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Creating websites is no longer a big deal, even administrative laypeople and hobby computer scientists have mastered the WYSIWYG keyboard and know how to set up or manage web environments professionally. The situation is a little different if it is not about the visual design of the website itself, but its technically more sophisticated basic configuration.

The usual solutions for web space and server administration in this country - above all the market leader Plesk - are not necessarily designed and developed for administrative laypeople. With a powerful tool like Plesk, even professional web administrators have to implement sophisticated settings and security measures - and thanks to their training, they tend to have no problems with the complex range of functions.

Web Hosting Tools - Plesk and Alternatives

But what options do semi-professional admins have who carry out their daily tasks relating to server or web space management but don't want to mess with the mighty Plesk? One option is to look for a simpler alternative. This also applies to beginners, as the time to get used to is shorter with a reduced interface and fewer, but highly effective functions.

But what sounds so simple is actually not. Plesk has great market power in Germany. If you compare that with the grocery trade, for example, the market share of the web hosting tool (depending on the source) is higher than that of the "Big Four" Edeka, Aldi, Lidl and Kaufland. They combine a market share of 85 percent. So it's not easy to find a good alternative to Plesk. Still stand with:

  • cPanel,

  • DirectAdmin,

  • ISPConfig

  • as well as the German development Froxlor

some challengers ready. Your web admin tools are also easy to use without overwhelming the user. At the same time, customer web projects can be fully implemented - without major compromises. At Host Europe, we took an independent look at the five most popular solutions on the German market. This should give COMPUTERWOCHE readers the opportunity to make an optimal choice that makes work easier for web workers without in-depth programming knowledge. Our analysis brings the following points to the fore:

  • Differences in supported server operating systems

  • Domain management with Plesk, cPanel, ISPConfig, DirectAdmin and Froxlor

  • Available plugins - and their range of extensions

  • Practical handling with auto-installers

  • PHP versioning and options for parallel operation

  • Optional design adaptation

Web hosting tools compared

operating system

Let's start with the most obvious difference between the alternatives mentioned. While Plesk does its job on Linux, Unix and Windows systems, this does not work with cPanel, Froxlor, ISPConfig and DirectAdmin. The challengers all rely on Linux and Unix operating systems. However, this restriction is not noticeable in the everyday work of most web workers.

Domain management

There are also similarities in the administration of domains, which this time also include Plesk. A secure configuration for e-mail accounts is the absolute standard for all management solutions. The tools do not show any nakedness here and are on an equal footing. In addition, they all offer a practical overview. There are subdomains for thematic subdivision and each project can be created individually.

Conclusion: cPanel, Froxlor, ISPConfig, DirectAdmin and Plesk are almost on par here.


Anyone who works with Plesk knows that the configuration tool sets a benchmark for available plugins. The competitor offers can only partially keep up here, although additional extensions are certainly one of the most important selection criteria for users. Particularly with Froxlor, DirectAdmin and ISPConfig, the deficit in add-ons must be pointed out. There are also useful additional functions here, but they are not exactly comprehensive.

As a web worker * you should therefore be careful here, the flexibility at work can be massively restricted in case of doubt. Only cPanel is competitive with Plesk in this important point. The configuration tool can score with many verified extensions. This also brings added value to experienced web admins.

Conclusion: cPanel and Plesk leave the field behind.

Auto installer

Administrators also appreciate the Plesk solution for practical auto installations, as it makes their own work easier in many areas. The market leader enables entire content management systems (CMS) to be installed relatively easily and with just a few clicks. Since CMS such as TYPO3, Joomla !, WordPress & Co. are widely used, this is a particularly important property - by which the challengers also have to be measured. At the moment, only cPanel and ISPConfig can match the high level of service offered by the market leader Plesk.

Froxlor and DirectAdmin, on the other hand, fall apart: If automatic installations only work on a script basis or as an "extra", then that is not enough in a direct comparison.

Conclusion: In addition to Plesk, only cPanel and ISPConfig offer powerful auto installers.

Parallel operation of PHP versions

When it comes to the question of the parallel operation of different PHP versions, two of the "challengers" are also well positioned in addition to Plesk, namely cPanel and Froxlor. The migration of existing web projects does not cause any problems. This is also important, as Plesk is again setting quite high standards here.

However, there are deductions for ISPConfig and DirectAdmin. With ISPConfig, the integration of different parallel PHP versions is only possible from software version 3.0.5. DirectAdmin users have to expect even greater restrictions. Only a total of four different PHP versions can be used in parallel on the server.

Conclusion: PHP "without limit" is only available from Plesk, cPanel and Froxlor.


Not all of them attach great importance to themes, but for some admins they are more than a gimmick. In the B-Note, the individual design of the user interface can definitely be a minor argument when choosing an admin tool. Among the tools compared, only DirectAdmin leaves little room for such an individual touch.

Conclusion: Plesk, cPanel, ISPConfig and Froxlor enable individual look and feel settings.

cPanel - Your Plesk Alternative?

Among the software solutions described, only one configuration tool stands out positively: cPanel is currently the best alternative to Plesk. The Control panel In addition to that of the market leader, it enables the widest range of applications, and professional users do not have to compromise when it comes to implementing customer projects. Since the user interface with cPanel also focuses on the essentials, the tool is particularly recommended for beginners and administrative beginners. Finally, we want to show why less experienced users who are looking for a simple solution should consider cPanel in addition to Plesk:

  • Easy to use operating structure: Inexperienced admins benefit from the intuitive operating structure and lean functionality of the panel. The developers apparently attached great importance to this criterion. Typical administrative tasks, such as creating new web projects and adding FTP access, can be done more or less at the push of a button. Thanks to the built-in file manager, file management can be carried out directly from cPanel. In addition, many recurring tasks can be automated with cron jobs.

  • Intuitive user dashboard: The user interface of cPanel is modular and clear, it represents a particular strength of the administration tool. With the help of coherent icons on the interface, it is also possible to move safely and purposefully without any significant familiarization time.

  • Good performance values: Despite the high performance and ease of use, the structure of the system remains slim. No oversized resources are fetched, no matter which browser you are using. And that has a noticeable effect on memory requirements.

  • Beginner-friendly security concept: The security concept of cPanel can be worth its weight in gold, especially for web hosting beginners and administrative beginners. Because here you usually don't have to worry about basic server or security settings. This is ensured by a multi-layer access for the server configuration and the web hosting package.

With the Web Hosting Manager (WHM) developed for this purpose, there are basically two different management tools at cPanel. The professional settings in terms of "security" for the web hosting packages can be made in advance by the hosting package provider via WHM. As a result, users or end users are no longer confronted with it - and can take care of everyday administrative tasks. Of course, certain security settings such as the integration of an SSL certificate can still be made.

If you want to take a closer look at the practical admin tool, we have created a cPanel workbook for it. It explains everything important to beginners and advanced users about the goal-oriented way of working. (hv / fm)