The 7 best FREE cPanel alternatives (2020 edition)
It surprises a lot of our new users when they find out that cPanel isn’t free. In fact, cPanel looks to punish small companies and individual developers the most, with single-license plans starting at $15/month. That’s 2x what most of our users pay per month for their server! So it makes sense that a lot of you are looking for a free cPanel alternative.
The good news is that there are a few great, feature-rich free alternatives to cPanel out there to choose from.
In this article, we’ll guide you through our favorite cPanel alternatives. And we’ll give you links to tutorials that can help you get started managing your Linux servers without spending a penny.
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How we chose our cPanel alternatives:
All of these cPanel alternatives are either completely free or offer a feature-rich free version. Since most of our customers aren’t enterprise-level companies (and those folks can probably afford to pay for a solution), we’re confident that any of these options should be free for you.
Additionally, most of these alternatives to cPanel are open source, which means you can browse and examine the underlying code. You can even make changes if you’re willing and able.
That’s the beauty of the FOSS world—developers are both skilled and generous enough to create incredible alternatives and offer them free-of-charge, just to make the community better.
The 7 best free cPanel alternatives for 2020:
Webmin is the most feature-rich cPanel alternative out there, and that’s why it’s our #1 recommendation for 2020.
You can essentially do everything you can with the pay-for-play cPanel, but entirely for free. With the built-in modules, you can backup configuration files, set up and configure Apache webservers, monitor bandwidth, configure fail2ban, establish your iptables firewall, administer users, set up cron jobs, secure your SSH connections, and much more.
This control panel might not look great, but that’s why we recommend combining Webmin with the Authentic Theme. These updated themes are easier on the eyes and make working with Webmin a little easier.
Whether you’re running Ubuntu, Debian, or CentOS, the Webmin developers have a package and installation procedure for you. If you’d like to dig in a little deeper, Webmin’s source code is available on GitHub.
How secure is your server, really?
Finding the right server management tool (preferably free) is why you’re here. But if your server isn’t properly protected then what’s the point?
Yeah, server security is a topic that keeps even experienced sysadmins awake at night but there’s no need for you toss and turn. We’ve put together a quick starter guide for securing your Linux server. Just follow these 6 easy steps to help keep your websites, projects, and data safe from outside attacks.
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2. CentOS Web Panel
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 unique feature of CentOS Web Panel is its Auto-Fixer, which scans important configuration files and attempts to auto-correct them in case you (or the panel itself) make a mistake.
To install, you need an updated CentOS installation, a functioning LAMP stack, and at least 1GB of RAM. Unfortunately, the CentOS Web Panel code is not fully open-source, but it’s a feature-rich cPanel alternative that’s completely free to use.
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.
Ajenti is a comprehensive control panel that bills itself as “an admin’s tool for a more civilized age, providing you with a fast and secure way to manage a remote Linux box at any time using everyday tools like a web terminal, text editor, file manager, and others.”
It comes with a responsive remote terminal, the ability to establish firewalls, install packages, manage users, monitor resource usage, and more. Ajenti also gives you a number of plugins, with the ability to add more or develop even further with Python. And, according to the Ajenti developers, the control panel “doesn’t tell you how to do your job,” leaving your system as intact as possible.
Ajenti is a great free control panel for those who already have a few services running on their server. Other panels simply wipe out existing configurations, but Ajenti promises to at least attempt to pick up your current configuration without changing it. Ajenti also considers itself “caring,” in that all changes are non-destructive and won’t overwrite your files, options, and comments.
The core project is open source and can be found on GitHub.
YunoHost bills itself as a “server operating system aiming to make self-hosting accessible to everyone.”
It’s not meant to be as comprehensive as cPanel or Webmin, as its only goal is to install various self-hosted applications for you. You won’t find firewall management or reverse proxies here, only a number of officially-supported “apps” for installing various programs, such as Baikal, Nextcloud, WordPress, Zerobin, and more.
YunoHost is a great free cPanel alternative for beginners to self-hosting who just want to get started with some basic applications quickly.
You can administer your VPS via the YunoHost web interface or the command line. YunoHost officially supports Debian 8 and is coded primarily in Python under an open source GPL license. The code is available on GitHub.
Froxlor bills itself as the “lightweight” alternative to Webmin.
From their website: “Developed by experienced server administrators, this open source (GPL) panel simplifies the effort of managing your hosting platform.” Its features include Let’s Encrypt installation, PHP configuration, MySQL management, and more.
Froxlor has Debian packages available and a .tar.gz for production installations. Only Debian is 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.
ISPConfig is a longstanding competitor in free cPanel alternative space and just might be the dark horse of this comparison.
They brag on their website about 40,000 downloads a month— and that’s certainly nothing to sneeze at. With that kind of usage, you know that this is a reliable free alternative to cPanel that’s got wide support among open-source developers. You can use ISPConfig to configure Apache2/nginx web servers, mail servers, DNS, mirroring, and much more, just as you would with Webmin or Ajenti.
The most unique feature of ISPConfig is its ability to manage multiple servers from a single control panel. If you’ll be working with more than one server and want a consistent experience across all of them without having to install the same control panel on each one, ISPConfig just might be the free cPanel alternative that can make your life easier.
You can download the .targ.gz file yourself or follow the “Perfect Server” tutorial to set up Debian 8, Apache2, BIND, Dovecot, and ISPConfig 3.
ISPConfig works Debian, Ubuntu, and CentOS, making it flexible for just about any application. The source code is available via the organization’s GitLab repository under an open source BSD license.
7. Vesta CP
VestaCP is a beautifully-designed control panel core written in Bash, which Linux purists will love.
Built-in features include rolling out iptables/fail2ban for security, Nginx and/or Apache for a web server, various email solutions, monitoring solutions, backups, and much more. If you prefer to work via a command line rather than a web interface, you can do that with Vesta as well.
You can use VestaCP with CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu, and it is licensed with GNU. The source code is available on GitHub.
Note: Starting around summer 2018, we heard of an increased volume of automated attacks on VestaCP servers based on unknown vulnerabilities. Common solutions include securing your SSH connections through the use and enforcement of keys and disabling the root user entirely. We’re not going to remove VestaCP from this list entirely due to its popularity, but thought would-be user should know.
What’s the best cPanel alternative?
How about not using a control panel alternative at all?
Control panels are great for VPS beginners who want to quickly host a website without having to crunch a year’s worth of terminal education into a weekend. They’re equally good for advanced sysadmins who need consistent results across a handful to a few dozen machines.
But there comes a time when every up-and-coming server administrator needs to take on some of the responsibility for themselves.
There’s an incredible value in learning how to navigate a server, download and deploy services, and make fixes when something goes wrong. You don’t need to deploy an advanced Docker Swarm cluster on your first go—maybe try something easier, like EasyEngine’s WordPress auto-install?
Still in the mood for more open-source alternatives? Our ultimate guide to self-hosting as you covered.
Conclusion: Pick the free cPanel alternative that fits your situation
You’ve now got some great options if you want to use a control panel with your server but you don’t want to shell out cash for cPanel. We’ve tried to lay out all the options, but which one is best will ultimately depend on your individual needs.
And let’s be clear about one thing: there’s no shame in paying for a cPanel alternative (or cPanel itself) if that’s what you need.
The great thing about a control panel is that for many, it offers more choice and opportunity. With the power of a control panel, you can stretch every dollar you spent on your server even further, and without most of the headaches that come with server administration for the rest of us.