Thursday, 18 July 2019 03:35

Direct Admin v cPanel

Like most, I recently heard that cPanel has announced substantial price hikes. Many out there are now contemplating Direct Admin as an alternative. I have been running Direct Admin for the last two years and can give a little bit of insight into it.

Going back to the beginning, I was a cPanel user up until 2017. I changed to Direct Admin because I didn't like it when cPanel went all Boeing 737 Max on me and started making changes to things without my permission. I found cPanel putting things at the bottom of my htaccess files. It was forcing let's encrypt onto certain sites. I didn't want to use a service that was going all Nazi on me, so I changed to Direct Admin. I should add that Cpanel has since stopped a lot, if not all of this auto takeover nonsense.

Direct Admin is quite the opposite; it runs in the background, doesn't want to get involved in things, and uses fewer resources compared to cPanel.

Direct Admin is ok, but I wouldn't recommend it for the average person. The learning curve is steeper than cPanel, and mistakes aren't always apparent. For example, I had sites like NoCreditCheckLoans.co.uk that would dip in rankings. Then on checking my Google webmaster tools I would find that it started listing pages from another website on the server. This happened to a number of my sites.

The only thing I can think of is that there was an SSL issue and it diverted the site to another on that IP. I never really got to the bottom of it and I don't know how long it was doing it. It's things like that which you have to keep an eye on. 

Other problems you need to consider are:

Backups are done per reseller and not per site. If you have a reseller that has five sites, they can't run a backup or a restore per site. This makes it a pain if one site is newer than the others on that account.

Resellers accounts can't share IPs, they can only share the main server account's IP. 

OSCP Stapling is a pain in the backside to get going with limited documentation available. 

As for speeds, Cpanel is much faster in my opinion. Sure it uses more resources, but the speeds I found on cPanel were much quicker than what I could achieve for sites on DA. Now people will say that I didn't have DA set up correctly, and they may have a point, but after two years of learning DA, I should have been able to nail down DA.

On the positive, DA will leave you alone. It won't interfere with what you are doing. It is cheaper, you can buy a lifetime license for around £200. If you want to study it and find out what makes it tick, I dare say it is a better platform. It's just that for the average user, they really need more on and off switches for services in the control panel rather than running instructions through command line. Things like allowing "OSCP stapling" to be activated or deactivated by the graphical control panel rather than everyone searching forums to learn how to turn it on would provide a better user experience. 

In the end, though, I have just gone back and moved my servers back to cPanel. I have to be pragmatic, $20 - $30 extra a month isn't anything in the grand scheme of things and while I dislike the principle of the price hikes. They don't matter in the long run for those running a small number of sites of below 50 or so. 

My advice, bite the bullet for the time being and stay on cPanel until something else comes along that is stable. It's worth remembering that there are other platforms on their way, with others maturing all of the time. Give it at least 6-12 months before moving.

If you want to try DA, DirectAdmin do have free trials if you email them and ask.