The 12 Best cPanel Alternatives (2020 Edition)
cPanel is by far the most popular control panel for server and website management to date. It’s been around for over two decades. By now, virtually everyone in the hosting industry has either worked with cPanel or at least encountered it as their web host’s control panel of choice.
That being said, it tends to surprise a lot of our new users when they find out that cPanel isn’t free – let alone how expensive it is. In fact, some argue that cPanel is looking to punish smaller companies and individual developers the most, with their single-license plans starting at $15/month which is more than most users pay per month for their servers. cPanel’s pricing policy is now account-based which makes it extremely expensive especially for resellers.
Aside from that, for most, cPanel just isn’t the best option available anymore. So – without further ado, let’s take a look at all of the best cPanel alternatives and help you make an informed decision…
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Self-Hosted vs SaaS cPanel Alternatives
When looking for a cPanel alternative, the first decision you’ll need to make is to choose between self-hosted and SaaS options.
Self-hosted control panels are usually free to use or require a lower-cost license. These options are typically geared towards people more experienced with server management & the software has to be installed on your server with your VPS hosting provider of choice.
Self-hosting means you are the owner of the software, and you (or your IT team) are also responsible for operating and maintaining it This is a good option for big companies that need reinforced security and stability or smaller entities with more advanced IT knowledge.
The “software as a service” (SaaS) alternatives, on the other hand, which are growing in popularity, are particularly useful if you intend on running specific software such as a content management system like WordPress. Due to their monthly billing, most of our favorite SaaS cPanel alternatives which we’ll cover in this post, also come with excellent support for those who are new to VPS hosting.
Unlike with the self-hosted options, installations are typically hassle-free and require running a simple script to connect your VPS to their hosted server control panel. These platforms are extremely user-friendly because updates, maintenance, and security are left in the hands of true, full-time dedicated professionals.
What To Consider In Your Search For The Best cPanel Alternative
Before we start looking at the best available options, you need to set some expectations. Ask yourself – what are you looking for in a cPanel alternative?
Support for Linux Distributions
First of all, you’ll need to consider whether the control panel is compatible with your sever’s operating system. If you have a Linux-based OS, for example, this could be Ubuntu. If you end up choosing a self-hosted cPanel alternative, you’ll, therefore, need to make sure that the control panel can be installed on your server and if you chose a hosted (SaaS) alternative, you’ll need to make sure that the install script is compatible with your server’s specifications and Linux distribution.
Functionality & Integrations
If you are currently using cPanel and looking for alternatives, you may lean towards choosing options that provide you with most (if not all) of the functionality that you’re used to – such as email, FTP, databases, backups, managing domains and easily deploying web applications.
While this is definitely going to be convenient if you’re an existing cPanel user, we actually don’t recommend relying on your server control panel for absolutely everything. Especially some of the hosted cPanel alternatives, won’t include functionality such as email. This is done for performance reasons which is why we recommend using G Suite instead.
Ease-Of-Use, Support, and Pricing
And last but certainly not least, you’ll also want to consider ease-of-use, support, and pricing. Especially if you’re new to managing your own servers, the support & ease-of-use of options like RunCloud and SpinupWP are well worth the added cost as they’ll be able to help you diagnose advanced issues with your content management systems and step in if backups start failing. If you are using a self-hosted server control panel, this would be something that you would have to handle.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s dive in – and compare the very best cPanel alternatives out there…
ApisCP is a fully self-hosted server control panel that was built by a hosting company that just wasn’t satisfied with what cPanel offered its customers. This server control panel combines years of experience and a wealth of knowledge rolled up into best practices to achieve higher throughput, lower TTFB, fewer burnt CPU cycles, and denser servers.
Installing ApisCP is extremely simple and they now even support migrations directly from cPanel. So if you’re currently using cPanel to manage your servers or are with a hosting provider that forces you to use cPanel, you can easily migrate away and start self-hosting on your own servers with ApisCP. ApisCP is built by Apis Networks and was started as a control panel for their hosting company back in 2002 – so it really was built by the community for the community. As an alternative, ApisCP is noticeably (as well as deliberately) different from cPanel in the way it was designed from the ground up for performance & security. It definitely can be daunting when you’re just getting started but thanks to their extensive documentation and supportive communities on Discourse and Discord, you’ll definitely find people more than ready to help you in the unlikely event that you run into issues or can’t find something.
According to their developers, the main focus is security. The software has even received a recommendation from Rack911 – a penetration testing firm – who said it performed very well in their security audit.
This control panel is compatible with Linux distributions as well. It offers a ten-year support cycle for RHEL and CentOS, and a five-year cycle to Ubuntu systems.
- Free 30-day trial
- $30/year Mini Licence
- $50/year Startup Licence
- $20/month Pro Licence
RunCloud is a cloud server control panel that runs on the SaaS model & focuses on PHP web applications such as WordPress.
Installing RunCloud takes you through the process of making an account and then running an installation script they provide you with to connect your server to your RunCloud dashboard. You’ll need to SSH into your server as root first in order to run this script but once you’ve completed the installation, you’ll be able to perform actions such as install web apps, create backups & more all directly from RunCloud…
Although their platform is far from young, they are still constantly working to improve their solution and ensure it offers everything people need to manage their cloud servers. As is common for any online business – in their early days, they attracted a few negative reviews as a result of their customer service at the time. Members of the SSD Nodes team have however since tried RunCloud and can report that this is no longer the case. Their team has since taken significant steps to improve their support quality as well as document common issues in their knowledgebase.
It includes a free 5-day trial, as well as the following paid options:
Annual payment options (first 2 months free)
- Basic license at $6.67/month
- Pro license at $12.5/month
- Business license at $37.5/month
Monthly payment options
- Basic license at $8/month
- Pro license at $15/month
- Business license at $45/month
RunCloud’s unique take on simplifying managing servers & self-hosting web applications on your own servers which were once too complicated for most has made it possible for virtually everyone to be able to take advantage of superior hosting without the unreasonable costs. Fortunately, they offer a 5-day free trial (no credit card required) so all you’d need to bring along is an SSD Nodes server with Ubuntu 20.04, 16.04, or 18.04 x86_64 installed (all of which we offer).
Moss is advertised as the virtual sysadmin for web development professionals, freelancers, agencies, and startups. Thanks to their hosted control panel paired with their support team, you’ll never need to manage servers on your own again.
Their platform is an agentless control panel that runs all commands through Ansible playbooks. Not using an agent and issuing commands remotely is preferred as agents with bugs are easy for hackers to exploit. In terms of server requirements, Moss also requires a fresh Ubuntu installation to log into through SSH. It can set up web apps that run on PHP/HTML + CSS as well as Node.js and static JavaScipt, unlike RunCloud. It also natively supports blogging platforms & content management systems like WordPress.
- $0/month Free Licence,
- $9/month Starter Licence,
- $19/month Professional Licence,
- $49/month Unlimited Licence
In some ways, Moss is quite similar to RunCloud, so especially if support for Node.js is important to you, it is definitely worth looking into. Fortunately, they offer a 14-day free trial so again, all you’d need to bring along is your server with Ubuntu installed.
SpinupWP is a cloud-based server control panel that is specifically designed for and limited to WordPress. This can be considered a disadvantage and many won’t even consider it as a result, but if you’re planning on using your servers to host WordPress, SpinupWP was designed from the ground up to do so with best practices in mind.
The platform was built by Delicious Brains – a small company of expert WordPress developers – which has an excellent reputation in the industry. As you’d expect, this means their support (Monday-Friday) is brilliant and knows WordPress inside out. Their dashboard is very simple, with minimal configuration required to take the hassle out of self-hosting WordPress. Their implementation results in the lack of a database admin panel, which is done deliberately for security reasons – though it is something that most other options have so this is something you may want to keep in mind. And, as for RunCloud and Moss, you would also have to set up an email server for every site that you manage with SpinupWP or use G Suite (recommended).
- $9/month Personal Licence for the first 3 months ($12/month after that),
- $29/month Team Licence for the first 3 months ($39/month after that)
To get started with SpinupWP, you again only need a server with a public IP and Ubuntu 18.04 or 20.04. Deploy your server and then create your SpinupWP account to get the installation script that you need to run via SSH to connect your server to their platform.
Next up, we have ServerPilot. Also comparable to RunCloud, SpinupWP, and Moss, ServerPilot is a hosted server management dashboard that makes it managing servers easy – whether you have one or over 100. It is, however, specifically designed for people looking to use their servers to host PHP web applications and WordPress websites. They have a U.S based support team that is dedicated to ensuring you’re able to get started without running into any issues and available if you have questions.
ServerPilot also requires a server running 64-bit Ubuntu 18.04 or 20.04 and is installed using a specific server command (that they provide) via SSH.
Free 2-week trial for the Single Licence, which costs $20/month after that. You can also buy Bulk (500+) Licenses starting from $5/month paid yearly or multi-yearly.
Interworx gained significant attention after cPanel announced the changes to their pricing that led most people to look for alternatives. It has a panel with two interfaces, equipped with Webalizer, AWStats, and Analog. This helps users get a clear overview of all important server statistics.
This cPanel alternative was specifically built for hosting agencies because it makes it extremely easy to sell hosting plans through its Nodeworx dashboard.
Interworx is compatible with a whole range of VPS systems and server operating systems as outlined below.
Supported VPS Systems
Supported Operating Systems
- Free 14-day trial,
- $5/server + $0.50/app monthly Economy Licence,
- $10/server + $1/app monthly Business Licence,
- $20/server + $2/app monthly First Class Licence.
The Interworx installation is fairly straightforward if you are familiar with SSH and using the command line (or terminal) to interface with your servers. Refer to the official Interworx installation guide to get started…
DirectAdmin is very similar to cPanel in terms of functionality, but built to be faster and requires less server resources to operate. Thanks to its popularity it comes with a number of webmail plugins, security add-ons, custom graphic skins, and more…
Apart from that, DirectAdmin includes all the basics you’d expect when it comes to resource usage monitoring, DNS clustering, and automatic updates. If you’re extremely comfortable with cPanel and not a fan of change, this might really be the best option for you since it even ships with Installatron and Softaculous integrations – the same service behind cPanel’s CMS installations.
In case you run into any issues, they do offer support which is available to help you diagnose issues with DirectAdmin but will not be able to help with web application issues so if that is something you’re looking for SpinupWP, ServerPilot and RunCloud are more likely to be better choices for you. You can also take advantage of the resources on how to work with DirectAdmin, such as its forum and documentation.
DirectAdmin is supported on a variety of operating systems:
- CloudLinux versions 6.x 32/64-bit, 7.x 64-bit, and 8.x 64-bit;
- RedHat Enterprise / CentOS versions 6.x 32/64-bit, 7.x 64-bit, and 8.x 64-bit;
- Debian 8.x 64-bit, 9.x 64-bit, 10.x 64-bit, and 11.x 64-bit ALPHA – Ubuntu can also be used as a server by using “Linux 64-bit static” OS selection for Ubuntu installs, and support for Debian 11 (Bullseye) is in Alpha testing.
- FreeBSD 11.x 64-bit and 12.x 64-bit
- Free 60-day trial,
- $2/month Personal Licence,
- $15/month Lite Licence,
- $29/month Standard Licence
To get started with DirectAdmin, deploy a suitable server & refer to their official installation guide.
Virtualmin is built on top of Webmin – a popular system administration interface for Linux. Virtualmin offers a functional free open-source version that is solidly designed, though there are also paid versions available…
It has tons of customization settings and options, easily beating its competition in this field. Beginners are encouraged to use it only if they wish to learn more and hone their skills. Otherwise, the user interface can be a bit daunting…
The advanced customization gives Virtualmin users a high level of control over their site. The professional (paid) versions of Virtualmin include customer support, CMS installations made easy, and a pro-site-building tool. Their platform also includes a number of security features including brute force protection, two-factor authentication, and more…
- Free GPL open-source version,
- $6/month or $60/year for up to 10 Virtual Machines,
- $9/month or $90/year for up to 50 Virtual Machines,
- $12/month or $120/year for up to 100 Virtual Machines,
- $20/month or $200/year for up to 250 Virtual Machines
Ajenti offers an extensible open-source control panel. It provides users with a fast and secure way to manage a remote Linux box through web terminals, text editors, file managers, and other tools.
If you have a server with services on it, Ajenti is a good choice. Its developers claim Ajenti leaves your system intact — its changes are non-destructive and won’t overwrite your files, options, and comments.
- Free, open-source core project available on GitHub.
Ajenti works with Debian, Ubuntu, RHEL, CentOS and Gentoo operating systems, and is easily portable to other Linux and BSD. To get started, check out our Ajenti installation tutorial here…
Froxlor is another open-source control panel, with a GPL 2.0 license available on GitHub which showcases itself as a “lightweight” alternative to Webmin. It provides users with roughly the same administrative capacities as cPanel, but for free.
The Froxlor control panel was built by experienced server administrators to simplify the process and reduce the amount of effort required to manage your hosting platform. Its features include easy Let’s Encrypt SSL installations, PHP configuration, MySQL management, and more…
- Froxlor is open-source and free to install.
Froxlor has Debian packages available and a .tar.gz for production installations. Only Debian and Gentoo are officially supported, but it seems possible, with a little effort, to install it on Ubuntu as well. Froxlor is licensed under GPL 2.0, with source code on GitHub. To install it, follow our installation instructions.
11. CentOS Web Panel
CentOS Web Panel is a control panel for managing VPS servers, which as the name suggests is only available for the CentOS server operating system. If you have a Debian or another distribution you will, unfortunately, not be able to use it, but if you have a CentOS server, CentOS Web Panel is a solid free cPanel alternative.
If you’re running CentOS on your virtual private server (VPS) and don’t think Webmin is quite right for you, CentOS Web Panel may be the best free alternative to cPanel for your needs. You can use it to deploy and administer Apache webservers, firewalls, MySQL databases, SSL certificates, an Nginx reverse proxy, self-hosted email, and much more. You can also simply manage users, deploy backups, and keep tabs on your system’s health via the services monitor.
One of its unique features is the Auto-Fixer, which scans important configuration files and attempts to auto-correct them in case you (or the panel itself) make a mistake.
- CentOS Web Panel is free to install, too. They do offer paid support services, though.
CentOS Web Panel is only officially supported on CentOS—if you’re running Debian/Ubuntu, you’ll have to look into one of the other options. You can also follow our instructions on how to install it.
To get started, you need an up-to-date CentOS installation, a functioning LAMP stack, and at least 1GB of RAM. Unfortunately, the CentOS Web Panel is not fully open-source, but it’s a feature-rich cPanel alternative that is completely free to use. The initial installation is extremely straightforward – so, if this sounds like the best cPanel alternative for you, check out our CentOS Web Panel Installation tutorial.
NOTE: CentOS Web Panel is only officially supported on CentOS—if you’re running Debian/Ubuntu, you’ll have to look into one of the other options.
Plesk is an extremely powerful server control panel that enables administrators to set up new reseller accounts, websites, and e-mail accounts through a web-based interface. Unlike cPanel, it supports Docker and Git on Linux. It is also the only web-based control panel that offers support for Windows.
Plesk offers a centralized control panel that can work with multiple sites. It has a stable and versatile toolkit for WordPress, compatible across all platforms & also supports other content management systems such as Joomla and Drupal.
Plesk’s features like database and DNS management, emailing, file access, and other examples are similar to cPanel’s. In addition to their core functionality, they also offer over 100 extensions to extend the functionality and customize the experience.
Although it is on the pricier side – Plesk is one of the strongest control panels for web hosting in terms of integrations. Security options include features such as a backup manager, firewall, spam filter, and a ServerShield by Cloudflare, all of which make this a platform ready to run sites in production.
Plesk’s team offers 24/7 professional support through phone and email.
However, Plesk is now also owned by the same company that owns cPanel – Oakley Capital – which was behind the price increase of cPanel. This has made a number of developers hesitant to use Plesk as their cPanel alternative, so it’s definitely something you should keep in mind.
Plesk can be installed on the following operating systems:
- Debian 8 64-bit
- Debian 9 64-bit (Plesk Onyx 17.8 and later)
- Ubuntu 16.04 64-bit **
- Ubuntu 18.04 64-bit (Plesk Onyx 17.8 and later) *
- CentOS 6.x 64-bit
- CentOS 7.x 64-bit
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.x 64-bit
- Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.x 64-bit
- CloudLinux 6.x 64-bit
- CloudLinux 7.x 64-bit
- Virtuozzo Linux 7 64-bit
- Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (64-bit, Standard, Enterprise, Datacenter editions, and Windows Web Server), including Server Core installations
- Windows Server 2012 (64-bit, Standard, Foundation, and Datacenter editions), including Server Core installations
- Windows Server 2012 R2 (64-bit, Standard, Datacenter, and Essentials editions), including Server Core installations
- Windows Server 2016 (64-bit, Standard and Datacenter editions), including Server Core installations
- Free 2-week trial,
- $9.22/month Web Admin Edition ($8.45/month if paid yearly),
- $13.84/month Web Pro Edition ($12.68/month if paid yearly),
- $41.51/month Web Host Edition ($31.13/month if paid yearly, with further reductions if you use a VPS instead of a dedicated server)
To get started with Plesk, we recommend deploying a Linux VPS (virtual private server) with your VPS hosting provider of choice and then following their official installation guide. If you’re looking for a reliable VPS hosting provider, we recommend taking SSD Nodes for a spin and deploying an affordable server with us here.
Conclusion – Choose The cPanel Alternative That’s Best For You
Finding the right cPanel alternative isn’t easy – with the number of options available and the small yet important differences between each, even with the help of this article the one that’s best will ultimately depend on your individual needs.
In this article, we’ve covered our favorite free alternatives as well as some paid solutions that for some people are likely to be more suitable. And let’s be clear about one thing: there’s no shame in paying for a cPanel alternative (or cPanel itself) if that’s going to save you the time & hassle of doing it on your own…
Free/Paid Support for Email Hosting Easy SSL Integration One-Click CMS Installations ApisCP Paid Yes Yes Not Present RunCloud Paid No Yes Built-in support Moss.sh Both No Yes Built-in support SpinupWP Paid No Yes Built-in support (WordPress only) ServerPilot Paid No Yes Built-in support Interworx Paid Yes Yes Included through Softaculous DirectAdmin Paid Yes Yes Included through Installatron or Softaculous Virtualmin Both Yes Yes Only included in paid version Ajenti Free No No Not Present Froxlor Free Yes Yes Not Present CentOS Both Yes No Not Present Plesk Paid Yes Yes Built-in support
Aside from the options covered in this article, we also want to mention Cloudron and ClusterCS – which although we don’t have personal experiences with them (yet) are reported to be great alternatives too.
So, what option did you end up choosing to manage your servers? Join the conversation by Tweeting @ssdnodes! 💬