TL; DR: For more than two decades, web hosting companies have turned to cPanel as their go-to choice for budget hosting plans. The user-friendly, intuitive cPanel dashboard allows website owners to easily manage their website and hosting plan for a low monthly cost, baked into the price they pay their hosting provider. But recent changes to cPanel’s pricing model have raised costs for some providers by more than 100%. Now, the industry is bouncing back with cPanel alternatives and an increase in proprietary options to combat industry-wide shifts.
A web hosting control panel is a user-friendly tool that lets website owners efficiently manage their hosting plan and server through an intuitive dashboard. Control panels remove the need for years of IT administration experience and provide a more straightforward way for beginners to accomplish tasks such as domain name management, adding and deleting website files, and upgrading server resources.
Hosting providers typically include the cost of your control panel license in your monthly hosting plan. By far, one of the most popular options over the last couple of decades is cPanel, which offers web hosts and users an inexpensive, easy-to-use interface to make website management easy. But recent changes to cPanel’s pricing model have ruffled feathers in the budget hosting industry, causing hosting providers to seek more affordable options for their customers.
cPanel Announces a Change to Its Pricing Model
After Oakley Capital acquired cPanel in 2018, the organization announced a change to its pricing model that added another layer of billing: users would now have to pay a monthly fee per license instead of per server. This change didn’t make much of an impact on organizations with a small number of users. But for larger organizations operating with dozens, or even hundreds, of licenses, the update caused significant operational disruptions.
“The cPanel price increases have impacted the budget hosting and shared hosting industry the most. The cost of the cPanel license used to be split between users on the same server, but now not only is it charged per individual account, it has been steadily increasing in price. A shared hosting server’s cPanel costs have increased anywhere from 100% to over 1,000%, depending on the number of accounts on it,” says Alvin Poh, CEO of CLDY.
Shared hosting is loved by first-time website owners worldwide because of its low-cost packages. Because many users share the server’s resources, the cost of hosting your website is drastically reduced. These packages are ideal for first-time site owners who don’t expect much traffic. But continual price hikes and pricing model changes threaten the number of hosting plans available for super low prices, meaning there may be fewer shared server options in the future.
The Strain on Shared Hosting Packages
Budget hosting providers are still dealing with the aftermath of cPanel’s pricing model update and changes to its business direction. The company has shifted its focus to offering more paid features and extras instead of including them with each license. Charging for extra features plus cPanel’s yearly price increases are causing many top web hosting providers to look for alternatives.
“Instead of coming up with helpful features for developers, the cPanel Team focused on paid features and extras. While it’s always good to have more feats at your disposal, charging for essential tools like server integrations and app managers just didn’t feel right. Most of their extras could easily be offered free of charge. At the end of the day, the main purpose of any control panel is to provide easy management, and apps are an integral part of that,” says Hristo Rusev, CEO of ScalaHosting.
Inflation has impacted almost every industry over the last several years, and the hosting industry is not immune. But as Hristo told us, the most concerning part of the recent shift is cPanel’s change in business direction. As the dust settles, the industry is working toward new options for control panels.
The Rise of Proprietary Control Panels
It’s no surprise that larger web hosts are developing in-house control panels to offer customers a less expensive option and more included features. ScalaHosting is one of the providers providing its own platform to give customers a user-friendly, intuitive interface for managing their hosting plan and server.
“We started SPanel two to three years before the first cPanel price hike. Our main goal was never the price but to answer the growing market needs. We believe that every successful website needs consistent speed and security, and having your own server is perfect for that,” says Hristo.
Developing a proprietary control panel is no easy task — it’s an ongoing process that involves many steps and people, plus ongoing maintenance and updates. But for a web hosting company, having an in-house control panel offers the ultimate peace of mind and protection from unexpected price hikes.
In addition to proprietary control panels, other web hosting providers are exploring alternative control panels to lower costs. Platforms, including DirectAdmin, InterWorx, and Plesk, are rising in popularity among budget hosting providers who don’t want to increase their prices.
“A lot of shared hosting providers have been forced to increase prices or shift to alternative panels, such as DirectAdmin or InterWorx, simply because the pricing increases make it no longer viable for them to stay with cPanel,” says Alvin.
A Shift in the Future Market
Shared hosting still remains a viable choice for consumers on a budget, but if the industry continues on the path it’s going, we may see a rise in cloud VPS hosting among first-time site owners.
“I expect the main trend in the web hosting industry to be the switch from a shared to a cloud VPS environment. Shared hosting has too many flaws for businesses — insufficient resources, fixed plans, low security. All of that affects your speed and uptime in a negative way,” says Hristo.
A cloud virtual private server starts at a slightly higher price than a shared hosting plan but offers enhanced security and scalability. Though this server type is typically more popular among businesses and experienced website owners, beginners can still enjoy all of the benefits of a cloud VPS package with a quality control panel.
Experts have made it clear that the hosting industry is actively taking action to develop better control panel choices for its consumers. The industry is fueled by innovative companies that want to provide the best user experience and performance possible — and consumers are noticing,
“The change in cPanel’s business model has led to users actively seeking alternatives, and we already see the results — for each 100 server clients, only two to three choose cPanel as a control panel option,” says Hristo.