Server management: a comparison between Plesk, Froxlor and EHCP
Server management tools in comparison
Running a web or mailserver? This is no longer a great art. Although licensed administrative software has been the standard in the European hosting market, it is still worth looking at alternatives to server management.
In this article on server management, the two open source projects EHCP and Froxlor will be presented first and then the paid software Plesk. The following is an overview of the functions and features of the respective products.
Common features of a control panel for server management
The individual features of the individual control panels differ greatly. However, there are a few features that remain the same in all cases:
- Domain administration (web domains, mail domains, etc.)
- E-mail administration (addresses, mailboxes, etc.)
- FTP administration (user administration, password management, quotas, etc.)
- Directory access via the web interface (web FTP)
- SSH user and key management
- Database management
- Backup management and automation
- Log file access and reporting
- App Installer (WordPress, etc.)
- Server utilization (monitoring)
- SSL administration, partially-automated creation of certificates with services such as Let’s Encrypt
- Ticket systems for customers or users
At Plesk, the only paid product in this comparison, some of the features mentioned are only available with premium access – another reason to look more closely at the open source alternatives.
After Plesk, Froxlor is the second most-used server management solution on the German market – and not without reason. It offers nearly as many features and runs remarkably stable.
The project Froxlor was created in February 2010 under the name Fork. It was developed by former members of the SysCP project with the idea of creating a powerful and free server administration software that could be installed without prior knowledge. It should give the user the possibility to control the core functions of the server via a web interface. They succeeded: after only 7 years, Froxlor is an integral part of the German market, and it is gaining popularity in other countries too. In America, it is already in 3rd place and, together with the costly software solutions CPanel and Plesk, forms the market top.
The target group for Froxlor is primarily server operators, which offer web space in connection with databases and e-mail. Froxlor offers the operators the possibility to manage resellers and customers and to distribute appropriate rights.
With Plesk, PHP can also be managed directly in the web interface. You can change not only the php.ini for each domain individually, but also the PHP version to use.
Froxlor also supports the future-proof operation of the server with native support from Multistack (IPv4 and IPv6). Here, for each IP, all ports can be freely configured and assigned to services.
As well Froxlor also offers support for SSL certificates. Not only existing certificates can be assigned to individual projects, but also new free certificates can be created with a single click. Froxlor uses the services of Let’s Encrypt.
Froxlor also provides statistics on the amount of traffic consumed per user per application (HTTP, FTP, mail, …) and supports not only billing, but also resources planning. For example, The bandwidth of a server corresponds to the user behavior of customers or whether this should possibly be extended.
In the future, you will also be able to edit your own databases directly from the user interface of Froxlor. As with domains and web space, customers can also set limits on customers’ databases. For example, you can allow a customer for a package to a maximum of 10 databases. If you need more, you can simply increase the quota (APT package available) during operation.
Froxlor can be installed in the current version on the following Linux distributions:
- Debian (APT Package Available)
- Ubuntu (APT Package Available)
- SUSE Linux
To test Froxlor, you can find the tutorial for installing it on an Ubuntu server here.
EHCP stands for “Easy Hosting Control Panel” and is like Froxlor an open source project. Although EHCP is still relatively unknown in Germany and looks comparatively less modern than its competitors, it still offers numerous high-quality functions.
In contrast to Plesk, EHCP is exclusively based on Maria DB and can be installed only on Ubuntu and similar. It should also be kept in the back of the head that EHCP is still a young project compared to Froxlor and may have to establish itself in the market.
EHCP also offers features such as SSL certificate management and quota handling. But there is one or the other feature that only EHCP offers. For example, the template for the admin panel is completely modifiable. Everyone (with a certain amount of PHP prior knowledge) can build their own backend. Several templates and instructions are available. In addition, not only the rights to the reseller, customer, and admin can be defined, but also the menus can be flexibly adapted. This allows the customer to provide his own interface as required. This can be used to highlight functions that are more appropriate to the customer’s project rather than the rarely used or irrelevant functions.
EHCP also offers backup automation. However, (previously) only internal storage was supported. If there is a hardware error, the backup would have been worthless.
The automatic billing of customers with pre-set prices is the next milestone at EHCP and may be released with the next release. As a payment service provider, PayPal will most likely be used here.
Like Plesk, EHCP can be installed via an auto installer. However, the installation will fail more frequently if the software is already installed. Therefore, it is recommended to use EHCP on a newly installed server.
How the installation runs in detail is explained in the article How to install EHCP on Ubuntu.
In March 2015, Plesk became Odin|Plesk. If it was after the developer Parallels, they would have renamed it only in “Odin”. However, the name “Plesk” is now so well established that they would have done no favor. When a few months later, the entire division was sold to the American software manufacturer Ingram, the name Plesk Odynx was introduced, which is still current.
Plesk is the only paid tool in this comparison. It is also the only tool that can be run on Windows Server. If you are hosting on Windows servers, the decision is fairly simple. This is also one reason why Plesk occupies over 75% of the European market. Despite the relatively expensive license, many providers offer Plesk at no extra charge to their server offerings. Another advantage for Plesk is the native support of Docker images. This allows you to profit from the advantages without much previous knowledge.
Similar to Froxlor, Plesk now offers a 1-Click Generator for SSL certificates, also in conjunction with Let’s Encrypt.
Plesk convinces through a well thought-out interface, which is intuitive to use. This is often one of the reasons why customers do not switch to Froxlor or EHCP, because their interfaces are sometimes rather habituated. However, especially Froxlor is increasing here. Plesk also provides a subdivision in administrators, resellers, and customers. Added to this are the divisions’ domain owners and mail users, which is currently unique.
Plesk supports the following operating systems:
- RedHat Enterprise Linux
- Virtuozzo Linux
- Windows Server
The last three generations are each officially supported.
If Windows is not used, the decision is now difficult – just because there are many alternatives when it comes to server management. Just Froxlor steals Plesk always the show.
Which software you use depends ultimately on personal preferences. Why not create a cloud server of your choice and simply try the 3 solutions presented here? With gridscale, it takes only a few seconds. How this is done is shown in How to gridscale.
Server management tools in comparison Running a web or mailserver? This is no longer a great art. Although licensed administrative software has been the standard in the European hosting market, it is still worth looking at alternatives to server management. In this article on server management, the two open source projects EHCP and Froxlor will […]
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