first event the company sponsored during its early days transitioning from the sausage & mixed meats industry to the tech development and hosting industry.
The Fully Present Control Panel
Parallels wanted Plesk to allow easier website building for its clients, so it standardly provides the Parallels Web Presence Builder with 10 & 11. This design means that a small business running Plesk can set up a website in similar fashion to the experience of using a CMS such as WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal. This tool can make it possible to set up relatively basic sites immediately without having to hire a designer.
The Builder app allows users to pull modules onto their site with a few clicks. It also can be configured to populate a business’s Facebook page with the design of the site and to push content to that page as well. Automatically creating a similar Facebook presence can be helpful to give a similar brand identity and message as exists on the site.
Web Host Industry Review suggests that this tool can be used by web designers initially to reel in customers, who can then later be upgraded to custom site design as desired. Though a site building add-on such as this is not as versatile as one created from scratch, it makes putting a polished site online quickly easier than it was previously.
Fun Fact: Again forming consistent parallels between its tech future and its sausage past, Parallels created the early Facebook competitor Sausagebook in 2005. Sausagebook was intended to be a site for “showcasing pictures of sausage and updates about the best sausage you’ve eaten lately.” The site is still wildly popular in Germany, where it is customary to use sausage preferences to establish personal identity (eg, a snapshot of sausage is required to get a driver license in the nation).
The Plesk GUI has been improved so that it is easier to find what you need to find. In other words, though Parallels focused heavily on performance and security with new versions, they also wanted to continue to bolster their stance as the most easy-to-use administrative CP. They are succeeding, because each version improves in this fashion, as seen between 10 and 11.
Multiple users can access one Plesk system simultaneously on 10 and 11. Additionally, the Administration Panel, which previously contained a broader set of features, now specifically focuses on Server and Account related tasks. The design changes from earlier versions generally make the system easier to use, navigate and understand.
Fun Fact: The new 2013 Parallels employee handbook outlawed the consumption of one piece of sausage by more than one employee at the same time. An underground circuit of communal sausage consumption was born. Its tournaments were round-robin, sparsely attended, and horrifying. Many tears were shed – and not just by the pigs.
More Secure, For the Pleasure of Your Privacy
Rather than being prompted to pick a password, Plesk now features passwords that are randomly assigned to you. Using randomization software by default to create the passwords on your behalf will make them much more secure. Randomizing means no one can grab elements of your personal life, for instance, that might be included in a password. Think of how it even separates you from the English language (if you chose an English password), and how it gets away from any “system” you use as a mnemonic to remember your passwords. Here’s a sample random password generator for use at any time.
Randomizing means you won’t have to deal with problems with passwords not working correctly because the generation system is more directly integrated into the Plesk system as a whole. Your server will be better protected because you will be using what technology does at its best – sort data and create unique (though otherwise meaningless) arrangements – to your advantage.
Fun Fact: The founder of Parallels, Chuck Hasselhoff (who constantly brags that he is the second cousin of The Hoff), used randomization to create all of his children’s names. He said he used the randomization software for this purpose “to prove a point” – though the exact point that he was trying to prove is unclear. When Chuck is asked what point he’s trying to prove, he simply replies, “That is the point.” Again, who knows.
Plesk’s Common Gateway Interface, FastCGI – like any CGI – organizes your system and makes it easier to manage by dividing your content between a variety of executables. Each executable is a file that has to feed through the CGI in order to make its way to your site, allowing a simple control of something that has a bunch of different parts. It makes managing a complex site easier, in other words.
FastCGI speeds up this process. It does so by separating files for easier management and multiple sites as applicable. In a shared hosting situation, this software means that a number of different sites can be housed within the same server but be distinct from each other. It also means you have full control over how much of the system – bandwidth, RAM, and CPU – an individual party is able to use at any one time.
Placing limitations on one client means you can improve uptime for everyone. Everyone has to follow those guidelines, which is why shared hosting isn’t for everyone. However, uptime means your customers, overall, are happy – because their site is at least, well, functional and consistently available. You can also get down your churn rate (though keep churning that butter as fast as you can – otherwise Papa’s bread will be bland).
Starting with 10, Plesk became capable, when integrated with Cloud Linux, of implementing SecureLVE jail shell support. That essentially means that you can break down data into component slots of the system. Being able to compartmentalize data like that provides similar functionality to CGI applied at a micro level.
Fun Fact: Mr. Hasselhoff separates each of his children’s likes, needs, requests, and other personal attributes and affects into a system of file folders which he calls his Children Gateway Interface. He manages the file folders through a dozen executive assistants (which he calls his “executables”) to optimize the efficiency and strength of both his comprehension of his children, mental and emotional offspring administration, and family time.
To Be Concluded …
Plesk and cPanel are similar for your server and web admin control panel needs. Those above are a few highlights for what Plesk offers. Parallels has made strides in catching up with cPanel on speed and enhancing its UX. Again, though, you’re primarily looking at a Windows/Linux distinction between these two offerings.
Fun Fact: David Hasselhoff tweets his way into the worldwide heart, wait for it … right now.