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Cpanel vs DirectAdmin

I have been getting quite a few questions of late relating to DirectAdmin, mostly ‘what is it?’ and ‘can you give me cPanel instead?’. I totally get it cPanel has been around for so long and is so familiar to anyone who uses web hosting that it is difficult to use something else.

So in order to clarify the differences and hopefully put some minds at ease, I thought a bit of information was in order.

The Background

Both Cpanel and DirectAdmin have been around for a long time. cPanel arrived in 1996 and DirectAdmin in 2003. Think of it as a bit like the days when Facebook and MySpace were around at the same time. Eventually, people favoured Facebook which pushed out MySpace and it shutdown. Same sort of thing here, cPanel became the number one panel for hosting, everyone used it. The result is that everyone was familiar with it and any other panel was of little interest. DirectAdmin survived but on a much smaller scale.

When you have software that dominates a market, makes it easy to move your websites between different providers and offers a lot of added extras through plugins to provide even more functionality it is going to win overall.

But, in 2019 cPanel decided to change their pricing. It was controversial. For $45 per month, you could install cPanel on a server and offer it to as many customers as you wanted, with no limits. The change in pricing structure meant that you still had to $45 which covered the 1st 100 accounts created but there was then a cost for every account created after that.

For very small providers it had less of an impact, but for others, it meant increases of thousands, and for larger providers, it would result in hundreds of thousands extra each year.

So the options were, pay more without increasing prices to the customer, charge more or look for another panel. Many decided to look for another panel as there was a concern there would be more increases to the cost of cPanel. With that, it was announced that from January 2021 the price would indeed increase once more.

Services like this one that charges nothing simply could not reasonable absorb the extra costs.

Why DirectAdmin

Most providers looked to DirectAdmin as an alternative as it’s a panel that offers most of what cPanel does, just looks different and for most that used to cPanel, it feels different. Due to the changes with cPanel pricing, they have put a lot of effort into making the panel better and expanding its functionality. Now that they have significantly higher revenue (I am assuming) it puts them in a good place to develop the panel more.

That is not to say there are no differences. cPanel has had a lot of years at the top with significant financial backing compared to DirectAdmin. But I would say that 90% of the key features you want from a hosting panel are available in both.

Email, File manager, script installers, backups, DNS records and so on, they exist in both. Ultimately the only way you are going to know is to try DirectAdmin. I have come across a handful of users on this service that could not find everything they needed in DirectAdmin.

There are other panels out there but when you are looking for a solid developer, committed, security conscious and so on. DirectAdmin really is the only current option.

What if I still want cPanel

Since I have reduced the service offering from a wider global audience down to the UK only I am looking at bringing cPanel back in a more significant way. No matter how much I can try and talk you into DirectAdmin I would be lying if I said I preferred it over cPanel 🙂

As a hosting provider of 20 years who has always used cPanel, it is just as hard for me to shake them loose!

In the meantime all I would say is give DirectAdmin a chance, the control panel does not make your website, you do. It should not be something you need to access constantly to get things done other than the initial setup.

At present, I am using dedicated servers to provide DirectAdmin, I would not be able to do that with cPanel. It all comes down to the cost of providing that service. For example, I get DirectAdmin licences free. For cPanel, let’s assume I put 500 accounts on a server. With the most recent price increase that would be $48.50 for the base licence with 100 accounts included and another $120 for the other 400 accounts. So $168.50 each month just for the control panel. Not a cost a free service is going to support.

Some providers have managed to offer decent pricing but it is still very restrictive as they place a limit on the number of users accounts that can be created. An example would be $25 per month and you can create 75 accounts. Still expensive.

For now, all I can say is that I am looking at options but right now and for the foreseeable, our future lies with DirectAdmin. It is the sensible path to ensure I can continue to offer this service.