When you begin looking for a solid website host for your ventures, one thing you have to consider is the control panel that comes with it.

A good control panel can mean the difference between seamlessly managing your websites and struggling hours each day to make a minor change. While each control panel will have different features and functions, you can expect most of them to include the same basic features. These include:

  • File Manager / FTP Management (Accounts, passwords, etc.)
  • Email Accounts
  • Domain Management
  • Database Management
  • Backups

While there are typically many more extensive features in a control panel, those are the basics you can expect to find in every control panel. There’s a lot of different control panels to choose from, but most popular website hosts are going to use either cPanel or Plesk as their control panel.

It’s important to bear in mind that most website hosts will only offer one or the other, not both, so pay close attention before ordering your hosting package to make sure you get the one you want.

What’s the Difference between cPanel and Plesk?

Plesk and cPanel share a lot of similar features but have some distinct differences you’ll want to note before making a decision.

First and foremost, cPanel is only available for Linux servers. If you’re planning on choosing a web host that uses Windows servers, then Plesk is the way to go.

Plesk can be used on both Linux and Windows servers.

Shared hosting providers, such as those featured on our best shared web hosting list, will pay for the control panel themselves rather than pushing the cost onto the customer.

Unless you’re planning on going with a completely unmanaged hosting provider, such as renting a VPS (Virtual Private Server) or a dedicated server you probably won’t have to pay anything at all for the control panel.

In which case, you’re looking at paying $10/month for Plesk, which covers up to 30 domains. With cPanel, you’re paying $20/month and that’s good for the entire virtual server.

How User-Friendly Are They?

Overall, both cPanel and Plesk are very user-friendly. Even those new to website hosting and management should be able to catch on relatively quickly. Both are also popular enough that if you did want to try some advanced configurations, there are going to be tons of tutorials online to show you how to do anything you want to with either.

Since the user interface is a little cleaner and easier to navigate, cPanel has a slight edge in terms of how user-friendly each is. For most of us it’s simply a preference, so take a look at each one and play around with the demos they offer to make sure it’s the one that feels right for you. The pictures below show a preview of each one, but you really have to try it for yourself to know.

Is cPanel or Plesk More Popular?

Both control panels are extremely popular, making up the number one and number two spot for most commonly used control panels on web hosts. cPanel undoubtedly has the lead here though. Around 6 out of 10 web hosts that you come across will employ cPanel on their servers by default. Plesk is common as well, but you’ll mainly find it on Windows servers.

A lot of shared hosting providers prefer running Linux as the operating system on their servers because of lower costs, so you can easily find cPanel or Plesk on most providers. Since cPanel doesn’t support Windows servers, though, you’ll almost always find them running Plesk as their control panel.

Final Conclusion – Which One to Choose?

In the end, which control panel you choose is hugely dependent on your own preferences. cPanel seems like a slightly better choice because of its edge on user-friendliness and its widespread availability. You’ll also have a lot more web hosts to choose from if you go with cPanel just because of how popular it is. If you’re stuck on anything with cPanel, you’ll never be short of documentation online to walk you through whatever it is you want to do. That’s a huge plus for a beginner.

If you’re dead set on finding a host that uses Windows servers, then Plesk is the way to go. It’s still very user-friendly and can perform almost all of the same functions that cPanel can. There’s a pretty fair amount of documentation that can be found online for Plesk, so you should be able to handle any advanced configuration you want to set up.

Check out the demo for cPanel here. Once you’re done playing around with cPanel, take a look at the Plesk demo here. You should spend at least 15 to 20 minutes on each one before you make a decision.

While it’s easy to migrate from one cPanel host to another cPanel host, it’s not easy migrating from a Plesk host to a cPanel host or vice versa. Don’t get too caught up on all the tiny details either, just see which one feels right for you and which one you can navigate around the easiest and go with that. The rest will fall into place.

David Gibson
David has always been a computer geek. With a bachelor's degree in Computer Science and five years of building websites from scratch, he’s ready to master his new position as a web developing manager. David recently combined his love for technology with writing, and provides his input in the form of regular articles on Top 5 Hosting.
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