cPanel vs DirectAdmin in 2020


Moon Web Hosting

It’s time for a fresh review of cPanel & WHM vs DirectAdmin.

In late 2019 cPanel shocked the hosting industry by raising it’s prices increasing licensing costs for many hosting providers over 1000%. This caused out-rage on Twitter and popular web hosting forums such as Web Hosting Talk. This turned the hosting industry from ridiculously profitable to not so profitable anymore.

You can read more about this change at theregister.co.uk. It’s safe to say the go-to control panel is not so popular anymore. Most cPanel customers swiftly started deploying new servers with DirectAdmin and moving customers across as quickly as possible as cPanel only gave 3 months before the price increase was to take effect.

You can find more tweets like this here.

DirectAdmin

DirectAdmin had deployed it’s first release back in 2003 and has been rising through the ranks ever since. Originally their graphical user interface (GUI) for the User, Reseller and Server Admin did not look as appealing as cPanels but looking at their control panel now definitely gives cPanel a good run for it’s money.

A first glance at the GUI feels like heaven, DirectAdmin feels less stressful with the overwhelming features that cPanel has to offer. It’s all tucked away nicely in a drop down menu. The same GUI format is used for the User, Reseller and Server Admin. It feels refreshingly simple.

Click here to see a demo of DirectAdmin

DirectAdmin does appear to have less features than cPanel but at the same time provides all the functionality you would ever need as a User, Reseller or Server Admin to successful manage websites.

DirectAdmin has also been fair on the prices. As of this article for a full DirectAdmin License (Standard) it’s $29 despite the influx of users coming across from cPanel. They have removed the “Owned” licenses and proceeded with the subscription model. We praise them for this as a “one-time” fee can only sell so many times. In order for the company to progress they do need a monthly income.

Just like cPanel, DirectAdmin supports CloudLinux starting from $10 a month which aint bad at all. Both DirectAdmin and cPanel offers the ability for you to resell their licenses to end users.

Nginx is becoming more and more popular due to the performance gains the web server has to offer but surprisingly cPanel is not yet offering this out the box. DirectAdmin does. According to cPanel “Nginx is experimental.” and requires additional work to get it going.

Overall DirectAdmin deserves second place in the choice of Control Panels. It’s simple enough to use and has an excellent GUI but you feel like it’s not as advanced as cPanel. It looks the part but it doesn’t give you the feeling cPanel does.

See full features list of DirectAdmin here.

cPanel & WHM

cPanel launched it’s initial release back in March 1996 (23 years ago). If you had web hosting the chances are you remember the old-style Retro X3 control panel which was soon replaced with “Paper Lantern” and it looked awesome.

cPanel uses 2 types of interface; One for the User (cPanel) and one for the Reseller and Server Admin (WHM). The User area uses the paper lantern theme which is packed full of exciting features that any website owner could ever want. It looks professional and gives you a sense of full control unlike DirectAdmin.

If you are a server admin then you know the feeling of logging in and scrolling down to try and find the feature your looking for. It’s force of habit even though a search bar is at the top.

Take a look at the cPanel Demo here.

WHM allows both the Reseller and Server Admin to take control and manage the server and clients. cPanel offers a separate interface for this and just like the Users control panel WHM is packed full of features which makes the ServerAdmin reignite the enthusiasm for web hosting. It feels “right” as it should be; Reliable and secure. (Not saying DirectAdmin isn’t) but you do get a sense of trust.

Both cPanel & WHM and DirectAdmin both have the capability to run a web hosting company yet end Users, Server Admins and Resellers trust and prefer cPanel WHM.

Take a look at the WHM demo here.

It’s no secret that cPanel has overwelming more features than DirectAdmin and due to the years of trust with cPanel it’s hard for users to let go regardless of the new pricing structure.

cPanel used to be around $45 for the full license which meant you could create unlimited accounts and up sell reseller accounts which was very profitable for the web hosting industry. The new pricing is $45 for just 100 accounts and then $0.20 for every new account after that. This includes if a reseller creates an account for their client. An account allocates a slot regardless of who created it.

cPanel Partners get a discount and if you become cPanel Qualified you get an extra 2% discount. To become a cPanel Partner you need to pay a joining fee which as of this article is currently being waved. Once you have joined you then have to pay a monthly fee of $500 to keep the benefits of Partner which don’t seem to be much of a benefit at all.

Click here to see the cPanel Licensing Guide.

This new pricing structure has badly impacted small to medium businesses and would have definitely pinched a few large hosts in terms of profit. It seems like a greedy move on behalf of cPanel and not a very popular one according to Trust Pilot.

They would have lost a substantial amount of customers doing this with no doubt and the ones who stay are the ones that will be paying the new price. cPanel has not budged on their new pricing structure despite the backlash from customers. It’s a real shame that they had everything going and they ruined it by doing this.

Overall if you ignore the new pricing structure cPanel is still the best when it comes to web hosting control panels. It can not be beaten in terms of features and quality as of this date.