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Neil Cresswell, CEOMay 16, 20245 min read

Portainer CE vs Portainer BE – What’s the Difference?

Portainer exists in two different editions - our free and open source Community Edition (CE), and our premium offering: Business Edition (BE). In this article we'll cover some of the key capabilities that Business Edition provides over Community Edition.

Designed to provide a simple introduction to the complexity of container technology, the Community Edition is where a lot of users begin their Portainer journey - and is also where Portainer's own journey began. But container technology has since evolved beyond those early days. Companies from the smallest businesses to the largest enterprise corporations, government departments and other organizations have adopted containers, and have a need for a way to manage their containerized infrastructure and deployments efficiently and securely. Their needs are different to individual users and organizations that are learning about containers, and this is where the Business Edition comes in.

Portainer Business Edition focuses on adding functionality to the Community Edition that is specifically targeted at the needs of businesses and enterprises.

Role-based access control

A key difference between many individual and enterprise setups is the number of users that will be interacting with your environments. When using containerization in a business context you may have many different kinds of users that require varying levels of access, and simply giving everyone administrative rights isn't acceptable from a security standpoint. Portainer Business Edition extends CE's user system to implement role-based access control (RBAC), letting you define what users and teams can or cannot do on your environments and with the resources on those environments.


Use your existing authentication systems

Many businesses will already have an existing authentication system they use to manage their users, and Portainer can integrate with these systems to provide a centralized user management system. While this is possible in the Community Edition as well, Portainer Business Edition extends the CE functionality to include Active Directory support, as well as adding templates to the LDAP and OAuth options for popular authentication providers to accelerate the setup and management of the provider integration. With configurable automatic user provisioning and group-to-team matching, combined with our RBAC functionality, ensuring your users have the access they need is radically simplified.


Automate your deployments

To ensure consistency and reliability when deploying workloads on containerized environments, automating your deployments is often the best bet. Portainer Business Edition extends the basic functionality that CE provides, leveraging the GitOps approach to allow for automatic updates of your applications as your team pushes new code, either by checking periodically for updates or through the use of webhooks that can be triggered by your CI/CD pipelines. Admins can configure change windows to define when these automatic updates are allowed to occur, and developers can take advantage of relative path support and Git credential storage to make those deployments run more smoothly.


A single tool for your containerization infrastructure

Portainer provides the ability to manage multiple environments from a single interface, whether they be Docker Standalone, Docker Swarm or Kubernetes, large or small, local or remote. Not only that, but Portainer Business Edition also lets you manage your container registries rather than needing to switch out to a separate tool to do so. In addition, we've added notification indicators to your containers to indicate when new image versions are available, so you can keep a close eye on when you need to update your deployments without having to check another system.


Powerful Kubernetes support

Kubernetes environments can be significantly more complex to deploy and manage than other orchestrators like Docker Swarm. Portainer helps you to make Kubernetes management easier, and the Business Edition extends the base Kubernetes functionality available in CE to focus on the particular needs of business workloads. From Portainer Business Edition you can provision new Kubernetes clusters on a number of cloud providers, including Civo, Linode, DigitalOcean, Google Cloud, AWS and Azure, with just a few clicks. For those with their own infrastructure, BE can even install MicroK8s on bare metal or virtual servers for you, with the configuration and addons you need, right from the Portainer UI. If you have existing Kubernetes environments you want to manage with Portainer, the Business Edition accelerates the process by allowing the import of kubeconfig files to add environments.


Once you're up and running with Kubernetes, Portainer Business Edition lets you manage the essential configuration settings you'll need for an enterprise-grade Kubernetes environment. Resource quotas, quota enforcement and resource overcommitment can all be configured, and securing your clusters and workloads can be achieved by pod security constraints. From a deployment perspective, Portainer BE lets you restrict how your users can deploy applications to a code-based approach only, and BE also supports rolling restarts of your Kubernetes applications to reduce the amount of downtime your users will experience when updates are required.

Audit and track activity and changes

Enterprise users often have compliancy and certification requirements around the environments they run and the tooling they use, and as such need to be able to closely monitor what is going on within them. In Portainer Business Edition we provide authentication and activity logs that are viewable by administrator users within the Portainer UI, so you can see who has logged on when and what actions they have performed. We also support the exporting of these authentication and activity logs to an external log aggregator via the Syslog protocol for those that need to centralize their logging systems.


World-class support

Along with the additional capabilities and functionality that Portainer Business Edition provides over the Community Edition, our experienced and talented team can also provide support for your Portainer configuration as required. With SLAs including 9x5 and 24x7 support options available, Business Edition customers can feel confident that if they do run into issues or just need clarification on how to best use Portainer with their environments, we're an email or message away.


With our Business Edition we've tried to focus on functionality that is specific to businesses and enterprises wanting to manage their containerized environments. The Community Edition and our community of open source users are still of crucial importance to us and we're grateful for the support and feedback our users provide daily. Our heart remains very true to our open source roots, and we will continue to invest in both the Community Edition and Business Edition in the future.


For a full list of all the features and functionality in Portainer Community Edition as well as Portainer Business Edition, visit our Portainer Features page


Try Portainer with 3 Nodes Free

If you're ready to get started with Portainer Business, 3 nodes free is a great place to begin. If you'd prefer to get in touch with us, we'd love to hear from you!



Neil Cresswell, CEO

Neil brings more than twenty years’ experience in advanced technology including virtualization, storage and containerization.


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