When choosing between web hosting control panels, it's often a toss-up between Plesk or cPanel. Between them, they dominate the market for users looking for account and server management tools.

What is Plesk?

Plesk is a web hosting control panel and has been around since 2001, with the current stable release being Plesk Onyx – see our review of Plesk Onyx. Its newest version, Plesk Obsidian, boasts a number of UI and functionality upgrades.

What is cPanel

Released in 1996, cPanel is the original contender, and as such has a high number of legacy users. But with the rise of other interfaces, it's often considered by many to be a Plesk alternative.

Modern versions of cPanel are actually a combination of cPanel and WHM (Web Host Manager) interfaces, where the former is for customer account management and the latter is for server administration. But for the rest of this blog, for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just call the package ‘cPanel’.

Plesk vs cPanel: User interfaces

Of the two web hosting control panels, Plesk is widely considered to have a cleaner graphical user interface (GUI), and is a bit easier to use. The Plesk panel is more streamlined and has features grouped in a list down the left-hand side. When clicked these expand to show further options.

Plesk user interface

The cPanel interface, however, does not group the features and tools as helpfully, and is often seen as being more cluttered. cPanel does allow for customisation of the home screen to make it a bit easier to find things, and the visibility of all features in one place can make it easier to find a function for the first time.

CLI (command line interface) access is available for both, should the user prefer it to a GUI.

Plesk vs cPanel: Performance

Generally, cPanel loads faster than a Plesk server. cPanel is the web hosting control panel that has really focused on optimising the performance. By focusing on reducing the amount of memory required, cPanel developers were able to speed up the page-load times, as well as achieve faster account creation and other server management tasks.

Plesk vs cPanel: Features and tools

Out of the box, Plesk and cPanel both provide users with the same primary features for server and account management. Both can be used to configure DNS settings, manage email accounts, run FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and manage databases. Although it is possible to add extra apps to cPanel, the Plesk panel comes with support for more useful apps and extensions.

Plesk has support for Docker on Linux, with a catalogue of over 200,000 Docker images that can be launched from within the Plesk web hosting control panel. Plesk is also compatible with Git through the Gitman extension. There are workarounds to get Docker and Git running with cPanel, but they’re much more complex than with Plesk.

Plesk vs cPanel: Security

Both the Plesk panel and cPanel are heavily focused on security. Although the features are different, Plesk and cPanel both come with numerous security tools.

cPanel security tools include:

  • Automatic SSL certificate installation
  • Password-protected directories
  • IP address denials

Plesk security features include:

  • Fail2ban intrusion prevention
  • Inbound and outbound email antispam
  • Active directory integration

Plesk vs cPanel: Distros

One major difference between the Plesk and cPanel web hosting control panels is that Plesk is available on both Windows Server and Linux distributions. cPanel is only available on Linux operating systems (although some backdoor methods are available to run cPanel on Windows servers).

The Linux distributions that support cPanel are CentOS, CloudLinux and RedHat Enterprise. On the other hand, the Plesk panel is available on 14 Linux distributions including CentOS, Ubuntu and Debian, as well as being available on Windows servers.

Which web hosting control panel you choose will often depend on which operating system you’re running on your server. However, you will need to buy separate Plesk licences depending on which operating system you intend to run it on.

Plesk or cPanel: the final decision

Your decision could be based on which web hosting control panel is available to your operating system, but it will most likely come down to which web panel you find easier to use. While the features in each panel are fairly similar, you’ll probably prefer the feel and experience of using one over the other.

When you buy a Dedicated Server or Cloud Server from Fasthosts, you can choose to add the Plesk control panel to the package for just £9.99 per month, giving you a great set of features from the get-go. Discover more information on how Plesk integrates with our servers.