cPanel or Plesk?

cPanel or Plesk?

When purchasing a web hosting account you are forced to make several decisions, one of which is what control panel will be the easiest and most productive for you. There are numerous control panels available, but the majority of hosting services offer either cPanel or Plesk. Here is a comparison of the two that should be helpful when making your decision.

In basic features, both cPanel and Plesk offer about the same. You can create, edit and manage email accounts, as well as maintain your domains or sub-domains from them. You can also upload and manage the files on your account from either. For many users, these basic capabilities are all that will be required in a control panel.

Both cPanel and Plesk provide a graphical user interface to work from, though it is generally agreed upon that cPanel has the more user friendly layout. The Plesk interface can appear a bit overwhelming to a novice user, and be slightly harder to navigate; where cPanel seems to have focused their graphic design specifically for the novice. For this very reason, cPanel is often claimed to be the easier of the two to work with. It ultimately boils down to a question of personal taste on which interface you prefer, and doesn’t have much to do with the real functions and capabilities that the programs provide, only how you will access them.

It is really in the more advanced features, and their ease-of-use offered by the two control panels that sets them apart.

cPanel is typically provided by most hosting services with the Fantastico script installer included. What this offers to users is the ability to install a wide range of scripts and applications on their web site; including forum boards, blogs, eCommerce shopping cart solutions, content management systems and much more–all with a simple click-and-go approach. No programming or database knowledge is required, and any of these applications can be up and running on your web site in just a minute or two with a couple clicks of the mouse.

Plesk has an application pack, and works on a modules basis that allows for additional third party add-ons as well. However, none that seem as widely used and demanded as Fantastico is with cPanel right now, and generally there is some basic technical knowledge required to install and utilize the more advanced features with Plesk–or a hosting provider willing to do it for you.

One major difference is that cPanel only operates on Unix based web servers at the moment, though they are working on support for the Windows Operating System. Plesk however, is currently compatible with both Unix and Windows based servers.

While the majority of users don’t depend on a specific Operating System for their server and will generally utilize Unix based hosting because it often comes with a lower price tag, if you do plan to run specific applications from your web site which will require a Windows based server then cPanel is not an option for you at this time.

If your web site does not have any Operating System requirements when deciding which control panel will be best for you, an understanding of what you want to do and achieve will be necessary. If you are a developer, or just the type who wants to get hands-on with the technical aspects and details of your hosting and web site software, you will probably appreciate Plesk more.

If you are just looking for a reliable control panel that makes the use of features as easy and fast as possible for you, the odds are that cPanel will be your best option.

My recommendations for cPanel Hosting are HostGator, JustHost.com, and HostMonster. Pick any of these 3 web hosts and you can get your website online for cheap, but do not have to compromise on features or allowances for disk storage and bandwidth.

Article updated 2/25/2010

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