There are a whole gamut of hosting control panels available. I have used quite a few of them, and to be fair, none have really satisfied the criteria of being easy to use, powerful and responsive. The only one that I have vaguely liked to date is Helm 3. The less that said about Helm 4, the better.
Now, I will accept that I am being a little unfair with the last criteria. A substantial proportion of a control panel’s response time is taken up by calls on other services, often based on separate hardware. When you take this into consideration, Hosting Control Panels (HCPs) do succeed in corralling together and presenting management capabilities for multiple services (often from differing providers) in a single interface. What very few have done is present an interface that is easy to use both from an administrative and end-user perspective.
And this is the critical point. HCPs are primarily for use by end-users, not administrators, but this is something that is still regrettably not addressed by developers. End-users often have a poor level of technical literacy, and very few are prepared to wade through tiered menu levels following obscure technobabble. They just want to create an e-mail account. Why can’t they just log in and get presented with an Add E-mail Account link?
At Calzada, we are determined to make life simpler for our hosting customers, and admittedly, ourselves. A good HCP will not only make life easier for our customers, but potentially reduce the number of control panel related support queries. Therefore, the choice of hosting control panel was critical. I also have to admit that price is also a controlling factor. We are a small company, and cannot realistically justify some of the prices being charged for the likes of Plesk and cPanel/WHM.
Unlike in *nix world, open source Windows HCPs are a rarity. The only real choices are zPanel or WebsitePanel. After some testing, we opted for the latter as WebsitePanel supported a wider variety of applications than zPanel, and did appear to be more mature.
WebsitePanel is not perfect and there is undoubtedly room for improvement in some areas. We have experienced a number of glitches that have required workarounds – more posts to come on these – but the overall experience has been fairly good. The installation program worked like a dream and was noticeably quicker than some of its’ commercial competitors. I have to admit to warming to WebsitePanel; it does what it is expected to do and it is fairly easy to use for both administrative and end-user purposes.