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InterWorx vs cPanel

We often get asked which control panel goes best with our VPSes and dedicated servers.  It’s not an easy question to answer, since they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  So we’re going to take a look at some of the differences between cPanel — arguably the most popular panel we sell — and InterWorx.  Instead of focusing on the technical merits of each, I’m going to break the differences down into plain English, and explain what “real world” impact they’ll have on you.

interworx logon

InterWorx is a modern control panel that’s produced right here in Pennsylvania — Pittsburgh, to be exact.  InterWorx provides a clean, responsive interface that … well, makes sense. It sounds crazy, but everything is exactly where you think it should be. InterWorx also has a few neat tricks up its sleeve like built-in clustering and the best password generator we’ve ever seen.  cPanel is arguably the industry standard control panel (in fact, we use it on all our shared hosting and reseller accounts), and it’s earned that title over the years.  But as more and more people start to discover InterWorx, and as the way we interact with websites keeps evolving, all that may be changing.

InterWorx consists of two components called NodeWorx and SiteWorx.  If you’re familiar with cPanel, then think of NodeWorx as the WHM side, and SiteWorx as the cPanel side.  This isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s close.  Throughout this article we’ll use InterWorx to describe them both.

siteworxA picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s what InterWorx looks like.  See how clean the layout is?  Because it’s a responsive design, it looks this good whether you’re on a desktop or a mobile device.  Nothing beats being able to add a MySQL database or update an email account on your smartphone (and if you’re a sysadmin, it’s only a matter of time until this happens to you).

siteworx domain pointer setup Let’s talk about that interface for a second.  One of the biggest complaints we hear about cPanel involves how confusing some of the icons are.  For example, in cPanel, if you want to set up ExampleA.com to point at ExampleB.com, is that an add-on domain or a parked domain?  You might not know that the answer is “parked” because it’s not intuitive.  So what do they call it in InterWorx?  Just a “pointer”.  Simple.

siteworx sslSSL certificates are probably the second biggest source of help requests for our VPS clients.  Unless you deal with them every day, installing a certificate can feel overwhelming.  InterWorx snaps the process down into a simple four-step procedure, and guides you every step of the way.  It generates the key with one click, then generates a CSR with another click, then imports the SSL with a third click (you’ll need to paste the certificate file of course), then installs it with a fourth.  While these are the same procedures used by cPanel, InterWorx does a much better job at laying them out in four intuitive steps.  It’s this “simple and straightforward” mentality that makes us love InterWorx’s interface.  Whenever you need something, you can quickly and easily find it.

Speaking of easily finding things, let’s talk about backups.  You can never have enough backups.  Both cPanel and InterWorx make on-demand backups pretty easy, but the automated backups get a little harder to compare.

WHM backupWe have a love/hate relationship with cPanel’s automated backup in WHM.  It works, but it’s goofy.  We had to make a lot of tweaks and enlist the help of cPanel’s support team in order to get it behaving the way we wanted.  In this regard it’s a lot like driving around in a 2004 Honda Civic: it’s reliable and it gets the job done, but it’s not much to look at and every once in a while it makes a weird gurgling noise.  WHM’s backup system has more options than its counterpart in InterWorx (so many that we can’t fit them all in a single screenshot), but this is a mixed blessing.  The added flexibility means added complexity, and makes what should be a very simple process into a fragile system that works … for now.

siteworx backupsAs you can see, the InterWorx scheduled backup interface is simple.  You enter the requested information, set your time, and off you go.  Done.  Life goes on.  Although InterWorx lacks some of WHM’s tweaks (such as setting compression or omitting logfiles), we feel these minor nuances are outweighed by how simple the InterWorx process is.  And let’s face it: your average user doesn’t care whether or not logfiles are included.  As far as we’re concerned, anything that helps users make more backups of their content is a great thing, even if it means stripping out some functionality.

InterWorx’s simple interface extends beyond backups and databases; it’s prevalent throughout the entire panel.  Everything you need to use is where you need it.  It sounds crazy, but everything just makes sense.  Feel free to take a spin in their live demo and you’ll see exactly what we’re talking about.  InterWorx, quite simply, fits like a glove.

There are a lot of little “behind the scenes” things pulling in InterWorx’s favor.  The installation, for example, takes far less time than cPanel.  InterWorx’s password generator is one of the best we’ve ever seen.  InterWorx has a built-in nearly-automated clustering configuration (though it isn’t a true high-availability cluster).  But cPanel has no shortage of pros, even if some of them are a little unorthodox (many of cPanel’s quirks are well-known and workarounds are widely available).  So at the end of the day, the question is simple:

siteworx add database

Which is better:  InterWorx or cPanel?

Both panels have their strengths and weaknesses.  There’s no question that cPanel dominates InterWorx in market share.  While popularity isn’t everything, let’s not discount that entirely:  being wildly popular means cPanel is backed by massive amounts of community support.  That means that when you run into one of its many quirks, you’ve got free support from forum users all over the world.  And it’s not just about market share.  cPanel is very good at what it does.  It’s comprehensive, full-featured, and durable.  It has its quirks, but they aren’t hard to work around.

But do you know what else was wildly popular, full-featured, good at what it did, and a little bit quirky?  MS-DOS.

InterWorx is also very good at what it does.  It’s also comprehensive, full-featured, and reliable.  Its quirks are far fewer than cPanel’s, but they do exist.  InterWorx comes with a built-in cPanel importer that does a good job at pulling content from cPanel servers.  And although the support isn’t nearly as widespread, it does exist, and is always available directly from them.

So calling one “better” is tough.  They’re so close that it’s almost entirely subjective.  For some, cPanel is better because they know how to use it.  For others, InterWorx is better because they want a modern interface.  Neither one is a bad choice.  You might as well be weighing the merits of Apple versus Android.  There is no clear winner here; which works best for you depends entirely on your own needs and experience.  So the closest we can come to an answer is this:

If we were starting over today, we’d choose InterWorx for our shared hosting environment instead of cPanel.

InterWorx is available with every dedicated server and VPS with at least 1 GB of memory that we offer.  If you’re interested in buying a license for use outside of our servers, go see our friends at LicenseCart.  They have the best InterWorx pricing we’ve seen, and they’ll match any offer you come across.  We use them for our own license purchasing and their service is off the charts.  Be sure to tell them we sent you!

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