cPanel Licensing Changes, Introduction of Server Profiles, and Alternatives for Hosting Providers

Scott Claeys
Jul 13 · 2 min read
DirectAdmin is one of several alternatives to cPanel for web hosting control panel sofware.

One of the last qualities cPanel has over some other competitors is the DNSOnly and DNS clustering feature, which previously was free to install (the logic being that one would require at least one cPanel licensed server to operate the cluster). Sadly, it seems they are now planning to assign license keys to these installs-and only one reason for establishing a licensing database of DNS only servers comes to mind, which is that they intend to charge for these as well.

WHM admins will notice that new installations have included the experimental Server Profiles (accessible via WHM at Home -> Server Configuration -> Server Profiles). Server Profiles sets the precedent that cPanel servers offer best performance if the server is actually comprised of at least 4 different servers.

5 Servers to Equal 1 cPanel

  • 1x Standard Node — Web Server/File Storage
  • 1x Database Node
  • 2x DNS Nodes
  • 1x Mail Node

Very quickly, cPanel has arranged for each $45 server license (unlimited max users per license), to be priced per user/per server/per month and seems positioned to recommend that you now use 5+ licenses instead of the old-fashioned single-license model. Many administrators of Small-Mid size hosting providers are simply reliant upon each physical server (and thus, one license) to carry out the full duties of all 4 components.

They seem to be very confident in their market position, as they move from having the highest license costs (vs. DirectAdmin, Plesk, ISPManager, InterWorx, etc.) to a per-user pricing model with the potential for roping longtime clients into potential multipliers (by way of Server Profile Licenses).

This being said, the market is not monopolized by any stretch of the imagination…It is estimated that cPanel has 50–60% market share amongst commercial web hosting management panel softwares and Plesk has seen a resurgence of interest after recent service enhancements (Onyx) and change of ownership (from Odin). Sadly, the same group which acquired Plesk recently acquired SolusVM (from OnApp), WHMCS, and cPanel themselves, as they aim for complete market dominance.

DirectAdmin is owned by the private JBMC Software and has been for the entirety of its existence. They maintain a loyal client-base across all major continents. A notable difference between DirectAdmin and cPanel is the speed at which they release updates. While cPanel releases (and accompanying security patches) are a daily occurrence, DirectAdmin is slower to release new updates, but very seldom requires emergency patches for previously-released “Current” or “Release” branches.

DirectAdmin (as of this post) still offers Lifetime Licensing, where users can pay an upfront cost for the software license and avoid any recurring charges for use, aside from maintenance fee for updates. This contrasts very favorably, from an accounting perspective, to cPanel’s new pricing scheme for web hosting providers.

Scott Claeys

Written by

Founder/Operations Manager @RadWebHosting Here’s my less serious work: https://claeys.co

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