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cPanel Price Hike — What Happens Next? How is the Industry Reacting?

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Sometime back in 2018, Oakley Capital had acquired cPanel, the industry-leader when it comes to web hosting control panels. This move effectively brought both cPanel and Plesk under the same umbrella, as Oakley Capital also happens to be the parent company behind Plesk.

Recently, Oakley Capital decided to revise the cPanel/WHM pricing structure, thereby raising the prices fairly steeply in a short span of time. This was, by and large, expected as acquisitions almost always lead to a revision in pricing structure. However, such steep and monumental rise in pricing has led many in the web hosting world considering whether or not to continue with cPanel in the long run.

So, what lies next for cPanel? Will web hosting providers be shying away from it anytime soon, owing to the new pricing tariff? Let us explore and analyze the situation in greater detail.

What and How?

Perhaps none can put it better than The Register’s remark that cPanel has “dropped a bombshell” on its customers.

The pricing tariff in itself is nothing big to indefinitely crib or sulk about. The plans have been renamed, and the price rise has been noticeably big, but not entirely painful. For instance, the cheapest earlier plan, cPanel Solo, was priced at $15 per month. The new cheapest plan is $20 per month and named Admin.

However, it is not the price rise that everyone is complaining about. Instead, it is the limits that have been imposed! The top-level plan, Premier, now comes with a 100-account cap. Need to add more accounts? You need to pay an extra $0.20 per month.

Naturally, for any medium-sized web hosting provider, the 100-accounts’ limit is outright ridiculous. And obviously, in spite of paying the raised fee, most web hosts would end up finding their business being stifled, as the account limits (and subsequent monthly fee) would imply their costs will keep rising up.

This move has caused a good amount of resentment and chaos in the web hosting community. It is noteworthy that the web hosting world consists of several big and small as well as mid-sized hosts — many of whom simply cannot bear the revised cPanel pricing.

You can find full details about the cPanel pricing here.

The Response

TL;DR — The reactions have not been pretty, with many web hosting providers already considering the alternatives, and some even going as far as stopping the provision of new cPanel-based plans.

Or, this one:

Yes, several web hosts have publicly stated their intention of shifting to an alternative web hosting control panel, such as DirectAdmin. Still others are considering a hike in their own pricing structure, such that the new cPanel pricing model still remains affordable for the hosting provider itself.

A good case in point would be VeeroTech’s response to this scenario. VeeroTech have come up with a revised pricing structure of their own — the idea is to raise their prices by a very thin margin, so that the increased expenditure can be mitigated. Of course, this rise in pricing will come into effect in the next billing cycle, but they have already announced it to their existing clientele.

I reached out to Gary Spencer, co-owner of VeeroTech, for his comments on this issue:

cPanel broke everyone’s trust. They should no longer be using the term “partners” to describe their relationship with hosting providers.

The only way for cPanel to recover from this egregious decision is to acknowledge that it was a bad idea and revert to a more reasonable pricing model where all parties can grow together, instead of bleeding hosting companies dry.

(comments edited for spelling and clarity)

Sure, the remarks might be harsh, but they seem to resonate the general consensus within the web hosting industry. Keeping in mind that many such web hosting providers had built their business around cPanel and its offerings, such sudden surge in pricing is being viewed by them as a stab in the back.

On the other hand, web hosts such as HostWithLove are taking a more careful wait-and-watch approach, whilst simultaneously preparing for an alternative solution, should things keep going downhill. Here is what Jansen, co-founder of HWL, had to say:

The increase in cPanel licensing costs was indeed unexpected, especially of such a scale. Considering cPanel is the most popular control panel in the industry, many hosting providers have been hit and the smaller ones are especially affected.

For us, we will try to minimize the impact to our customers by absorbing some of the increased costs. For instance, our Shared and Semi-Dedicated Hosting Packages will see zero increase in pricing.

For Reseller Hosting Packages, there will be some adjustments in terms of the number of accounts allocated, and there will also be a very slight increase in prices — we believe our price increase will be lower than most hosting providers because we are intending to absorb about half of the extra costs. Also, thankfully we stopped offering “Unlimited” cPanel accounts on the lower packages (R1 – R3) quite a few years back, so clients who joined us over the past 3 years would not be affected as much. Rather than providing an “umbrella” increase in prices, we will be running some computations on our end and will be reaching out to all affected clients individually to discuss the pricing changes and also discuss how best we can assist them further.

[…]

Although we primarily offer cPanel hosting services, we had also been offering and managing DirectAdmin based servers for some of our Dedicated Server clients, so DirectAdmin is a control panel that we are familiar with. Naturally it would still take time for us to train our entire support team to be familiar with it, but I am certain having some experience with it would be beneficial.

[…] our main focus would still be to ensure existing clients are taken care of. For example we will be identifying clients who host a larger number of cPanel accounts (i.e. in the hundreds – these are rare, but there are some) to inform of the upcoming price/spec changes and provide them some options, including migrating to a DirectAdmin based server if they are unable to afford the higher costs.

Ultimately our goal is still to look after the interests of our clients, even if it results in lower profits for us.

(certain comments redacted for business’ privacy)

So there’s that — at the end of the day, no one is happy with the cPanel fiasco.

What Next?

The options, going forward, are simple, assuming Oakley Capital and cPanel do not go back to a more feasible pricing structure.

  1. Web hosting providers would be forced to raise their prices, especially on the reseller and multi-account packages.
  2. Web hosts might consider shifting to an alternative control panel.
  3. Certain web hosting providers, unfortunately, might be forced to close shop or rethink their business model in its entirety.

The last option, in general, refers to the smaller-scale web hosts that may not find it easy to offer cheaper web hosting anymore.

With that said, the first option seems to be the most likely solution that many web hosts would opt for. The new cPanel pricing is pretty much like an indirect tax — businesses will be compelled to pass it on to consumers in the long run.

However, with the oversaturated web hosting market and due to its highly competitive nature, raising prices may eventually backfire. For every good quality web hosting provider that might be forced to raise prices to maintain the level of service, there will be a dozen “unlimited” web hosts who’d simply oversell even more to keep the profit margins intact.

It is noteworthy that several shared hosting clients are now considering site builders such as Wix or Tilda more seriously. A steep change in shared hosting rates will only drive such consumers even farther away.

Lastly, the idea of exploring an alternative to cPanel is rather novel and possibly doable. But it has its own caveats. Do we even have a decent cPanel alternative out there? The fact that cPanel/WHM has risen so high in popularity and has stood atop as the industry leader is because there is no praiseworthy competitor anyway.

Plesk, in itself, is owned by the same company as cPanel (albeit Plesk pricing structure is not as cringe-inducing currently). DirectAdmin, on the other hand, though a fairly strong contender, is still far from becoming a universally accepted de facto leader in the world of hosting control panels.

Wishful thinking dictates that someone might come up with an open source cPanel alternative that is not built atop profit as the sole motive. But that seems unlikely at the moment, so for now, most web hosting providers will have to scramble to come up with a solution to the cPanel pricing model. Any decision to migrate away from cPanel will need to be taken very judiciously and cautiously.

What are your thoughts on the new cPanel pricing model? Share your views in the comments below!

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