Image: iStockphoto/oatawa

When CentOS decided to dive into the stream, it left a lot of people in the lurch; specifically, those who depend on the web hosting cPanel tool. With the cPanel developers quickly announcing they’d not support CentOS Stream, all bets were off and current users were placed in a bit of a panic. Beyond the rise of CentOS forks, the developers of cPanel announced they were working on a version of their de facto standard tool for Ubuntu Server, to be released sometime this year.

What about the here and now?

There are plenty of alternative routes to take. One such route is aaPanel, which is a free, open source tool that has been deployed to over 3 million servers worldwide. aaPanel allows admins to manage the likes of:

  • Websites

  • Databases

  • FTP

  • Docker containers

  • Python projects

  • Cron

  • Server security

  • Google Cloud and AWS integration

  • Mail server

  • Plugin system to extend features

Although aaPanel might not be an exact drop-in replacement for cPanel, it is certainly a worthy contender as an interim tool.

Let’s get it installed and see what it has to offer.

What you’ll need

aaPanel can be installed on CentOS or Ubuntu Server. I’m going to deploy the platform on Ubuntu Server, but the installation process should work on most CentOS forks, such as AlmaLinux. You’ll also need a user with sudo privileges.

How to install aaPanel

Installing aaPanel is quite easy. In fact, the process is the same, regardless if you’re using Ubuntu or a CentOS fork. To install aaPanel, log in to your server and issue the command:

wget -O && sudo bash

After kicking off the installation, you’ll be asked if you want to install in the document root, /var/www. Type y and the installation will begin. This process will take between 10 and 15 minutes and has no further interaction.

Once the install completes, you will be presented with the internal address, the external address, the admin username and the password (Figure A).

Figure A

The aaPanel installation is complete.

Log in to aaPanel (using the provided address/credentials) and you’ll be greeted by an installer, where you can choose between a LNMP (NGINX) or LAMP (Apache) stack. aaPanel recommends the NGINX route, so click One-Click under LNMP (Figure B).

Figure B

Installing the LNMP stack for aaPanel.

This installation might take some time to complete (up to 30 or 90 minutes), so go about other admin duties while it finishes up. Although you’ve selected the Fast method of installation, it’s anything but. In fact, you can rest assured that installation will lean far more toward the 90-minute mark than the 30, so do something else, besides watching the installer text fly by.

Once the LNMP stack is installed, you can then dive in to the offered features (Figure C).

Figure C

The aaPanel monitoring dashboard gives you real-time updates on system performance.

Is this a drop-in replacement for cPanel?

In a word: no. In fact, aaPanel is a far cry from cPanel. If all you need is a web hosting control panel–with the ability to deploy websites that depend on databases, FTP, Docker, and Python–this platform might be exactly what you want. Because aaPanel is one of the most user-friendly control panels on the market, you might find it a more efficient (albeit limited) option than cPanel. With just a couple of clicks, you can deploy either an NGINX- or Apache-based, database-driven website (Figure D).

Figure D

Creating a new website with aaPanel is quite simple.

If you find the website management side of things lacking, you can always install the Docker manager plugin, which is actually quite good but does require you to manually integrate into the dashboard (we’ll address this another time).

Note: Some of the plugins (such as fail2ban) are installed quickly, while others (such as Docker) are compiled from source and can take some time to complete.

Although aaPanel can take considerable time to get up and running, I do recommend you give it a try. If you’re looking for an interim solution (until cPanel comes to Ubuntu Server, AlmaLinux, or Rocky Linux), you could certainly do worse.

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