A Guide to All Things DirectAdmin
Updated August 14, 2020
Although cPanel and Plesk have long dominated the hosting control panel market, DirectAdmin is a serious competitor that’s attractively priced and easy to use. Read on to learn more about DirectAdmin features, cost, pros and cons, and why you should consider it for your hosting account.
Control panels are graphic web user interfaces that enable you to manage the day to day administrative tasks surrounding your web hosting account. Whether you’re the user, reseller or server administrator, there’s a set of web pages available that enable you to accomplish tasks with minimal time, effort or technical knowledge.
DirectAdmin may not be the most popular control panel, but the combination of features, price and ease of use make it a contender.
Reasons Not to Use DirectAdmin
Being a lesser known control panel, when you have a question or need a hand with DirectAdmin, there are many less sites you can visit and people you can ask when comparing it to Plesk or cPanel.
This smaller user base doesn’t have to mean a lack of support. Many site owners have opted for fully managed hosting so that there are highly trained experts available to handle much of the configuration and optimization plus can be relied upon when there’s more information required.
Plugins or Add-ons
With cPanel, there are hundreds of 3rd party add-ons which can extend the capabilities and functionality, giving you the ability to integrate and run additional software. DirectAdmin boasts only a handful of such plugins.
For many users of DirectAdmin, the default out of the box integration, along with the available plugins is enough to do everything they’d do with any other control panel. It just comes down to whether you have any special app integration needs beyond the basics.
Simple Yet Challenging
The DirectAdmin user interface seems simple enough, but a number of users have complained that those new to DirectAdmin find it difficult to find the function that they’re trying to find and use.
Complaints about UI complexity are not unique to DirectAdmin – other panel users have said the same about their panel of choice. It’s best to check out the demo, look at the things you normally do within a control panel and see what you think.
Reasons to Use DirectAdmin
DirectAdmin makes it easy for site owners to save money by making their control panel pricing incredibly affordable. Here’s a quick look at what you can expect to pay, depending on how many accounts and domains you’ll need:
$2/month – 1 account, 10 domains
$15/month – 10 accounts, 50 domains
$29/month – unlimited accounts and domains
DirectAdmin pricing is considerably cheaper than cPanel, which costs:
$15/month – 1 account
$20/month – 5 accounts
$30/month – 30 accounts
$45/month – 100 accounts
Because of the streamlined simplicity and minimalist feature set, DirectAdmin has modest hardware requirements, enabling it to run on inexpensive hosting plans that don’t provide a high-spec platform.
DirectAdmin will run on:
– 500 Mhz processor
– 1 GB memory (2+ is recommended) CentOS requires a bit more
– 2 GB hard drive free space (after linux o/s install)
Having lesser requirements enables DirectAdmin to run on less expensive hardware and perform exceptionally well.
DirectAdmin may not boast the largest selection of app integrations, but it’s no slouch. Supported software includes…
Databases – MySQL 5.5, 5.6, 5.7,0 8.0 and MariaDB 5.5, 10.x (plus phpMyAdmin)
Web Servers – Apache 2.4, NGINX 1.15, LiteSpeed Enterprise 5.x and OpenLiteSpeed
PHP – 5.x and 7.x
Security – ModSecurity, SpamAssassin, Rspamd and ClamAV
Email – Dovecot 2.x and Exim 4.x, plus RoundCube and SquirrelMail
FTP – ProFTPD and Pure-FTPD
Stats – AWstats and Webalizer
Some of the most noteworthy plugins available include those one-click installers, like Installatron and Softaculous as well as the client management (similar to WHMCS) being Blesta or WISECP.
The true test of a control panel is whether or not a regular (non-technical) user can do the things they need done to administer their website, quickly and easily. In that respect, DirectAdmin does cover the bases, with user features such as:
Backup – create backups of some or all of a site, including account data
Databases – create, change, remove MySQL databases
DNS – create records, change, remove
Email – create accounts, forwarders, lists, autoresponders, filters and webmail
Error Pages – customize 401, 403, 404 and 500 error messages
File Manager – a web-based alternative to FTP
FTP – create accounts and set permissions (including anonymous FTP)
Password – protect directories with usernames and passwords
PHP Version – choose which version of PHP is active for .php files
Stats – full details about account usage over time is included
Subdomains – create, delete and view stats about any or all
Advanced functionality is available which allows users to:
Schedule – set up cron jobs
SSL – install certificates
Resellers can manage user accounts thanks to added capabilities, giving them more rights than regular users, but not as much as full administrators. Resellers can manage:
Accounts – create, change, remove
Communicate – message all users in bulk
IP – assign IP addresses to users
Name Servers – personalized vanity name servers can be created
Packages – define sets of features so that users can be configured quickly
Skins – import and activate
Stats – details about accounts within their control
At the top of the DirectAdmin food chain are administrators. They’re able to manage resellers and general server configuration, such as:
DNS – create, change and remove DNS records
Email – view and manage queues
IP Addresses – set IP addresses for the server and for reseller accounts
Reseller Accounts – create resellers and even admins
Reseller Packages – define feature bundles so that resellers can be added quickly
Services – stop, start and restart the system and services that make up the system
Spam – manage a wide range of anti-spam measures
Users – view all users on the system
Knowing where to go for information is critical when you’re dealing with something at the very core of your online presence, like a control panel. While the official website of DirectAdmin is a great resource, keep in mind that you don’t have to leave the KnownHost site to learn more.
KnownHost Wiki – DirectAdmin
Featuring dozens of questions and answers explaining exactly how to handle common admin tasks, the DirectAdmin page on the KnownHost wiki is a good place to quickly get familiar with the ins and outs of using DirectAdmin.
KnownHost Wiki – DirectAdmin vs cPanel
If you’d like to get a head to head comparison between DirectAdmin and cPanel, in great detail, check out this page on the KnownHost wiki. It really is an incredible resource with tons of information from Apache to webmail.
DirectAdmin Main Site
The main website for DirectAdmin with links into all the key resources both before and after the sale.
DirectAdmin Contact Form
In case you’ve got a query, use the email form and they’ll get back to you shortly.
Before jumping headlong into using a new control panel, check out the demo so that you get a good feel for how it works. There’s also a free trial in case you’re still unsure.
The first link is for the support page, while the second is the helpdesk ticketing system. Once you’re up and running with DirectAdmin, these are handy to have around.
DirectAdmin Help Topics
The help system is available as a portal where you can drill-down for answers, or you can use the search function to find what you’re needing.
Some essential technical documents are assembled here, giving you a more robust explanation of how things work.
If you’d like to benefit from the discussions about all manner of things related to DirectAdmin, the forum is a good place to lurk, ask and contribute. You’ll find many experienced users and staff there discussing everything from 3rd party apps to upcoming releases.
DirectAdmin How-To Guides
Within the DirectAdmin forums is the How-To Guides subforum which is a combination of how-to questions along with how-to documentation on getting things done, ranging from backups to SSL. It’s not a replacement for the help and KnowledgeBase, but it surely has tons of useful information.
Stay abreast of pricing updates, software modules ready for testing, new versions being supported for existing integrations and all the latest build release candidates, including what’s changed with each new version.
DirectAdmin 3rd Party Software
There’s a lot more going on with DirectAdmin add-ons than just the official integrations. Check out the 3rd party software subforum for goodies like PostgreSQL plugin and custom scripts for things like WordPress installation (without needing Installatron or Softaculous).
DirectAdmin API Scripting
For those with a bit more technical know-how, the DirectAdmin API scripting subforum includes discussions on how to accomplish various tasks using the API, with examples, troubleshooting and suggestions. It’s a great place to see how to make things happen programmatically.
DirectAdmin General Technical Help
There’s plenty of activity, in the form of questions and answers, in this subforum, where users ranging in skills from beginner to advanced are putting their difficulties out there. Help often comes quickly, from both DirectAdmin developers and the user community.
There are plenty of specialty subforums with technical matters relating to something more specific, such as problems faced with resellers, operating systems, web servers and other system software.
DirectAdmin Pricing, Licensing and Billing
All manner of queries relating to license assignment, validation and troubleshooting can be found in this subforum.
The DirectAdmin skin can be modified via 3rd party language packs to enable language translations. There’s a wide range of choices available and users are encouraged to contribute, where possible.
If you’d like to talk about something other than DirectAdmin (mostly technical / server related) then this subforum is a place with varied topics, interesting perspectives and a chance to engage with other members of the DirectAdmin community.
While the main index page of www.site-helper.com is dedicated to supporting users, the reseller subdomain is just what you might have guessed – a collection of helpful information for DirectAdmin resellers.
Note to be outdone by the reseller subdomain, the admin subdomain contains helpful details for admin users of DirectAdmin.
There are occasions when you wish an application would have certain features, mostly because they would help you accomplish your personal goals in using the app, but you’re unsure how suggestions would be received.
At DirectAdmin, there’s a complete feedback system in place which is used to evaluate potential functionality in upcoming versions. Those upcoming versions are part of a roadmap and are visible for the community to see, including feature requests which may or may not yet be a part of the roadmap.
Follow the feature requests link above to see what’s already been requested and vote on which items you feel would be beneficial (as well as submitting your own suggestions).
The DirectAdmin roadmap includes new features categorized as:
– In Progress
Not only is there voting, but there’s also discussion in the form of comments which give you a chance to explain, or read explanations from admins and developers, so that details can be expanded and other resources linked.
DirectAdmin can be a great alternative to cPanel or Plesk, particularly if you’re looking to save a few dollars on monthly license fees or want to use hosting that’s not particularly powerful.
If you need integration with something not readily available in DirectAdmin, then you may want to give it a Matrix-style body swerve.
Overall, DirectAdmin is a very capable control panel that’s fast, stable and well-priced.