Features Checklist for best free hosting Control Panel
Managing servers comes with a lot of workloads. You have to install the applications and configure security.
A server control panel helps you manage your server efficiently. You do not need extensive system admin knowledge to operate a panel. You can perform all tasks via a web-based interface.
The panel is used on any infrastructure from a dedicated server, VPS hosting, or cloud servers. It makes it much easier to manage your server than working by the command line.
There are many panels available in the market. You need to cross-check your requirements with the panel’s features.
In this article, you get a features checklist of what an open-source web hosting control panel should provide.
1. Easy to use interface
We recommend you use a control panel that offers a clean and user-friendly interface. You should be able to navigate and operate the panel efficiently.
The dashboard should provide important server information such as CPU usage, Memory, Load Average, and Disk usage. Clear visibility of metrics helps analyze the server’s status quickly.
2. Provided Technologies
An effective control panel is built on a lightweight technology stack such as an NGINX web server, PHP-FPM, and MySQL. It ensures that your server offers high performance to your web applications.
An outdated tech stack makes your applications slow and unresponsive. Choose a panel that uses cutting-edge technology like multiple PHP versions, Debian/Ubuntu, and Redis/Varnish cache support.
The standard OS is usually a Linux distribution for web hosting. Debian is the gold standard for web hosting and is used by companies like Google. The panel should be compatible with the operating system.
It should also support easy installation of CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and other applications.
3. Domain management
Check if the control panel offers these essential features:
Domains: Many panels offer features to add/delete domains to your server.
Vhost Editor: Make changes with the integrated Vhost Editor, such as redirects, rewrites, and other updates without logging into the server.
PHP Settings: In the PHP Settings of your domain, you can change the PHP Version and configure other PHP settings like:
Basic Auth: Panels should allow you to enable/disable Basic Auth. Basic Auth settings of your domain help prevent traffic to your site. It is useful when you don’t want your site to be public, such as during the development or testing environments.
Log Viewer: A Log Viewer provides easy access to log files. Logs record all the events that occur on the web server.
Access Logs: Records information about every user who is visiting your site. It lets you check the visitor’s IP address, pages viewed, browser info, and more. It helps to evaluate the site traffic.
Error Logs: Records the errors that the webserver has encountered while processing the requests. The errors can be configuration problems, missing files, and so on.
The Log Viewer lets you check the NGINX Access, Error Logs, and the PHP Error Log.
4. Database Management
The control panel should help you manage databases. It should let you create, update and delete MySQL databases.
A professional panel is shipped with PHPMyAdmin, a free and open-source tool written in PHP. The tool is used to manage your database.
It helps you get quick solutions to database queries. You can also restore a database backup in case the primary database crashes.
The panel should allow you to manage Database Users with permissions such as Read and Write or Read-Only to provide various access levels.
5. Cron Jobs
Cron Jobs have scheduled commands that run at a specific time. A suitable panel should allow you to create/delete Cron Jobs by using templates.
You can schedule repetitive tasks as per your needs. Cron jobs are helpful as job schedulers in a Unix-like operating system.
6. (DNS) Domain Name System
A DNS translates domain names like
www.example.com into IP addresses such as 126.96.36.199. It allows computers to connect and interact safely.
We recommend using a professional DNS service such as Amazon Route 53 or Google Cloud DNS. It helps to route end users to your application endpoints.
In the best case, a control panel should be able to connect to your DNS service provider. That way, you can quickly access your DNS service via the panel.
7. Cloud Support
With cloud adoption, many website owners are using a cloud-hosted infrastructure. A modern panel should provide cloud support for all major clouds.
With cloud support, basic tasks such as security rules, logs, and access to general cloud data are covered.
8. User Management
Secure Shell (SSH) is a network protocol that helps secure remote login from one computer to another. It offers strong encryption between the two endpoints.
SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) helps to transfer files securely between a client and server.
A panel should offer SSH/SFTP user management so that you can add, delete, and manage users.
9. SSL Certificates / Let’s Encrypt
SSL certificates verify your site identity and also helps fulfill compliance requirements. Using the panel, you should be able to install a certificate for different domains.
The certificates protect sensitive data such as user credentials and credit card numbers during data transfer. It offers encrypted communication between a web browser and a web server.
The panel should allow you to import an existing SSL/TLS certificate or issue a free auto-renewing Let's Encrypt certificate.
10. Backups (Automated & Scheduled)
Data backups ensure that you don’t lose your data in the event of a disaster.
There are many ways you risk losing data, such as:
- Human errors
- Hardware failures
- Data corruption
- Accidental deletion
- Natural disasters
Backups are necessary for faster disaster recovery. Having many backups is a good practice to ensure your data is protected.
Not many control panels offer built-in backup features. However, some panels like CloudPanel allow you to manage the backup process. For example, you can use Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) for AWS.
A control panel should provide some security features to ease management.
For a secure login, check for panels that offer Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). The 2FA adds an extra layer of security.
To protect your servers from intrusion, the panel should help you block unwanted traffic from ipv4 or ipv6 addresses. Look for security features that defend against brute force attacks, such as a Bot Blocker.
Some panels also provide a Firewall with individual configuration options.
Documentation is essential for every software. It allows you to get step-by-step guides on installations and configurations.
A good documentation that helps is very important. It should be constantly updated so that you get the latest information.
13. Action Logs
Action logs record all the actions made by the users in the panel. You get an overview of the changes along with event time.
It helps to keep track of the tasks performed in the system by users. You should be able to filter the logs for easy access.
14. Restart Services
The panel should let you restart services or the full server quickly. Services such as MySQL, NGINX, PHP-FPM, and Redis should restart individually with a click.
The primary purpose of a server control panel is to smoothen server management.
It needs to simplify complex workloads and help you save time.
In this article, we have focussed on the essential features to look for in a panel. We recommend creating a list with all your specific requirements before choosing your panel.
Many free control panels provide these features. To learn about them, check out this article on the best free cPanel alternatives.