cPanel price rise – sudden panic

cPanel price rise – sudden panic

Updated: 29/09/2019.

The most widely used web hosting control panel has made a huge price increase practically over night. In this post I’ll write my thoughts on that. What caused this, what is the result of it and what I expect to be the consequences. All the info given is my personal opinion, to the best of my knowledge.

Contents:

  1. Introduction – prequel
  2. What happened with the cPanel prices?
  3. Why is this a logical move?
  4. What are the consequences of cPanel price rise?
    4.1. Consequences of the old cPanel pricing policy
    4.2. Consequences of the new price policy
  5. Solutions
  6. Addition – is the price change ethical?!
  7. Should I leave cPanel, or stick with it?
    7.1. DirectAdmin as a cPanel alternative
    7.2. VestaCP and other alternatives
    7.3. Another thing to consider with a control panel change
    7.4. For those staying with cPanel


1. Introduction – prequel

For those who don’t know, cPanel is a control panel for managing user accounts on web hosting servers.

In time, it has proven to be the least problematic one (the least unreliable to put it that way) of all the available options on the market. It is simple and easy to use – which is also a big plus. Even a pre-requisite for most shared and reseller hosting providers (for details see the post on Types of web hosting) – allowing users to do things on their own easily, cutting down the number of technical support requests (hence service prices too).

cPanel is well integrated with other services that have become the industry norm and a necessity:

  • WHMCS – for management of (hosting) service charging, with excellent automation – practically irreplaceable tool for every hosting provider. cPanel’s founder and up to now owner (John Nick Koston) owns 49% of WHMCS shares from what I could learn. cPanel and WHMCS share their business building for one.
  • CloudLinux – tool for isolation of different user accounts on one server. It enables resource usage limiting and prevention of one compromised account creating problems with all the other accounts on the server. I don’t know of any other solution that is nearly as good – especially for servers with a large number of user accounts (so most shared and reseller hosting servers).
  • JetBackup – tool for creation and restoration of backups. This has become an industry standard. For this there is a better alternative: Acronis – but it is a lot more expensive.

I won’t go on to explain the others, but you get the idea – it’s a stack of various software/services, that works OK together (not always great). No other control panel enables this – not that I know.

There are alternative solutions, BUT it requires for both the hosting providers and the users to get used to them and learn loads of new stuff. Getting the knowledge and experience takes time, which costs money. I’ll use an example of the German city Munich, that, after having made all their systems use Linux, switched back to Windows, because teaching all the administrators and users to use the less “idiot friendly” system turned out too costly (more details: Munich switches back to Windows, from Linux).


2. What happened with the cPanel prices?

Until now, cPanel price policy allowed a hosting provider to pay for a licence on a per-server level. No matter how many user (cPanel) accounts they creat on it.

I’ll use one of my reseller hosting accounts for example. I pay the hosting provider a fixed price, and get to make up to 50 cPanel accounts. This usually costs between 5 to 50 $ per month, depending on other resources. And there are other limits (like storage etc), so I can’t put 50 real websites on that account for that price, not even small ones, but 10 to 20 fits fine, or using all 50 for testing and development. For more details, se Overselling vs Overloading.

What has changed? cPanel now charges a set amount per each cPanel. Even to hosting providers. Which means, if I create 50 cPanel accounts, it will cost the hosting provider around 10$ per month – they will be paying that much extra to cPanel.

Until now, cPanel didn’t get anything extra, if a hosting provider hosted 1000, instead of say 100 accounts on one server.

Current cPanel prices:

PaketAdminProPremier
No of cPanel accounts530100 +
Monthly price20 $30 $45 $
+ 0.2 $ for each additional
cPanel account over 100
Monthly price per
one cPanel account
4 $1 $0.45 $ for 100 cPanel accounts
0.25 $ for 500 cPanel accounts
0.23 $ for 1,000 cPanel accounts
0.21 $ for 2,500 cPanel accounts

Official cPanel new pricing / licensing guide.

Update: 5th July 2019: After a really bad (to put it mildly) feedback, cPanel made a new account based pricing announcement today. It boils down to: a public relations stunt, with many words that don’t really say anything and without giving in to the two biggest problems of the new cPanel pricing policy:

  • Charging per (hosting customer) cPanel account – which adds huge costs on shared hosting environment and is very difficult to keep track of for both customer charging and license expenses.
  • Effective over 1,000 % increase of cPanel license costs for shared and reseller hosting providers.


3. Why is this a logical move?

To get this straight – I don’t like the price increase, not the least.

Company that owns some alternative solutions (SolusVM and Plesk) is called Oakley Capital. Well, they bought cPanel relatively recently. And raised the prices of both Plesk and cPanel. Discussion on that merge was done on WebHostingTalk forum and some members were expecting things to change for the less good and more expensive.

So, cPanel now:

  • Has a very strong, well known brand.
  • Has a huge market share – over 70%.
  • Has a product that is the least bad of all on the market – practically has no competition.

Does Nike sell sneakers at the same price as some no-name Chinese manufacturer? Would that make sense, after decades of investing and developing their brand? Why would cPanel do differently? Capitalism, free market (with all its “charms”).


4. What are the consequences of cPanel price rise?

Yes, as cPanel advertises, the price for a single user, singel cPanel, is somewhat lower. But the bulk prices that hosting providers pay will effectively rise from 30% to 1,500 % (yes, one and a half thousand, or more) – depending on the number of cPanel accounts hosted per one server – so no real upper limit!

Still, this price reduction per one cPanel is somewhat cynical. Since the cPanel license alone still costs more than a good quality shared hosting account.

4.1. Consequences of the old cPanel pricing policy

Hosting companies used the old pricing policy (per server, not per cPanel account) to offer lower hosting prices.

Likewise, reseller accounts with unlimited/unmetered number of cPanel accounts were widely available – at a fixed monthly/yearly price.

Some providers put too many users on one server – to save on license costs among other things. This resulted in poor performance, but often dirt cheap prices. Hosting market had become a race to the bottom: lower and lower prices (since that turns out to attract clients the most easily), with an inevitable drop in service quality. Even good quality hosting companies had problems dealing with this – how can you explain why your service costs literally 10 times more?!

Another thing was offering 1, or even 3 year service subscription. You pay for 3 years in advance, and get a very good discount. The hosting providers who’s service was the worst were usually (not always) the ones offering the largest discounts for such deals.

4.2. Consequences of the new price policy

  • Because of paying per cPanel account, shared and, especially reseller hosting account prices will be higher.
  • Providers who sold many cheap shared/reseller hosting accounts for year/3 years in advance, will end up having cPanel costs be higher than what they charge(d) for the hosting. Cheap shared hosting providers and providers who sold many long term unlimited reseller hosting accounts will suffer the most.
  • Clients on a budget will also be hit hard. And have to look for non-cPanel hosting solutions.
  • More expensive providers will now have their prices become more competitive, having more clients. The rich will become richer, while the poor will suffer.
  • Hosting providers that have not been using cPanel will be singing now.
  • Unlimited reseller and dirt cheap shared hosting offers will become rare.
  • Hosting providers might be even more inclined to crowd servers with too many accounts now, since extra cost per cPanel is somewhat lower with more than 100 accounts on a server. 0.45 $ per cPanel account for the first 100 accounts on a server, then 0.2 $ for each additional.
  • Providers who decide to switch to a different control panel will have many problems with implementation, migration and customer support. Along with their clients.

This is a very good lesson to both the clients and the hosting providers in terms of making long term deals (for year, two, or three in advance). That policy has its advantages (provider gets more money right away, while the client gets a discount), but also the downsides (hosting quality change and sudden increase of costs – like cPanel did just now).

Prices will go up, with many cheap hosting providers going bancrupt, or bought out for peas. In short: big ones will grow bigger, devouring the small ones – writing this and hoping that I’m wrong, or to pessimistic.

In the following year I’m expecting chaos. Price rises, drop in hosting quality and customer support, all sorts of control panels being introduced, many cheaper providers going bancrupt, lots of problems for reseller hosting account users.


5. Solutions

How to deal with the current situation with long term contracts?

Provider: You charged for three years of reseller hosting, but now it turns out costing you more than you charged for it?
Client: you paid for 3 years up front, relying on the lower price that gives you.

Now: if nothing is changed, providers running at a loss will surely give poor quality service, or go bancrupt. So in my opinion, the only sensible solution is re-negotiating the price with the hosting providers/clients.

From a principle point of view: provider stated the price, client paid it – they should provide the service. But in this situation, it is clear that that’s not possible. Yes it is unfair. It’s capitalism – the poor ones have and will get screwed, over and over again.

What to do in the future?

Since Plesk is owned by the same company as cPanel, I don’t think it’s a safe alternative. DirectAdmin is not user friendly enough. VestaCP is still not reliable enough, but it is open source and free.

On top of all that: clients are used to cPanel and it works fine in the shared hosting environment. This can not be stressed enough. This is why I think that higher prices and limited cPanel reseller accounts are the way to go. Charging per cPanel, or making tiers (10, 20, 30 cPanel reseller limits) with fixed monthly prices (less paperwork than charging on a per cPanel basis).

cPanel’s sudden price increase leaves people no time to look for alternatives. While it increases cPanel’s (Oakley Capital) income, putting them in a position to buy out any decent competition (alternative) that might emerge.

Making an open source alternative that can’t be bought out has a problem of updates and customer support: who will keep doing that for free? I can’t think of a business plan that would guarantee: once all the people switch to this control panel, it will not become outrageously expensive, like cPanel.

Same goes for CloudLinux, LiteSpeed, JetBackup, WHMCS… It’s capitalism – we’ll get screwed for money, that’s for sure, one way or another.

We’ll see how this turns out. Whether there are any new changes coming soon. I had sent e-mail to my hosting provider, offering to re-negotiate a deal that works for all, since I consider them my partners in providing the services I provide, so we’re in the same mess.

Am I prepared to pay more for the control panel I’m used to, that is easy to use, works fine and is still an industry standard? Yes. Am I looking for good alternatives? Always, even before this cPanel price increase.

Discussion on this is being lead on WebHostingTalk and LowEndTalk forums.


6. Addition – is the price change ethical?!

OK, this gets mentioned a lot today, on hosting forums, Facebook groups, Reddit etc. How it is unethical of cPanel to rise the prices like this, how many companies will go bust, people loosing jobs etc.

First to clear any misunderstanding: I don’t like the price change. I don’t like capitalism and “free market”. It’s leading to the rich getting richer and destroying the planet along the way. Can I change that? Don’t think so. It is how it is – so let’s continue keeping that in mind.

Why would a company avoid taking an advantageous market position? They can either “rip off” clients, or themselves (and their children). Some companies coat it more nicely, but it all boils down to making more profit and growth, especially for the big companies. Either do that, or get run over by the competition that does exactly the same.

With these prices, cPanel is in a position to keep the huge market share and buy out any competition that might emerge.

If I don’t like it, “I’m free” to look for another option – which does not exist in good quality for all I know. Those who think it’s unfair to charge more can also feel free to send half of each pay check to “undeveloped” African/Asian countries, since people there do the same work/jobs for 1/10 of the pay of the people in “developed” countries.

All who swear by capitalism and “free market” – there it is, in and un-coated form. VestaCP is no longer such a bad choice, or is it still? Rules and the system have been such for decades that the poor ones suffer. This is not different from the rest of the markets, just more sudden and obvious.


7. Should I leave cPanel, or stick with it?

This is a perfectly logical question / dilemma. In my opinion:

There simply aren’t any good quality alternatives, yet. But there are alternatives. What are those, in my opinion?

7.1. DirectAdmin as a cPanel alternative

DirectAdmin is one that works, but takes time to learn, set up, clients aren’t used to it and – it too is not free. Nor does it guarantee keeping the current prices after cPanel price increase. They still offer “lifetime license”, but the risk with that is: what if it doesn’t become widely used, industry standard? Will you be a hosting provider that offers panel that no users are familiar with? Those are the risks of paying more up front for a lifetime license – you are practically betting on that the product you bought will remain in business and remain good.

Also a thing to consider with any paid solution, including DirectAdmin, but not exclusive for them:

If I were the owner of DirectAdmin now I would keep the current prices and keep selling lifetime licenses… for a while.

Then, if enough people switch to using my panel, after a year, or two: “Improve the quality of my support and adjust the pricing policy accordingly” – if you know what I mean.

Update 2nd July 2019: DirectAdmin have stopped selling lifetime licenses. That is: technically they are still called “lifetime”, still costing 300 $, but you only get 1 year of updates, then have to pay another 100 $ each year, if you want updated / patched versions. I will be pleasantly surprised if their “protection against price increases” (being given with packages) stays in place for new customers for more than 6 months from now.

Update 4th july 2019: “Lifetime” license has been renamed to “Owned”, which is fair and less misleading term for what it is (with the “tricky” meaning of the word in hacker circles though). Maybe it will be changed again, who knows. The bottom line is: DirectAdmin has tried to be straight forward and listen to community after the outburst of this “crisis”. They did stop the, long term unsustainable, Lifetime license selling (which is a wise and responsible business move under these circumstances), with a promise of honoring the already sold Lifetime ones, plus a promise to not rise prices for those now buying monthly, or yearly licenses.

They are also open to community suggestions for improving their software and are apparently trying to make it a good cPanel alternative. Like it can be seen in this DirectAdmin Feedback thread on LowEndTalk forum, they are taking an active role in the discussion and working on improvements, with the community. We’ll see how this turns out, I’m certainly hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

Update 15th August 2019: No more 300 $ per year to buy, then 100 $ per year for new updates licenses and continuous support. Now there are only 29 $ per month (350 $ per year) for hosts (those who need more than 50 domains) and a few lower priced packages for individuals. Link for DirectAdmin pricing.

7.2. VestaCP and other alternatives

VestaCP is open source, with all the advantages and disadvantages of that. No one is paid to update and patch it, for all I know.

For both listed alternatives, compatibility with LiteSpeed, CloudLinux and JetBackup for example is questionable. Will be updating this as things change, of course.

Likewise, as noted above, if your chosen option does not become widely used, you’ll be the one with “that complicated control panel I don’t like”. A very difficult, strategic decision. Is it worth saying: “this was to be expected and you should have thought about this long time ago”? Anyway, we are where we are now, all together: hosting providers and the customers.

For ethical reasons primarily (not being dependant of a big corporation), I’d like to see a community run and maintained open source control panel (I think VestaCP is a good starting point). Would be willing to devote at least one hour per week for testing and improving it. It’s not much (especially since I’m just an “advanced user”, with good understanding of how computers, servers and networks work, not an expert), but that’s what I’m willing and able to give.

What worries me most with any free open source alternatives is the consistency of patches and maintenance / upgrades. As for paid solutions: if they are good and get widely accepted, nothing is stopping them from doing what cPanel did, or from getting bought out by Oakley Capital, or similar.

Edit September 2019: for all I know, the only reliable (in terms of security) version of Vesta CP is a fork called MyVestaCP, created and maintained by the owner of Serbian MyCity Hosting.

7.3. Another thing to consider with a control panel change

Now, using a reseller account, I can set accounts, migrate all the websites, set up automated backups (with JetBackup). But with a new control panel, I’d be taking a lot of tech. support time until I figure things out. What about less tech. savvy customers? Expect lots of tickets/calls.

For now, I personally will be trying things out, but staying with cPanel and paying more. It runs stably and works for the customers. Taking the cuts from my profit. If reliability and security are of great importance, I’m sorry to say that, for the time being, cPanel is the least bad of all the options.

For start: my first experience with DirectAdmin conrol panel.

7.4. For those staying with cPanel

Reseller account prices must be formed with a limited number of cPanel accounts and charged according to the max. number of cPanel accounts per hosting package (reseller account). Everything else leads to losses and/or complicated charging and book-keeping.


What are your thoughts on this? What do you expect? What do you think is the right way to go?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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5 thoughts on “cPanel price rise – sudden panic”

  1. I’m disappointed that you feel as though there is no alternative except bend over and take it. VestaCP is quite good and it is open source, why not team up with that group make it better and charge for support. You install it and we support it for a subscription fee.
    Ever heard of RedHat, Cloudera, MySQL – all of those companies were and are companies that use opens source software and the support structure to make their income. MySQL is owned by Oracle now, but the open source stuff is still available, and it created a new DB as the base for MariaDB. RedHat is now part of IBM and doing as well if not better than before.
    Think a bit outside of the box. I see this as an opportunity, now to learn how to program to do all of the automated things that need to be done.

    • Some good points. I’ll discuss each separately, since I think they are all worth considering. Not claiming, nor even thinking that I’m right about this – but it is the way I think and see things. Would truly love to be proven wrong about this.

      1) Feeling:
      It’s not important how I feel, the ideas put in this article are about how I think mostly.
      My feeling is there’s always a solution and some new problem.

      2)
      For free cPanel alternative of good quality: do you see and could you propose a business model that would allow for professional development and later support and maintenance?
      If that were possible, it would be the best solution – not depending on any corporation – they can all do what cPanel did after grabbing a large market share. Owners and policies change.

      3)
      VestaCP looks like the most promising to me. In its current form (this is just my opinion) it is still not enough (novice) user friendly and I’m not sure it’s stable, nor secure enough for 1000 user accounts on one server. Does it “play” well with WHMCS, CloudLinux, LiteSpeed and JetBackup? Does it work with an alternative solution of the three mentioned (suppose nginx caching would solve the LiteSpeed issue – and price, but take some extra know-how)?

      4)
      For business / client use, I’d stick with cPanel until I find a good alternative, test it and confirm it to be fast, stable and secure.
      Also, there is another thing to consider: time. The only real limit we all have in life. How much learning and time it would take to master new technology/software? At start, and later – for running it. That is also an important consideration. cPanel and the other software it’s usually bundled with (JetBackup, CloudLinux, Litespeed, WHMCS…) do that pretty well – easy to learn, easy to set up and run.

      So, apart from the principle (“you can’t raise price 10 times with one day notice!”), all the other points are in favour of cPanel – if one is tight on time.

      Also, as I wrote in the article: will my panel of choice become an industry standard? If not, will it be easy to find a hosting provider that is good and uses (offers) the same panel? From hosting provider’s point of view: “will clients be used to my chosen control panel?”

      Finally, if I opt for a paid solution, will they rise the prices after taking a large market share?

      The future is uncertain, as always, and those with smallest profit margin / income will be hurt the most – as always in the past 50+ years at least.

      Learning and adapting fast helps a lot though. I’ll just wait a bit and see how this plays with (most) hosting providers. Which ones remain in the business with good service and how the pricing gets formed after this shock. Which panels they opt for.

      EDIT:
      One of the most reputable Serbian hosting providers (MyCity Hosting) uses VestaCP. They are renowned for providing fast and stable hosting, at much higher price than most local competition. The owner (Predrag Damjanović) is, for all I know, among VestaCP developers (so they believe in their product) and has a reputation of being very professional, hard working and perfectionist (again, for all I know, don’t know him personally). VestaCP has worked for them. Though I never chose to use the services personally, because I was happy with the prices and quality of other (foreign) hosting companies and because they don’t offer reeller hosting.

      P.S. MyCity hosting “about me” page I linked is something I could relate to – since I think similarly.

  2. cPanel is just all around a sack a shit, can’t wait to see how the web evolves in the future and replaces them. They honestly do not do anything super special to justify 100s and 100s percentage increase in pricing, especially with the rise in popularity from control panel apps like Digital Ocean, Vultr, Cloudways, etc..

    Excellent read, I don’t often slow down to consume lengthy blog posts but this one is spot on. You are both well educated and fair with your point of views.

    I thought the apnscp.com control panel might be nice, especially since there is a WHMCS module to provision. It has lots of potential…

    * https://apnscp.com
    * https://github.com/LithiumHosting/apnscp-whmcs

    p.s. – i could not find anyway to subscribe to your new blogs when they get published… but I can subscribe to new comments? weird. please add my email to your new post subscribe list.

    • Hello,

      Thanks for the kind words.

      As for subscriptions: the idea behind this website is to provide info (mostly for my own reference). So people can come and search, or get a page from Google.
      Didn’t think anyone would be interested to subscribe to any new posts.

      Based on my previous experience, subscriptions get filled with 90% of spam accounts – that get inactive once they get blocked from (comment) spamming.
      Might give it a try again – with registration spam filter added – see how it goes.

    • Enabled subscriptions (and what I hope will be a decent spam filter to prevent most bots from registering). 🙂

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