I got quite annoyed by the vendor lock-in of Plesk Panel, so now I'm looking for a free and open alternative. The requirements were quite straight-forward:
- good software quality
- free and open source software
- running on a Linux server
- multi-domain capability
- multi-client capability
- FTP, webserver and e-mail configuration support
- per-client SSH access
List of alternatives that I looked into, ranked by my subjective evaluation of matching the above requirements, the best first. First the panels that I consider the best for the above requirements, and they are all nearly on par:
- ISPConfig. My personal first choice. See Wikipedia on ISPConfig. They have a live demo version available, which looks nice and stable, and with a whole lot of functionality, incl. five different modes how to host PHP, even with naming templates for database naming etc.. My only "complaint" would be that the multi-server features are also all over the place, which is overkill / distracting for our simpler requirements.
- AlternC. I like their clean and simple user interface a lot. Their live demo version works well. Written mostly in PHP. Seems not as feature rich as ISPConfig, but simpler to use. For being used by non-techie users, I would choose this one, while for myself, I would choose ISPConfig.
- ZPanel. Also a feature-complete hosting control panel.
- Virtualmin. A variant of the well-known Webmin panel, adding website management features though additional modules. Written in Perl and modular, though due to its age the user interface is somewhat outdated and complicated, including the naming of items (such as "virtual servers" for "domains").
- GNUPanel. See its website. Nice project, but not yet feature complete and it still has to mature. Plans for version 2.0 are well under way though.
- Domain Technologie Control. Indeed still a very active project [source], but with just one main developer, so no warranties for the future. The DTC documentation however is extremely outdated (with comical overtones when they praise SysCP and Web-cp as "very good" [source], both dead since 4 resp. 8 years now). I did not like the self-praise in their docs, so did not even bother to try the software. Which I would have done however if there would be a live demo …
- OpenPanel. Interesting architecture with a core written in C++, but so far not yet the full feature set as available in, for example, ISPConfig.
- Froxlor. I have installed Froxlor on one web server, and I'm not really happy with their software quality then (2013-03), esp. the UI logic. Once it's running and you found your way around configuration issues, it works pretty stable though.
- i-MSCP. Looked quite promising until I saw it does not support per-user SSH access [source].
- Kloxo. Seems not really in active development any more [source], and its history is quite bumpy.
- Webmin. One of the oldest web-based control panels, with its first release on 1997-10-05 [source]. Virtualmin, a derivative of Webmin, seems preferrable over Webmin for webserver management since it adds the website management features directly [source], while they probably could be added to Webmin as modules.
- Usermin. A variant of Webmin, but not strictly for website management. Rather for user-level computer management. Virtualmin is the variant to choose for website management.
- ispCP. No per-user SSH support, so not applicable for our requirements. Also, superseded by the fork i-MSCP.
- SysCP. No per-user SSH support, so not applicable for our requirements. Dead since four years [source].
- Baifox. Dead since 2009.
- WebsitePanel. Only for Windows-based hosting [source].
- EHCP. No information on this.
- Ajenti. They say "Ajenti is a server control panel, not a hosting control panel." [source], means it is not possible to manage domains, clients etc. with this. Not for our purposes here, but an impressive project anyway.
- Aegir. Impressive features and even a command line client for hosting management, but it is meant only for Drupal site deployment [source], not as a generic web hosting control panel.