Control panels are such an integral part of our website hosting experience and yet not many of us give them much thought. For example, did you know that the two most popular Web Hosting Control Panels (WHCP) are Plesk and cPanel?
These two brands occupy a staggering approximate of around 98% market share according to Datanyze survey. Plesk is the most popular by far, but cPanel also has a strong 19.5% share. Alone, that is already quite significant, but taken into another context, even more so.
What Exactly Does the WHCP Do?
The WHCP is software that offers users an easy way to manage their web hosting accounts. It is GUI-based, meaning it lets you use a familiar icon-driven point-and-click system to get things done. On a deeper level, it gives quick access to the many controls you can use to configure and maintain your web hosting account.
For example, from the WHCP you can install web applications, configure your DNS settings, manage email accounts, view your resource usage, and much more.
Plesk and cPanel are the Most Widely Used WHCPs
Plesk and cPanel are both established and full-featured WHCPs, meaning that they can do almost anything a user will need when it comes to managing their websites. However, there are different tiers of pricing as well.
Some web hosting companies may opt for versions that have fewer features or perhaps even opt not to update to the latest versions of the WHCP. This can cause some discrepancies when it comes to functionality.
For example, Plesk Obsidian was just released in September 2019. Yet it will take some time for the many web hosting companies around the world to update their version, if they choose to at all. The issue of cPanel versus Plesk is more a matter of personal preference. I’ve used both and to be honest, found greater discrepancy in what a web host enables or disables from the control panel.
So Which WHCP Should I Choose?
Web hosting companies must pay either Plesk or cPanel according to the type of license they use. The pricing differs depending on what version of the software they opt for, as well as the number of licenses needed. This cost needs to be passed on to users (that's us) by the web hosting company for them to remain profitable.
Prices are normally driven by demand and as competitive as the web hosting industry is, there is always a competitor trying to undercut a major player. This healthy competition keeps companies honest in their pricing – unless a monopoly emerges.
The Monopoly is Emerging
Both Plesk and cPanel are now majority owned by the same investment company, Oakley Capitals. This gives the combined duo a near monopoly on the WHCP market and effects are already being felt by web hosting companies in the form of license fee hikes.
Fortunately, there are other WHCP alternatives in the market, some of which are even free or open source. Unfortunately, Plesk and cPanel are dominant by a wide margin and it may be difficult for the average website owner to escape the price increases caused by the monopoly.
With that in mind, let’s look at a more detailed comparison of these two current kings of the WHCP space.
Price Comparison: cPanel vs Plesk
cPanel / Plesk prices affect end-user's hosting cost in two ways:
1. Unmanaged VPS / Dedicated Hosting Users
Unmanaged VPS or dedicated hsoting users will have to buy either cPanel or Plesk individually and install them on their own servers. In this scenario, the pricing of Plesk / cPanel affects your cost directly.
Here's the pricing for Plesk
Here's the pricing for cPanel
2. Shared Hosting / Managed VPS Hosting Users
In this scenario, you signup with a web hosting company that uses cPanel or Plesk as their hosting control panel. In this scenario, you cannot choose which extensions or features to use but cost is usually cheaper as it's shared among other users on the same server.
A2 Hosting– Plesk offered in all range of hosting, offerings start at $2.96/mo.
A2 Hosting – Plesk offered in all range of hosting, offerings start at $3.70/mo.
LiquidWeb– cPanel offered in VPS hosting, offerings start at $29/mo.
LiquidWeb– Plesk offered in VPS hosting, offerings start at $29/mo.
SiteGround– cPanel offered in all range of hosting, offerings start at $3.95/mo.
Initially released in year 1996, cPanel is originally designed by J. Nicholas Koston and now owned by Oakley Capital.
The software supports a wide range of Unix based OS including CentOS, Red Hat Linux, as well as FreeBSD. cPanel is the most commonly used control panel among individual webmasters because it is often offered in most shared hosting plans. cPanel offers two interfaces one for the client and one for the reseller, the reseller panel is also known as the WHM panel.
The basic user cPanel allows the users to control their site thorough an easy-to-navigate user-friendly interface. The features that are available will vary based on what is setup through the WHM panel. Some common tasks that can be performed through the user cPanel includes; uploading files, creating sup-domains, modifying DNS entries, creating/editing E-Mail accounts, and monitoring resource usage for sites hosted under that cPanel. These functions are clearly labeled and sectioned in different ares in cPanel main dashboard.
The WHM panel is designed for resellers to be able to create cPanels for subscribers. The WHM panel is generally offered to users with a reseller, VPS, or dedicated server account.
Overall the WHM offers a lot of features but can be difficult to use for someone who has only used the basic user cPanel.
Please note that this post is written with the end users in mind. While it may look very easy to get started with cPanel as an end user; setting up and managing the backend system is another story.
For instance, there are a number of steps, including configuring a package handler like Yum and server release tiers, to follow before the installation. Also, note that cPanel does not come with an uninstaller- once it's installed, you will have to reformat the server in order to remove it.
Plesk was released back in year 2003. The company is originally a product of SWsoft (after SWsoft acquired Plesk Inc. in 2003), it was then re-branded as “Parallels Plesk Panel” later, and finally now shipped from its own dedicated website now (Plesk.com). Plesk supports both Windows and Unix based operating system, this includes Debian, FreeBSD, Ubuntu, SUSE, Red Hat Linux, Windows Server 2016, and Windows Server 2019. Generally, Plesk offers better flexibility and affordable service compare to cPanel.
Plesk comes in two versions – Plesk WebPro and Plesk WebHost. Plesk WebPro is the Plesk edition targeting web professionals, features a streamlined interface and hosts up to 30 domains; Plesk WebHost comes with support for resellers, hosting plans, and unlimited domains.
Generally, Plesk does the same things as cPanel but the new layouts are completely different. It would be tough to switch between the two when you are new or already got used to one of them.
Plesk is a great solution for those who are familiar with Windows and don’t mind spending a little time figuring out how everything is setup – which, in my opinion, not too hard. One major thing I like better about Plesk than cPanel is Plesk Site Builder. I find Plesk Site Builder very powerful and easy to use. Just to give you a quick feel on how it's like, below are some screenshots.
Plesk WebPro Screenshots
Bottomline: Plesk Or cPanel?
I would recommend cPanel to the basic user who is just trying to run a single small site or who has been using cPanel for a long time (since it is difficult to switch because of the layout differences). I would recommend Plesk to anyone who is looking for a powerful and cheap GUI to manage their website.
Additionally Plesk offers everything cPanel does plus the site builder which is a great tool for someone who is just starting out in web design or wants to make a quick website, Plesk is also generally a little cheaper than cPanel so it just makes more sense to me. Please keep in mind that for many cheap hosing platforms Plesk is not an option.
About Jerry Low
Founder of WebHostingSecretRevealed.net (WHSR) - a hosting review trusted and used by 100,000's users. More than 15 years experience in web hosting, affiliate marketing, and SEO. Contributor to ProBlogger.net, Business.com, SocialMediaToday.com, and more.