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What is DirectAdmin?

DirectAdmin Dashboard
(Image credit: JBMC Software)

What do you typically need when starting a new online project? A great idea, a clever domain name, a powerful hosting server, and an intuitive platform to manage them all. 

Today, we will be talking about the latter.

The hosting control panel market has long been dominated by cPanel and its incredible versatility. But as the management changed, so did the prices for the product, and not for the better too. Hosting providers suffered heavy hits overnight, with some companies seeing hundreds, even thousands of percent increase.

Regardless of cPanel's many benefits, it seemed the time had come for more affordable alternatives.

It was time for DirectAdmin to shine!

Website

(Image credit: JBMC Software)

What is DirectAdmin?

DirectAdmin has been out there since 2003, operating under a proprietary license from JBMC Software. The control panel was developed to ease the everyday tasks of webmasters, especially those with little to no previous experience. 

Similar to cPanel, DirectAdmin can run perfectly under Linux and its major distributions - CloudLinux, CentOS, Ubuntu, Debian, Red Hat, and more. Windows-based operating systems are not supported.

This affordable control panel solution is relatively easy on your server when it comes to its system requirements. DirectAdmin only needs:

Processor: 500 MHz 

RAM: at least 1 GB 

Disk Space: 2 GB

We can easily conclude the platform is simple and lightweight but is that enough to replace the benefits of cPanel or even Plesk?

Benefits of DirectAdmin

Under the hood, DirectAdmin has a few notable characteristics that can surely wow potential customers. While not unique per se, those are areas where DA greatly excels and improves with each new version:

Amazing Graphics Interface (GUI) - if you're looking for simplicity - DirectAdmin is definitely the right pick. Instead of an overwhelming number of sections and options, all your features are stacked under three main branches - Account Manager, Email Manager, and Additional Features. The feats are clearly visible, and most of them are self-explanatory even before you click them.

Affordable Subscription Plans - the reasonable pricing is what still keeps DirectAdmin competitive in a market where much more complete solutions exist. CPanel's prices are already off the roof, and Plesk isn't far behind. Compared to that, DirectAdmin offers a free trial account, as well as three premium options, starting from just $2/mo.

Integrated Ticketing Support - apart from your hosting provider's support, you can also get direct assistance from the DirectAdmin technicians. Users on the Lite and Standard plans can benefit from an integrated ticketing system inside the control panel. This way, if there is something wrong with DirectAdmin and its operations - you can get help straight from the source.

Automatic Crash Recovery - another great thing that DirectAdmin watches over is the stability of your services. Should something unexpectedly go down, DA will first try to restart the service to see if this will fix the issue. If that doesn't work - the system will send an emergency notification to the webmaster, helping them deal with the problem in due time. 

Control Panel

(Image credit: JBMC Software)

DirectAdmin main features

To keep everything simple for the end user, DirectAdmin developers keep the range of features rather on the low side. Still, the platform offers all essential options for webmasters, developers, and resellers to easily manage a VPS or dedicated server. These include:

Account Manager - this is the section with your most important hosting functionalities. You can manage FTP accounts, MySQL databases, and SSL certificates from this area. Your domain operations are included as well, giving you options to deal with subdomains, DNS zones, and site redirections.

Email Manager - everything related to the business communication with your domain name. Apart from the email accounts, you will find options for autoresponders and vacation messages. Email Manager also contains extensive settings for email filtering, and the partnership with SpamAssassin will ensure no spam can breach your inboxes.

Additional Features - most of the features inside are better suited for advanced users, but it's worth digging into a few of them. For example, two-factor authentication can greatly increase your defenses against outside breaches. Cron Jobs can help you automate some of your hosting tasks. The account backup options are also here, and that's definitely something you should keep an eye on. 

You see, not every control panel on the market has to be stuffed with features. Sometimes going the simple route is better, and DirectAdmin gives you more than enough to operate a hosting account efficiently.

Pricing

(Image credit: JBMC Software)

DirectAdmin pricing

If you're unsure if DirectAdmin should be your weapon of choice, there is a risk-free way to gain more insights into the platform without paying a dime. The Free Trial option is valid for 60 days and includes all DirectAdmin features and any updates in this period.

After the trial period is over and you want to continue with this panel, there are three plans to choose from:

  • Personal - from $2/mo - 1 account, up to 10 domains, community support
  • Lite - from $15/mo - 10 accounts, up to 50 domains, developer support
  • Standard - from $29/mo - unlimited accounts and domains, developer support

The best thing with all accounts is they offer one-of-a-kind protection against price increases. While that doesn't cover external factors like global recession or extraordinary world events, you will be safe against policy changes like cPanel's recent price hikes.

cPanel

(Image credit: Marco Verch / Flickr)

DirectAdmin alternatives

When it comes to web hosting management panels, DirectAdmin is not a fit-all solution.  In fact, none of the available options really are. Users may have completely different needs, and this makes one platform more suitable than others. It's always good to know what else the market has to offer.

  • cPanel - trusting cPanel for your hosting account management is an easy choice. The product has long proven its versatility and reliability, powering most of the shared servers in the industry. The only problem with cPanel is the shocking price raises, a policy that can easily continue in the future. 
  • Plesk - one of the few control panels on the market that supports Windows OS servers. The market leader for websites with known platforms, Plesk is an often preferred solution for VPS clients and dedicated server users. A mobile-friendly app to administer the panel from all kinds of devices.
  • SPanel - a free cPanel solution created by ScalaHosting for its VPS hosting users. This control panel is in active development, and developers often add community-proposed features. Comes with proprietary modules for security (SShield), WP automation (SWordPress Manager), and backups.

Here to stay

Powering websites in 130 countries and adding over 1,400 changes since its inception, it surely seems that DirectAdmin is here to stay. Betting hard on usability and intuitive controls, the control panel is well suited for beginners who don't need any fancy tools or complex options they will never use. 

Should the market lean toward more affordability, or the R&D departments should focus on constant innovations? Why not both, though?

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology in a career spanning four decades. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.