The Best ISPConfig Hosting: Who's The Best For Your Site? [Updated: 2018]

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ISPConfig Hosting

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What You'll Learn

In this article, we'll look at ISPConfig, its features and its main competitor.

You'll learn what to look for in an ISPConfig host.

And I'll offer a few personal recommendations to get you started on your search for an ISPConfig host.

If you're new to web hosting control panels, don't worry: we'll cover what they are, and why you might want to use one.

what is ispconfig

What is ISPConfig?

ISPConfig is a control panel tool suite for Linux hosting.

It is free, open source, and highly reliable software available under the BSD public license.

Getting started is as easy as downloading a file, and tapping into a significant support resource when needed.

ISPConfig Home
ISPConfig Home

Users can use the web-based interface to manage:

  • Servers
  • Websites
  • Domain Name System (DNS) records, and,
  • Email.

Find The Best ISPConfig Hosting For You

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BlueHost screenshot
BlueHost Dedicated Standard plan
500GB 5TB
  • Support 3.5 stars
  • Features 4 stars
  • Uptime 3.5 stars
  • Value 3.5 stars
3.5 stars
479 user reviews
Usual price:
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$79.99/mo
(Billed as $79.99 Per Month) Prices in are approximate, based on current exchange rates. The host will likely charge you in USD, or at a different exchange rate.
Visit Host
A2+Hosting screenshot
A2 Hosting Entry VPS plan
20GB 2TB
  • Support 4.5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 4.5 stars
  • Value 4.5 stars
4.5 stars
226 user reviews
Usual price:
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$5.00/mo
(Billed as $5.00 Per Month) Prices in are approximate, based on current exchange rates. The host will likely charge you in USD, or at a different exchange rate.
Visit Host
LiquidWeb screenshot
LiquidWeb E3-1220 Server plan
2TB 5TB
  • Support 4.5 stars
  • Features 4.5 stars
  • Uptime 4.5 stars
  • Value 4.5 stars
4.5 stars
62 user reviews
Usual price:
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$129.00/mo
(Billed as $129.00 Per Month) Prices in are approximate, based on current exchange rates. The host will likely charge you in USD, or at a different exchange rate.
Visit Host
VPS.net screenshot
VPS.net Cloud Hosting Plan 1 plan
10GB 3TB
  • Support 2.5 stars
  • Features 2.5 stars
  • Uptime 2 stars
  • Value 2.5 stars
2.5 stars
13 user reviews
Usual price:
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$18.00/mo
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Visit Host

What are Web Hosting Control Panels?

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.

ispconfig features

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:

Feature Details
Server Management 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
Email Support SMTP Postfix, POP/IMAP - Email hosting servers - for all hosted domains
FTP Support PureFTPd - allows file transfer protocol for each hosted site
DNS Support Bind and MyDNS - this server can run a domain name service
Databases MySQL - using the Oracle MySQL database - for each user
Virtualization OpenVZ - allows virtual machines for client sites

ispconfig installation

How to Install

After you download ISPConfig, installing it requires just a few things:

  1. A Linux system
  2. Root/sudo access
  3. PHP 7
  4. MySQL
  5. Some system management skills.

What are the System Requirements for ISPConfig?

The system requirements for ISPConfig cover a wide range of Linux flavors.

This includes:

  • Debian 5 through 9
  • Ubuntu 8.10 to current
  • CentOS 5.2 to current
  • Fedora 10 and 12 to 15
  • OpenSuSE 11.1 to current.

If your system runs any of the Debian derived operating system kernels, or any of the other large distributions mentioned, then it will be able to run ISPConfig. (With root privileges provided.)

Linux Installation

Installation is for Linux platforms, so every version will have it's own installation process, which is well documented on the official site.

These installs are not "easy" comparable to setting up a single website. Instead, getting ISPConfig up and running will take patience and attention to the details of the instruction.

In order for ISPConfig tools to run properly, you will need to have all of the subsequent platforms installed first, namely:

  • Apache
  • PHP
  • MySQL
  • PureFTPD
  • BIND
  • Dovecot

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.

ispconfig demoYou can test-drive a demo account at the ISPConfig website.

Add-on Software

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.

Using ISPConfig

Beyond websites, DNS, and email, ISPConfig provides management for:

  • File Transfer Protocol (FTP)
  • MySQL databases
  • Cron jobs
  • Shell uses
  • 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.

ISPConfig Hosting

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.

Pros:

  • Free, open-source multi-host control panel for Linux
  • Clean, user-friendly interface

Cons:

  • Complicated to install
  • Few pre-installed options
  • Limited support community

ISPConfig Hosting Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is ISPConfig?

    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.

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