Web hosting control panels are online interfaces that simplify the management of server activity.
Often, hosts will include a control panel within a hosting plan, or offer one for a small additional cost. Control panels are designed to let server and site owners control their hosted services without needing to be tech-savvy.
While just a few control panels tend to be the most widely used among hosts, many others, such as ISPConfig, are available for download and easy use.
Server Administration Tools
If you choose to set up your own server from scratch, finding a server administration tool is ideal.
And for anyone who is hoping to create their own web hosting service or reseller service, having a control panel like this which automatically gets set up for a new user is convenient. It can be used to define the website configuration for potential customers/users.
What do I Need a Web Hosting Control Panel For?
A control panel can be easier to use than running applications individually or using the command terminal.
Additionally, a control panel will have built-in monitoring which allows a message to be triggered in case of server problems or dwindling resources.
What is cPanel?
The cPanel web host control panel software is very popular.
It’s not free, and the hosting company offering it will either charge you a small fee or absorb the cost.
New to control panels and the cPanel brand of control panels? This introductory video by InMotion Hosting will give you a helpful overview.
Finding a site that offers ISPConfig can help you to get cheap domain hosting without sacrificing convenience.
ISPConfig and Projectfarm
ISPConfig originally came from the German company Projectfarm, which is no longer involved in it.
The project doesn’t seem to have any big-name backers at present, which could raise concerns about its long-term viability.
The Git source code repository is on a German web hosting site rather than an independent, stable repository. However, the software is getting frequent releases, indicating a committed development team.
What are the Main Features of ISPConfig?
You can manage just one server with ISPConfig, or use it to maintain multiple servers.
These servers may be physical or virtual and used for a personal site or at the enterprise level. Depending on your needs and authorization, you will log in at the email, client, reseller, or administrator level.
In addition, you can use ISPConfig in one of 20 translated languages. At a high level, ISPConfig is a Linux-based server control platform with many different tools.
Here’s a high-level list of all available ISPConfig features:
Contains features and functionality for both single- and multi-server management
Tiered Access Levels
Control access levels for administrations, resellers, and clients
Web Server Support
Supports Apache and NGINX for site routing and content hosting
SMTP Postfix, POP/IMAP – Email hosting servers – for all hosted domains
PureFTPd – allows file transfer protocol for each hosted site
Bind and MyDNS – this server can run a domain name service
MySQL – using the Oracle MySQL database – for each user
All of the above need to be installed parallel to ISPConfig in order for the server to run properly.
Because most hosting packages feature Linux by default, you should not have any issues finding hosting for ISPConfig.
Is There a Preferred Linux Distribution for ISPConfig?
The preferred Linux distribution is Debian. Installation on some other distributions requires temporarily disabling a firewall or other security tools.
This can be a serious concern since in today’s Internet every server is constantly under siege.
ISPConfig Machine Instances
With that in mind — some cloud hosting providers may have “Machine Instances” already prepared — which will have the correct OS and installed software pairs to make an install very simple.
Just keep in mind that setting up this platform isn’t the same thing as setting up a website. With ISPConfig, you’re setting up a service which will allow other users to create websites on your servers.
Setting up ISPConfig allows you to become a web host, rather than just using one.
You can test-drive a demo account at the ISPConfig website.
Several add-ons are available for ISPConfig for a one-time licensing fee:
A billing module
A migration tool
A malware scanner
A monitor application
Several plugins for interfacing to other software.
Using ISPConfig’s Public API
A public, documented API exists, so PHP developers can write scripts to add to ISPConfig’s functionality.
There’s very little published third-party software, though.
A plugin to integrate WordPress with ISPConfig is available, but it hasn’t been updated in years.
Beyond websites, DNS, and email, ISPConfig provides management for:
File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
Internet Protocol (IP).
Within these, you can observe website traffic, create and delete email accounts, filter spam, park domains, create subdomains, and much more.
Setting ISPConfig up: Expect to Spend Time Getting it Right
Most of the core “use” of this service will be in the hours spent in setup/installation. After installation, a fair amount of time will be needed in order to understand how the mechanisms work.
This is especially important if ISPconfig is going to be used to run hosting for other users. Creating virtual machines and DNS pointers for users can be made automatic, but require additional setup.
Plus, even if a perfect setup were accomplished, troubleshooting and user support will come up. In order to be capable of assisting users, there is an official manual available.
This manual does cost money, which is used to continue developer support for the platform. It’s a good investment for anyone trying to use ISPConfig for commercial purposes.
A hosting site that offers ISPConfig and handles the details of installing and maintaining it can be an economical alternative to other hosting control panel software. Few hosts offer it pre-installed, though, so you may need to install it yourself on a VPS or dedicated server.
The Pros and Cons of ISPConfig Hosting
Here’s a convenient summary of ISPConfigs strong and weak points.
Free, open-source multi-host control panel for Linux
Clean, user-friendly interface
Complicated to install
Few pre-installed options
Limited support community
My Top Three: The Best ISPConfig Hosts
If you’re in need of an ISPConfig host, I recommend the following options:
A2 Hosting: ISPConfig is Pre-Installed
A2 Hosting Home
A2 Hosting is one of the few host providers that offer ISPConfig pre-installed. All of its VPS plans let the customer choose ISPConfig on the SwiftServer platform.
Root access and SSD storage are standard, and the prices are reasonable. If you want more speed, you can get it with the Turbo Boost VPS. Phone support (including Skype), as well as email and chat, are available 24/7.
Liquid Web: Linux Distributions and 24/7 Support
Liquid Web Home
LiquidWeb offers a choice of Linux distributions on its VPS and dedicated web hosting servers. This gives you everything necessary to install and use ISPConfig.
It operates datacenters in the United States and Europe and guarantees 100% uptime. Support by phone, chat, and email are available 24 hours a day and come with guaranteed initial response time.
BlueHost: Toll-Free Support in the U.S.
BlueHost provides Linux hosting exclusively and favors open-source technology. Customers on dedicated and VPS hosting can get SSH access with a root account, allowing them to install ISPConfig and any other required software.
There’s only one datacenter and no uptime guarantee. On the bright side, phone, email, and chat support are always available, and phone support is toll-free in the US.
Other features in Web Hosting Control Panels: What Are the Best?
ISPConfig is a control panel that allows users to easily administer their hosting accounts on Linux servers.
Who should use ISPconfig?
Anyone who is interested in setting up their own web hosting service should consider using ISPConfig.
Setting up a server with ISPConfig will allow for more direct control of a website platform, which puts all service outages into the hands of the ISPConfig administrators and the physical servers in use.
Is ISPConfig free?
Yes, ISPConfig is free and open-source. You can get the software, install it on as many machines as you like, and use it for any purpose (including commercial purposes) without paying for it.
Where can I get an ISPConfig user’s manual?
The official ISPConfig website offers a downloadable user’s manual. However, the manual is not free. It is available at a very modest cost, and funds collected by the sale of the manual are used to help pay for ongoing development and support of the software.
Does ISPConfig offer integration with Let’s Encrypt?
Yes, beginning with version 3.1, ISPConfig does offer integration of Let’s Encrypt which makes it easy for customers to set up a free SSL certificate.
If you’re using an earlier version of ISPConfig, an add-on is available from GitHub to integrate Let’s Encrypt into ISPConfig.
Is there an auto installer that is compatible with ISPConfig?
Yes, the commercial script library and auto installer Softaculous is compatible with ISPConfig.
What web servers can I use with ISPConfig?
ISPConfig is compatible with Apache and NGINX.
Can I use ISPConfig to accept email?
Yes, ISPConfig includes built-in mail server management as well as webmail access with RoundCube or SquirrelMail.
Does ISPConfig support PostgreSQL?
By default, ISPConfig only supports MySQL databases. In addition, SQLite databases are supported as an extension of PHP — although SQLite is a different animal than MySQL entirely.
It is possible to install PostgreSQL on the same server as ISPConfig, but the two products will not integrate on their own and you’ll have to build bridges between the two for things to work properly.
In other words, PostgreSQL can be installed and used alongside ISPConfig, but only by experienced Linux sysadmins (or extremely persistent and capable Linux server hobbyists).
What stack does ISPConfig support?
ISPConfig is designed to work with a default LAMP stack: Linux, Apache, MySQL (or MariaDB), and PHP. You can power other technology stacks from a server running ISPConfig.
However, integration between ISPConfig and other web servers, such as Node.JS, is not automatic. The two can run alongside each other, but they will not be natively integrated.
Does ISPConfig support PHP7?
Yes, PHP7 is fully supported beginning with ISPConfig 3.1. In addition, ISPConfig supports the use of HHVM (Hip Hop Virtual Machine) as the PHP engine.
What Alternatives to ISPConfig Exist?
The biggest direct competitor is CPanel — at least for PHP/MySQL platforms. Hundreds of options are available, across a variety of languages, and geared towards multiple operating systems.
Selection should be based on the activity level of developers and their technical objectives with regard to multiple programming languages.
About Gary McGath
Gary McGath spent years as a software developer before turning to writing. In addition to writing many articles on technology, he's the author of two crowdfunded e-books. His tech passions include data security and digital preservation.
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Who's Best for ISPConfig Hosting?
We think BlueHost is the best choice for ISPConfig.