For most hosting customers, the type of control panel on offer is a key consideration.
While cPanel is the standard for most hosting companies, other hosts offer Plesk or DirectAdmin. Some web hosts, like DreamHost, use their own proprietary web panel that is partially or completely unique.
Often, customers shy away from custom control panels. They’re sometimes thought to have clumsy interfaces, and it’s true that many lack the features that cPanel and Plesk users enjoy. And since the majority of web hosts use cPanel, many customers like to stick with what they know instead of taking the time to learn a whole new system.
DreamHost, however, has created their own fantastic web panel. We think it’s actually a really good alternative to some of the more common hosting control panels on offer.
Thinking about giving DreamHost a try? Here’s why we think you’ll love their control panel.
Why We Like DreamHost’s Web Panel
DreamHost’s Web Panel gives users most of the same features cPanel users enjoy. You can easily use DreamHost’s control panel to manage your:
- Account: Change your personal or billing info, make payments, see your balance, look up old invoices
- Domains: You can register new domains, transfer them to a new registrar, manage DNS entries
- Files: Add users to access and transfer files via FTP or SFTP, find your FTP server hostname, reset FTP passwords, access files through your browser with Web FTP
- Email: Create email accounts, bulk edit email addresses, check email, set up auto replies
- Support: Open support tickets, check ticket status, etc.
In addition, users can access billing and support features from the same dashboard. This is arguably very convenient, since there’s only one login name and password to remember. cPanel, on the other hand, doesn’t include access to billing, support, and account features, so web hosts who use cPanel must provide these tools separately, sometimes with a separate username and password.
Some users feel DreamHost’s one-click installs are better and that they’re updated more frequently than Fantastico. You can check out DreamHost’s list of available one-click installs on their website. They include the most common software applications for building a website, including WordPress, Joomla, MediaWiki, and Zen Cart.
Web Panel also offers many goodies not available through cPanel, such as a Flash Media tool to convert most common video formats into a Flash-compatible format using FFmpeg, and a Jabber IM tool to create your own Jabber chat server on your domain.
What’s the Downside?
DreamHost’s Web Panel can’t be themed and skinned, so the default color scheme is yours for keeps. On the other hand, cPanel can be customized and branded to some degree in conjunction with WHM, which can be a crucial feature for hosting resellers.
Additionally, if you’re used to using cPanel with other hosts, you’ll almost certainly find Web Panel’s layout awkward.
With cPanel, you’ll see that all their tools and features are laid out in front of you as icons right when you log in. It’s quite easy to find what you need at a glance.
With DreamHost’s Web Panel, the menus aren’t very intuitive. There are two separate vertical menus on the left side of your screen: a Toolbox, which is actually customizable, and a main menu that you can navigate to get to all available tools and features. For new users, having two menus can be confusing, especially when they display duplicate functions and the labels are unclear (What will you get if you click on “Goodies”?). It may take some time for cPanel users and beginners alike to learn their way around DreamHost’s menu navigation.
Still, besides the unclear menus, the learning curve isn’t that steep, and using DreamHost’s Web Panel can become second nature quickly.
However, you may prefer to stick with cPanel and invest your time in improving your website instead.
cPanel vs. DreamHost Web Panel: Which Is Right for You?
In all honesty, there isn’t that much of a difference between cPanel and DreamHost’s Web Panel when it comes to features.
If you’re accustomed to cPanel, and don’t want to take the time to learn another control panel, then DreamHost probably isn’t the right host for you.
On the other hand, if you’re a beginner or don’t mind learning another control panel, then learning DreamHost’s proprietary control panel won’t be a problem for you.
Some customers even choose DreamHost explicitly because they don’t care for cPanel at all, and prefer to use DreamHost’s Web Panel instead. If you’ve had a bad experience with cPanel, or just want to try something new, it can be difficult to find a web hosting company that doesn’t use it.