By just about every measure, cPanel is the #1 web hosting control panel. In the web hosting world, though, that typically means that there are a gaggle of alternatives that are 2nd best and trying harder. While not all of them have gained a strong footing among web hosts, one that is climbing the ranks is DirectAdmin.
The first complete version of DirectAdmin was released on Mar 1, 2003. Reviews of some of its earliest versions circa 2005-6 weren’t so hot. Lately, however, it’s been gaining traction, as evidenced by the active user support forum for it, and the increasing number of hosts offering it alongside of cPanel. In fact, vpsLink, HostPC and SiteValley includes this control panel among their standard hosting options.
So what is the main drawing point for DirectAdmin?
Simple: It’s simple.
DirectAdmin’s main draw is how light it is as a software package. “Light” means a lot of good things for the user.
First, it means that it is fast to operate, not having cPanel’s heavy overhead. This is especially critical on shared hosting services, since it might be several dozen users at once using these. That kind of processing can add up fast if not done right. Second, it means that it is easy to use and navigate through. Its interface is also very similar to cPanel, so users crossing over won’t spend a lot of time re-educating themselves.
Third, being a lightweight package means that it is far more reliable and doesn’t crash nearly as much. When it does crash, the recovery is comparatively pretty quick and clean. Finally, being a smaller package means that it’s also a cheaper package, resulting in lower price passed on to you, the end user. A number of free web hosts use DirectAdmin for this reason.
Simple isn’t all good … is it?
The downside of this easier approach means that DirectAdmin doesn’t quite have the full rainbow of options that cPanel has.
Or does it? In multiple reviews online comparing cPanel to DirectAdmin I found users talking about the advanced administrator tasks that you can only do in cPanel. However, when pressed to name what those tasks were, I did not see a single specific one listed.
This doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. With a package as established and worked over as cPanel, its probably a sure thing that there are some cPanel wizard tricks that you cannot do, or do easily with DirectAdmin. On top of that, even if there isn’t that much in direct functionality that’s different, cPanel has a larger set of tutorials, FAQs, and current users ready to share their knowledge of the product.
Less popular because it’s less popular?
One web site suggests that the preference towards cPanel in the hosting world might be little more than momentum. If that’s true, then considering the fact that DirectAdmin is also largely considered to be the more secure of the two control panels (again, for reasons of programming simplicity), this might not be the case forever.
Whatever the reason, DirectAdmin is clearly rising in the web hosting world as a respected control panel package. If your host offers this, you might consider looking into it.