Autarchy of the Private Cave

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    Which Hosting Control Panel to use for a Debian server?

    27th September 2008

    To cut the long story short: for the final evaluation, I had this line of control panels:

    SysCP: looks good to me (though demo isn’t functional), has customer billing module. Unsure as to where it is used, but most probably sponsors are also the users of SysCP. Majority of support forums are in German.

    DTC: has no demo, only some screenshots. Has a set of packages for Debian lenny (which is a huge plus for maintenance and future upgrades). DTC is being developed by GPLHost, and is also used by GPLHost – so this is a live (used) distribution. Seems quite feature-rich.

    Virtualmin claims to be the “world’s most powerful and flexible web server control panel”. Virtualmin offers 4 means to control it: Web, mobile device, command line, and remote API. There are both screenshots and demo. Has both GPL and Professional versions. GPL version has a number of limitations, comparing to Pro version. From what I’ve read about Webmin (all three – Virtualmin, Webmin, Usermin – are just different “layers” of server control), it is a framework with a number of “interface scripts”, which allow to control various services. As such, it is easily extendible, but is not monolithic – in the sense of module inter-dependencies and action triggers.

    RavenCore was a promising CP.

    GNUPanel is a year-old control panel, but has a news item on the front page (dated August, 17) promising new, completely rewritten release somewhere in October. By the feature list, looks promising. However, I need the panel right now, and even in October, that will be quite a rough release, not really used/tested anywhere, so not a good option as well. But GNUPanel is a panel to check in half a year for progress.

    As the final choice, I had ISPConfig (which seems to be the best by people’s comments), and which is also quite widely used, and is easy to install onto Debian (at least the Perfect setup: Debian Etch says so), and DTC. I discarded Virtualmin (for the poor functionality of the GPLed version), RavenCore (for the lack of current descriptions and non-functioning demo), GNUPanel (which just isn’t ready yet), and SysCP (because ISPConfig seems better ;) ).

    As DTC has Debian packages (and will be easier to maintain/upgrade), I decided to try it first. I already have it installed (that’s easy, esp. if you first read the DTC Debian Express Setup). Later I might post my impressions from using DTC.

    Update: DTC is indeed easy and pleasant to use. I had problems allowing FTP and SSH access using MySQL authorization, but at least FTP was an easy one to fix (SSH access with MySQL authorization is still unconfigured, but that’s a low priority for me). There is a minor concern about the files and directory permissions setup, but thanks to chrooted environment that is only minor concern. Use of a single Apache installation for hosting admin and serving user sites might be a sub-optimal decision, but it works. Traffic and disk space accounting are plain superb! Server memory use for the dtc-toaster installation is troublesome, but for a powerful RAM-my server that is not a problem (I now have about 800-900MiB RAM occupied, but that includes the XCache’s cache, quite big MySQL cache, and loads of Apache and PHP modules).

    But I’m still willing to try other control panels. As I expected, GNUPanel hasn’t released anything yet; Ravencore‘s online demo is still unfunctional; ISPConfig has recently released RC (and their demo is working as it should and as it used to); SysCP is also up and running fast. If my little hosting service starts pouring in some cash, then I’ll try SysCP on my second server – to compare it with DTC, and choose one of them for further support/extension/localization.

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    17 Responses to “Which Hosting Control Panel to use for a Debian server?”

    1. thinkweird Says:

      exactly what I am looking for. I am also eagerly expecting the Perfect Server Setup for Lenny. Thank you for this informative post.

    2. Bogdan Says:

      Actually, I loosely followed the Etch guide for Lenny. It appears to be almost the same, though I think there were some minor differences.

    3. dudi Says:

      you should try ispcp and openpanel.

    4. Bogdan Says:

      Dudi,

      thank you for the suggestion. I have had a look at both and have the following impressions to share:

      OpenPanel doesn’t seem to be really actively developed (last beta release in the middle of previous year). Also, based on what I have seen on screenshots, it looses feature-wise to DTC. As another comparison, I’ve seen DTC running on many other servers, while OpenPanel is a fresh, not yet tested product (and this time I wasn’t looking for something to test). What I do like about OpenPanel is that (correct me if I’m wrong) it is using Unix users system for its purposes (DTC isn’t). I also do like the CLI of OpenPanel, though I’m sure similar functionality is available in DTC (but I’ve never tried). Interface of OpenPanel also gains it an extra point.

      ispCP is a descendant of VHCS, which was abandoned in circa 2004. At the time I tried, their demo site was not accessible – so I’m judging by the screenshots here as well :(. Although I like ispCP Omega a bit more than OpenPanel, it is also too fresh to be tried – not really in production.

      Anyway, I think these too panels yet have to grow a bit to match DTC.

    5. Mike Evans Says:

      Hello blog followers,

      If you are looking for something simple and yet robust with many features that others don’t offer in their control panel take a look at HMSPANEL from http://www.hmspanel.com.

      The software runs much faster than others and gets things done. They are also throwing in a billing system that is optional for use but it is there for those who may need it.

      Another great feature is that you can attach multiple servers to the master server and you can manage them from the same administration page. You can basically provision IPs and hosting accounts from one place on any of the additional servers.

      Cheers!

      Mike

    6. Bogdan Says:

      It isn’t free, it is $24.00/mo or $249.95/year or $349.95 once (at the moment of writing).

    7. Jack Says:

      Thank you for this post.

      Still using DTC or switched to something else ?

      In my opinion virtualmin is currently the best one avilable. I mean the pro, which i cant afford right now.

    8. Bogdan Says:

      Yes, I’m still using DTC.

      I’m not familiar with the Pro version of virtualmin, but if going with a cheap non-free panel, I’d have a look at HSphere first – it seems to cater for all the major needs of hosting users.

    9. Configuring web-server: for production and for development Says:

      [...] Configuring web-server: for production and for development [...]

    10. joks Says:

      Thanks for this wonderful post.
      I just installed debian lenny as my webserver and still deciding which control panel to use.
      There are currently so many control panel that is available to download but which is the best? I am only hosting 1 domain and are you still using DTC?

    11. Bogdan Says:

      For 1 domain you might be better off with no control panel at all – have a look at http://bogdan.org.ua/2009/10/25/configuring-web-server-for-production-and-for-development.html

      I haven’t done any newer comparisons of hosting control panels, and things might have changed since this post. So I don’t really know which one would earn the “Best” badge this time.

    12. nimad Says:

      After having frustration experience in either installing or running DTC (tricky install, a one man behind everything community), SysCP (abandoned), Froxlor (had problem with email set up, but not very helpf,uf forum, which is 90% German), GNUPanel (Unfortunately got 403 forbidden erro after install and figured out that the community base is rather small and not very reliable), now I am going to try my chance with ISPCP Omega, which sounds quite feature-reach and vibrant.

    13. Bogdan Says:

      I also had some problems with DTC, but there’s a live forum http://forums.gplhost.com/phpBB2/index.php , and I’d say there are at least 3-4 active developers behind DTC at the moment (I’m subscribed to the developers list).

      Hopefully, Omega is not as insecure as VHCS (its predecessor) was said to be.

    14. nimad Says:

      Hi Bogdan, I may give another try to DTC.
      BTW, what control panel are you using at the moment? Do you use it in a commercial environment?
      cheers

    15. Bogdan Says:

      DTC, but not in a commercial environment. I do host a few sites and domains of my friends for free, but I wouldn’t call this a ‘userbase’.

      There are two fairly important things to know about DTC.

      The ‘stable’ branch, which is available from Thomas Goirand’s deb-repository, is a lag-behind branch, which mostly gets fixes and security updates, while all the new features are added to the git-hosted master branch http://git.gplhost.com/dtc.git/. When I intended to run commercial hosting with DTC, the idea was to use git repository as primary source, creating a new local branch of it to keep all customizations and fixes. That definitely requires some technical expertise.

      Another thing is that Thomas (DTC initiator and current project leader) seems to have abandoned selling shared hosting using DTC, and switched to selling VPS. The feature is still there, because other people need it, and Thomas himself does maintain shared-hosting related functionality. But, as with almost any other software out there (both free and non-free), if you need a new shared hosting feature, you will either have to program it yourself (or hire someone), or depend on contributors to develop it.

    16. User-001 Says:

      @Bogdan [4] openpanel hast just released their 1.0 version for Debian 5, it realy seams as a good alternative.

    17. Bogdan Says:

      Have you tried it? Care to post a link to a good recent review, so that I could update the post?

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