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Control Panel Round Up

By Mitch Keeler

Every Web host provides you with one, and if you do a lot of work on your Web site it could be something you curse or something you get to adore every single day. A control panel is like the brain behind your Web site`s body. It gives you one place to look at to do everything you would ever need to do to your Web hosting account. You can create E-mail accounts, create FTP accounts, track statistical information and so much more.

Did you know that there are different types of control panels though? I do not think anybody can argue with the fact that the most popular control panel software out there today is cPanel. There are other options out there though. Some might be better, some might be worse.

You shouldn`t judge the quality of your Web host by the control panel they offer alone. It is an important piece to the Web hosting puzzle.

cPanel ( www.cpanel.net )
The folks at the cPanel Web site say, "cPanel is designed for the end users of your system and allows them to control everything from adding / removing email accounts to administering MySQL databases." The fact of the matter is though that they do that and so much more. Most often used on Redhat Linux based systems, cPanel provides support for over ten different flavors of Linux. There is no Windows or OSX versions yet however. Their interface is clean, with more options and features ( www.cpanel.net/features-cpanel.html ) than you could shake a stick at. It is easy to see why they are the number one control panel used today. They do have several competitors though, chomping at the bit to take their space on the top of the mountain. cPanel used to have a demo control panel up for folks to test drive, however I could not find a trace of it on the cPanel Web site anymore.
Mitch`s Score: 5/5

Plesk ( www.sw-soft.com )
Plesk is available for both Linux and Windows Web hosting servers. This alone gives them a little advantage over cPanel. Their interface looks much like Windows XP. You have all the soft colors and big icons that you would ever need. I have to give them credit though, because it does look great. They have all the basic features that cPanel has as well. Take Plesk for a test drive and see what you think! www.sw-soft.com/en/products/plesk75reloaded/demo/
Mitch`s Score: 5/5

H-Sphere ( www.psoft.net/ )
Created by Positive Software, H-Sphere is yet another pretty control panel that you might have access to. It too provides support for Windows and Linux based machines. From complete automation to key functionalities (psoft.net/promo/), it has many features. Compared with Plesk and cPanel it leaves you with wanting a little more. Perhaps in the next few versions it will be able to catch up. The organization inside the H-Sphere is not that great either. Take H-Sphere for a test drive and see what you think! www.psoft.net/h_sphere_demo_page.html
Mitch`s Score: 3/5

Ensim ( www.ensim.com )
Ensim is yet another control panel that provides support for flavors of Windows and Linux alike. They say that it is for the management of any type of Web site. That is good to know. If they had a dislike for Web sites about the dead parrot sketch from Monty Python, I might be a little mad. The interface is pretty enough, but it comes a little short compared with the options in some other clients. Take Ensim for a test drive and see what you think! www.ensim.com/products/pro/linux/lhindex.html
Mitch`s Score: 4/5

DirectAdmin ( www.directadmin.com )
DirectAdmin claims to be the control panel that is the easiest to use. They do have many features ( www.directadmin.com/features.html ) that the other control panels boast about. It appears though that they only support a few flavors of Linux. No Windows support yet. The interface is very pretty and organized, but lacks when it comes to some of the extra features that cPanel or Plesk could provide. Take DirectAdmin for a test drive and see what you think! www.directadmin.com/demo.html
Mitch`s Score: 4/5

Interworx ( www.interworx.info )
Interworx is another Linux only control panel. There is nothing wrong with this, because there are many more Linux based Web hosting servers out there today. Just by looking through their Web master level features interworx.info/iworx-cp/features.php, I would say they deserve to be ranked at the top. One thing that I really like from them is their site usage snapshot. It gives you a chart to look at, right off the bat to see your upstreams and downstreams. The interface is clean, and everything is organized well. Take Interworx for a test drive and see what you think! interworx.info/demos.php
Mitch`s Score: 5/5

Helm ( www.webhostautomation.com/products/helm )
Now we have seen a lot of different Linux only control panels, but what about a Windows only one? That is one thing that Helm provides to the end consumer. There are many customer features ( www.webhostautomation.com/products/helm/customers.aspx ) to go on and on about, but how does it feel once you get on the inside? It has the standard pretty interface, nothing new there. These control panels are built to be used over and over, so they have to be easy on the eyes. One thing that did get my attention is the ability to see your billing information inside the control panel. That is very nice indeed. Take Helm for a test drive and see what you think! www.webhostautomation.com/products/helm/demo.aspx
Mitch`s Score: 4/5

Hosting Accelerator ( www.hostingaccelerator.com )
Hosting Accelerator is another Windows Web hosting server control panel. The end user features www.hostingaccelerator.com/Products/HostingAccelerator/Features/End-Users.aspx are very standard, and lacks of any shock and awe you might have seen with other clients out there. The interface on this control panel though is way too busy. It looks as if they through organization out the proverbial window. Seeing how much stuff you can shove in front of may face is not a good way to make a first impression. For a geek, this might be nice. For somebody new to Web hosting though, this is frightening. Take Hosting Accelerator for a test drive and see what you think! www.hostingaccelerator.com/Products/HostingAccelerator/Online_Demo/
Mitch`s Score: 3/5

InsPanel ( www.inspanel.com )
Yet another Windows only Web hosting server control panel, InsPanel hopes to offer a new look at the idea. There are many features www.inspediumsoft.com/inspanel_features.php to be listed, but none of them stick out at me like a sore thumb. The control panel is well organized, with everything in it`s place. An average product, but remember there is nothing wrong with that! Take InsPanel for a test drive and see what you think! demo.inspanel.com:9000
Mitch`s Score: 4/5

CWIPanel ( www.cwipanel.com )
CWIPanel has a message on their front page saying that you can "unleash the power of your Windows server!" Now can you really? Let us have a look. The list of features www.cwipanel.com/features.asp look much like the other Windows only control panels. However they did not have a control panel demo for me to look at, so there really is not much else to be said. From what I`ve seen though they look to be about average as it goes for Windows server management.
Mitch`s Score: 4/5

Hands down, I believe that cPanel is the best control panel out there today still. I have used cPanel many times for my own Web sites and have never had a problem yet. For Windows hosting, I would pick Helm as my favorite out there today.

Without control panels we would still be doing all these things with Linux commands, paper clips and chewing gum. As the operating system made life with a computer easier, the control panel makes life with a Web hosting account a more pleasant experience.

There are many factors that play into purchasing a Web hosting account, but Web hosting company is only as good as the control panel behind it. By looking at these eleven examples, you should be able to judge which ones might offer you the best results.





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