Tag Archives: Graphical user interface

cPanel vs. Plesk: The Value of Flipping a Coin 199 Times

 

CPanel

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:

  1. Click into Basic cPanel/WHM Setup
  2. Enter default nameservers
  3. No place immediately here to add a domain or proceed through a step-by-step series
  4. Click home
  5. Enter into account details
  6. Enter into configure the server
  7. Enter into multi account functions
  8. Click cPanel link
  9. Scroll down screen – click on create new account
  10. 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.

OS Support

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.

Interface

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.

Cost

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).

Setup/UX

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Migration

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.

cPanel attributes

  • 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.

Plesk attributes

  • 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

Best cPanel Plugins, Part 1

 

Logo

Using cPanel/WHM for hosting is greatly enhanced by taking advantage of the many plugins that have been built by third parties to increase the functionality of cPanel. Administration is simplified by these plugins. The speed and effectiveness of your capabilities using your cPanel system will get a huge boost by becoming familiar with some of the best options out there.

These plugins are across a broad spectrum. They all, in one way or another, help with configuration, management, and/or tools – a broadening of what cPanel can offer as a server administration control panel.

For this piece, I referenced a piece on GK~root. The GK~root article specifically recommends the ConfigServer plugins, which are available as a complete package through Way to the Web. This article (the one you’re reading or having read to you in a dramatic whisper by your executive assistant, Sheila ) also cites the cPanel site directly, listing the three apps that are rated the highest by users: Google Apps Wizard, WHAM!, and Atomicorp Modsecurity Rules.

Below I will provide summaries of the plugins, as well as the origins of their names. Be aware as you are installing plugins that the entire cPanel system can be plugged into another cPanel system. There is no reason to do that, however, and it will send cPanel spiraling on a repeating loop that will eventually make it develop artificial intelligence (as it sees itself seeing itself), grow increasingly despondent for several days, and then “willingly” self-destruct.

Atomicorp Modsecurity Rules

This plugin is a firewall with a database of 15,000 signatures. It also is fully customizable and makes it easy to develop your own firewall system.

Origin: The name was derived from the developer’s initial desire to use nuclear fission to attempt to make starfish “speak their thoughts” (who knows what he meant by that, although I’m pretty sure I just heard a starfish say that he’s tired).

ClamAV Scanner

Clam Antivirus (ClamAV) enables you to scan for antivirus and spyware on the server. Once installed, you will see a Virus Scanner icon within cPanel.

Origin: The creator of ClamAV ate clam chowder, and as you can imagine, contracted a horrible stomach virus. He came up with both an antidote for chowder-induced food poisoning and this plugin.

Clean Backups

This plugin allows you to save backups of any accounts that are removed from the system. These accounts are saved to the backup drive and remain there until they are manually removed.

Origin: Clean Backups is named after the Scottish tradition of storing a second bar of soap in the bathroom for hygiene emergencies.

ConfigServer Explorer (cse)

This app provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for managing your file system, along with a window that allows you to use cPanel within any of the major Internet browsers (serving essentially as a browser add-on in that capacity).

Origin: This application was called Explorer not because it explores the files, but because Ponce de Leon wrote the full code for this plugin in his diaries during a fever when he was thought to be losing his mind.

ConfigServer Mail Manage (cmm)

This plugin means that you don’t need to log in to a specific user’s account in order to be able to manage email. Instead, you have immediate configuration options accessible through this app.

Origin: “Mail manage” were the final words of Marlon Brando. It is thought that he was concerned his subscriptions to Guns & Ammo and People would continue indefinitely if someone did not go through all of his scattered paperwork.

ConfigServer Mail Queues (cmq)

This allows you to control the network’s email queues through a GUI with various features for exim administration via WHM.

Origin: This plugin was inspired by the 2002 song of the same name by the Indiana-formed folk-punk band Ghost Mice. The band reportedly hated having to wait in line to send out care packages to their girlfriends, all of whom were in prison.

ConfigServer ModSecurity Control (cmc)

This gives you a GUI in WHM so that you can better see and control the mod_security module.

Origin: ModSecurity Control was originally named MobSecurity Control until it was used to attempt to control angry mobs during a poorly refereed championship high school soccer game in Newport, Rhode Island. It was then realized that it could only provide virtual control.

ConfigServer eXploit Scanner (cxs)

This app specifically provides security against exploitation whenever a file that scans is loaded onto the server.

Origin: eXploit Scanner is the name given in Australia to a man hired by a bachelor to go to a bar with him to scan the clientele for potential exploits or adventures (typically attractive members of the opposite sex, although anyone with access to helicopters and kangaroo hunting equipment is also targeted).

ConfigServer Security&Firewall (cxs)

This plugin protects Linux servers with a firewall, detects against intrusion, and provides additional security features.

Origin: Security&Firewall is named after the first-born daughter of Charles II of England, the first-recorded usage of an ampersand (“&”) in a name. Security&Firewall went on to develop a new and innovative way to look dainty and not say anything (strange why her name should be used for a security plugin).

Domains Statistics

This app provides organized statistical information for any of the URLs that you are running on the server.

Origin: The origin of “Domains Statistics” is unknown. It is widely believed that it is simply a description of what the plugin allows, but conspiracy theorists believe it is a code phrase used by the CIA to refer to all Americans as statistics just waiting for eminent domain to steal all their stuff (dreams included).

Google Apps Wizard (cPanel #1 Rating)

This plugin integrates WHM with Google Apps so that you can more easily manage the service on any sites hosted on the server. To use Google Apps with any of your domains, the wizard requires only two clicks. This plugin is the highest rated one on the cPanel site, with a score of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

Origin: The wizard in its name is based on the use of DNA from a medieval wizard in its code. Note that the plugin sometimes accidentally creates a potion that makes your server disappear, appear briefly in a parallel reality light years away, then reappear four feet away from its original location.

Installatron Applications Installer

This plugin allows for one-click installations of any apps you might want to add to your site – making the installations faster and providing easier management.

Origin: Installatron is the name of a demonic drywall installation overlord-bot who ruled despotically over the Iowa commercial construction market throughout the 1970s, installing drywall haphazardly and using cancerous chemicals to attempt to bring Iowa to its knees (no dice!).

Munin Service Monitor

Munin monitors resources and conducts analysis to understand what events on the network slow down its performance. The app is intended to be extremely user-friendly and intuitive. It can be installed via a standard setup that consists of a series of instructional images.

Origin: The makers of Munin claim that it was a raven of Odin, the King of the Gods in Norse mythology, and that it means “memory.” This is actually untrue. Munin was in fact a chronically rabid bear that belonged to Pimtad, the guy who cleaned up for the Norse gods after they finished meals or games of “Let’s Throw a Bunch of Stuff Around.”

Restore Manager

Easily restore backups of such elements as files, email, and databases. You can choose specific files or folders, for example, and restore the selected items all at once. This plugin allows you to go into the backup and make those selections rather than having to download and work with the entire backup.

Origin: Restore Manager was inspired by a store manager reemerging as a beacon of leadership for an Ace Hardware store in Biloxi, Mississippi. Though many people at the time said, “You’re not using the word ‘restore’ correctly,” the manager, Neil Lemon, went against all odds and kept referring to himself by the improper designation.

WHAM! (cPanel #2 Rating)

WHAM! allows management of all of your servers through one control panel. Its features, then, allow you to perform numerous administrative functions with access to all the information and files on your network. Its features include the following:

•    Account location to find account or duplicates of accounts on any of your servers

•    Account management to create, edit, or delete accounts

•    Firewall to disallow access to the system unless requests are coming from specified IP addresses

•    Addition of other users, with the ability to grant certain access privileges

•    Logging of all activities – especially helpful if you have additional users entering the WHAM! control panel

•    Quick and easy configuration & restarting of the cPanel platform

•    Settings that allow modifications to email notification preferences, your timezone, and other parameters

•    DNS-related tools including DNS details, WHOIS lookups, and checks of RBL.

•    Manage cPanel itself – including plugins, domains and subdomains, and email.

This plugin is the second-highest rated app on the cPanel site, with a score of 4.3 out of 5 stars.

Origin: “WHAM!” was Neil Armstrong’s actual statement when he first set foot on the moon. He then made some disparaging remarks about the Russian space program and started complaining about how hot it was inside his spacesuit.

Summary & Conclusion

Check out some of the above plugins. Each of them can make your server administration easier. You can use full-spectrum solutions for management of your network, such as WHAM!, a kind of overlay control panel to place overtop of WHM and pull in all your server information for easy management. You can use any of the ConfigServer options to configure your server. Restoring, monitoring, installing, and getting a sense of traffic stats are all improved with the other user-friendly plugins.

Note that the only way to save cPanel if you do make the mistake of plugging it into itself is to then, in turn, plug the cPanel with cPanel plugged into it back into the original cPanel. This forms a pretzel arrangement that confuses and subdues cPanel. Also please be aware that playing classical music to your network makes it grow faster, so don’t do that.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

The Difference Between Windows and Linux Servers

Español: implantació de sistemes operatius

Which operating system is best for your server, i.e. for your hosting package – Windows or Linux? I will analyze various parameters of both systems – including account accessibility, software compatibility, cost, uptime, security, support, and the choice of open source vs. proprietary technology.

Often the debate over operating systems becomes passionate and emotional, and it is difficult to find even-handed material. I want to view the two options as objectively as possible. With that in mind, I will reference articles that exhibit fair discussion on the topic – by Kristen Waters from Salon, John Hodge from Sysprobs, and Jack Wallen from Tech Republic.

The two sides are basically this: those who say Windows is awful vs. Bill Gates. The latter has been on the cutting edge of technology for years, so maybe he’s right. I’m considering buying all the other products he’s selling too, just based off his incredible excitement about how fun they are to use. I’m being ridiculous of course: the two operating systems each have their advantages and disadvantages – but other than the open source versus proprietary aspect, they are strikingly similar.

General Overview

As Kristen points out in her Salon article, the difference between the two systems has become less marked in recent years. Windows had some distinct advantages which it no longer has. Most noticeably, Linux now offers visually appealing, user-friendly control panels which were only available through Windows in the past.

Windows does still has the advantage of being highly recognizable by users who have that OS installed on their PCs. That familiarity factor, though it may seem like a subtle suggestion to try something new, is a distinct advantage because learning any new system takes time and labor, both of which have a price tag. My cost to fly to your business and conduct a training session to convert between the two systems, for instance, would cost $680,000 – why not? (The good news: I’m a nonprofit. You can write it off.)

Open Sores vs. Open Source

Since this article is unbiased, referring to the Windows proprietary option as “open sores” is off-base, but I will keep it for its impact as a super pun. Puns, after all, are fully compatible with both operating systems.

As John Hodge suggests in Sysprobs, the two operating systems are primarily pitted against one another in terms of access to the code. Linux is open-source, and Windows is proprietary. System administrators tend to side with open-source because, like auto mechanics and residential burglars, they like to be able to get inside and take a look around. Windows does not offer this freedom because its code is privately held information.

Anyone looking at hosting plans should be aware of a fundamental truth: if you use Windows on your PC, you do not need to have a Windows server. The choice is completely separate from the operating system in use on your desktop. You can have a Mac, whatever. In fact, online business people who regularly access the Internet through their TI-84 graphing calculators (especially popular in the states of Idaho and Wyoming) are split 50/50 between the two systems.

According to John, the primary advantage of immediate access to code is that you can get in and make any fixes to the operating system as you go. He also mentions a reasonable flip-side to open source, however: anyone with malcontent can make alterations to the operating system and the software created for it, which can pose security threats.

Jack Wallen in his Tech Republic article references Linux’s licensing – the GNU public license – as the basis permitting full accessibility for anyone to change the code of Linux as desired, even at the level of the kernel on which the operating system is founded. While acknowledging the perspective of the potential for malcontents to damage the system, Jack points out that the open source model allows individuals with good intent to improve and enhance the system, preventing those working against the system to succeed in implementing negative components into the code.

Accessibility

Kristen discusses how the ability to access the two types of hosting OS’s is different, but very similar, for both Windows and Linux. Access can be achieved either through a control panel, which can be in the form of an FTP client or graphical user interface (GUI). The latter provides the ability to manipulate a hosting environment via a visually organized display as opposed to entering prompts via a command line. A typical command line prompt is, “Computer, build me a website” or “Computer, build me a website NOW” (the second version enables express processing   but can also make the computer disgruntled and more likely to lash out).

Linux and Windows control panels are very similar in appearance and functionality (as described above, Linux is no longer behind Windows in this capacity). Communicating through FTP can be achieved either through a GUI or through a command line – two different types of applications. The command language differs between the two operating systems – but again, the functionality is similar. Be aware that some GUI-based FTP clients are not compatible with both types of servers.

Expense & Licenses

The difference in expense incurred by choosing one operating system over the other is discussed in John’s article. Windows is, generally speaking, significantly more expensive than Linux, but check with your hosting service to determine the specifics. Linux is widely used in part because it is so cost-effective to use as the basis for a network. In fact, the operating system itself is free – so only the hosting administration requirements will cost you anything. Membership in the Linux President’s Circle is also an additional $100,000 a year, but I know a guy who can get you in for 18 easy payments of $59.95.

Regarding cost, as Jack establishes, you will only necessarily see an improvement by using Linux if you are constructing the components of the server yourself. When looking at hosting environments, there are many different factors affecting price. You may find the two options are more equitably priced than you would expect, depending what hosting service you use.

Regarding licenses, Linux has an advantage. First of all, you can make changes to Linux and then even sell that new version if you want, as long as you make the changes you’ve made to the code freely accessible. You can install Linux on as many devices as you want. Microsoft cannot be adjusted and resold, and it cannot be installed unconditionally. A license is specific to a certain number of servers.

Compatibility

Kristen mentions that compatibility on either type of server allows full access to a broad range of software. Open source applications will generally have full compatibility with either system. Microsoft’s software, such as FrontPage, .NET, MSSQL, or anything else the company has developed specifically for its own servers will not work on Linux. Those companies that already have Microsoft built into their network will have a complicated decision to make if they are considering switching over to Linux. As always with any major choice in business, spend a full day making a decision-making chart, and then right before you end your work day, flip a coin.

Support

As Jack establishes, support seems to be a major difference between the two operating systems – at least at first glance. Support for the two types of servers is relatively similar. Typically with Linux, companies use the open source community via forums and websites specifically focused on Linux support. Additionally, there are several large organizations that offer paid support packages for Linux. Servicing a wide swathe of customers, these organizations have become experts at the service.

Windows likewise offers paid support packages. Additionally, anyone with a Windows server can look to forums and other online sources for advice from others in the Microsoft community. In a basic way, then, support for both systems can be implemented similarly – for free or at a price. However, Linux, because of the intrinsically active and engaged nature of open source users, typically has a broader array of online conversations to solve server issues.

A brief note, as well, on support for hardware: Microsoft has always had an advantage as far as this goes. You will have a difficult time finding hardware that is incompatible with Windows. However, this, like most of the other problems in the past with Linux, has almost entirely been overcome. Linux does still have compatibility blind spots though. As an example, Jack notes that many laptops are not fully equipped for hibernate/suspend functionality.

Removable Media

Jack mentions removable media as a challenge for anyone adjusting to using Linux. Removable media can now be used the same way in a Linux or Windows environment, but in most situations, drives for removable media are not built into Linux hardware. This feature is considered a protection against overwriting of media between one user and another. However, people who are used to Windows systems may experience frustration with this Linux standard. If a new Linux user becomes frustrated with the servers, a common and productive way to release that emotion is to get out a set of really tiny tools, take apart the server into all its component pieces, meditate for a few minutes, and then put it back together.

Conclusion

As you can see, Linux and Windows have become very similar. The main reasons for the additional cost for Windows servers is because companies and individuals are used to them, and transitions can be expensive. Transitions can become especially expensive, and difficult, when considering how much Windows software is currently built into your infrastructure. Linux, on the other hand, will typically cost less and offers greater flexibility to adapt the code for fixes and to suit your particular purposes.

Free Flapjacks Contest

Please comment below for a chance to win a free plate of flapjacks from IHOP (a value of over $4 USD).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood