Best Control Panel for Web Designer (not Hosting Business)?
I represent a web development company. We are not in the hosting business, nor do we plan on entering it. That being said, we do host our clients' sites. We do this to provide a complete solution and to ensure that we can use standard scripts when designing our sites without having to tweak them for various hosting environments.
We've been hosting sites on a shared Verio server for the last few years and are looking to upgrade to a dedicated machine to simplify our administration process, improve system reliability, and to offer our clients additional/improved services.
The shared Verio server is a Unix machine with no control panel. We currently have approximately 65 sites on it and expect another 40 by year's end.
I've performed several searches and read literally thousands of posts on this forum (an amazing source of information). And, I'm leaning towards a solution using a dedicated server from Rackspace running Plesk.
Now that I've bored you with the background, here's my question:
What is the best control panel for a company like ours, a company that is interested in streamlining the process of setting up sites on our server and in offering simple email account management tools to our clients? Please note that reseller capabilities are of no interest to us. Also, price is a concern, but reliability, uptime, and customer support are much more important
My second question is:
Even if there is a better solution out there, is one based on a dedicated Rackspace server and Plesk sufficient?
I'm sure the answers I receive will spark more questions.
I think that plesk would be sufficient for you and your clients. It offers easy management of email, and everything else. It may not be as "pretty" as CPanel, however it is very functional, and pretty easy to use. However, I do feel that you should get a reseller account, so that your task easier. A dedicated server, probably is not the solution for your case. Many companies offer cheap plans that will be more then enough for you. This will make your life easier, and you won't have to worry about your site going down, or updating the server, etc... If you need any more information or help, you may IM me on AIM: HyeMC, or ICQ me at: 160900314. I can help you out.
I think also another question is: How knowledgable are you at administrating server? You mentioned you were on a verio server with no control panel, but did you added the sites yourself, or did Verio did it for you?
I think what you are trying to ask is: Which control panel allows me to easily administrate my server?
Assuming that your clients won't need fancy control panels, you may go with webmin(assuming you have some server admin knowledge), and then just install a webmail interface for your clients.
You may also want to check a cobalt raq to see if that will fit your needs.
However, with only (not to say you have little sites, it all depends on what kind of sites you have) 60 - 100 sites, you may also want to check out some sort of advanced shared hosting. If you go for dedicated server, your server administration would be heavier, not lighter, because you will be responsible for maintaining the whole server, applying patches, securing services, etc... However, this is only a recommendation most of your sites are static and not too processing-intensive. If you have two to five popular AND dynamic sites, you would want to find a dedicated server just for the performance.
Peter - we have been adding sites ourselves. So, we do have familiarity with the Unix environment. However, we'd like to get away from it so that non-technical employees can handle adding new sites. Hence the need for a control panel.
I haven't looked into Webmin - I'm wary of free products. In particular, I'm concerned about upgrades and support. Plus, as I mentioned above, while I do have enough knowledge to administer the server, I'd rather have the ability for someone without that knowledge to still be able to add sites. And, it sounds like that wouldn't be the case with Webmin. If I'm wrong, let me know. Plus, while my clients don't need fancy control panels, in fact I doubt most will even use them, they'll perceive value in the additional capabilities. And, that is important to us.
The Cobalt Raq platform seems too limiting to me. Most of our clients do have static sites, but the e-commerce sites (about a dozen with another dozen on the way) are quite popular. And, part of the reason for our move is that we would like to offer additional processor and bandwidth intensive services to our clients (content management, bulletin boards, custom database apps, etc.).
Finally, there's just something about having our clients on a dedicated box that I find reassuring. I'll only have to worry about 100 accounts that I have complete control over, not 100s that I don't have any control over.
However, you did bring up an issue that I'm not clear on. With a dedicated server from a company like Rackspace, how much work is handled by the provider, and how much by the client. What I mean is, is it our responsibility to apply patches, etc.? Or, is it Rackspace's responsibility? From what I've read, it's my impression that Rackspace would upgrade our system to work with new version of Plesk when new versions are available. And, that I would need to wait until Plesk came out with updated versions before updating the OS anyway. Is that correct?
Another issue I'm not clear on is a firewall. To be honest, I don't know what kind of security Verio has in place on our current server, but it has been down very little time since we've had it. Rackspace is offering a managed firewall for an additional (substantial relative to the total monthly price) fee. Is that necessary? Should I install a software firewall myself instead of buying the service from my provider? Is even the software firewall necessary?
I do understand your concern about free software, but I can assure you, webmin is a very well-developed, very-well supported software. It is the most powerful server administration software there is, even when compared with other free or commericial packages. The only reasons why not everyone is using it are 1)lack of reseller, 2)lack of (decent anyway) client control panel. Besides, unless you non-technical personells are idots, a very simple instruction list will enable them to add sites easily.
If you want, I may be able to setup a private demostration of webmin for you. (PM me)
Having said that, I did notice that you never mentioned the word "budget." Since you came from verio, I assume you don't mind spending some money (especially since you don't want free software). You can go with plesk; it is a fine piece of software.
Again, depending on the kind of sites you run, cobalt may or maynot limit you, you have to decide for youself.
Also, you want to check rackspace's definition of managed support. It is my understanding that they take a large, but not all, portion of the administrative workload. You probably want to wait for plesk upgrade, otherwise if you patch the system yourself, rackspace may not support you.
As for firewalls, if you think you are competent, there is not much reason to use managed firewall. Unless you are expecting DoS attacks, in which case a managed firewall will help keep your transfer costs down. It may also offer *slight* performance improvment. But make no mistake, a firewall is necessary.