When I was a new system administrator over 10 years, I was always against control panels. Thinking back, I didn’t like panels because I wanted to explore and dig into every internal myself.

While it was excellent for self-taught knowledge for my career, around four years ago I began getting tired with managing every single file myself.

With every iteration on my infrastructure and upgrading servers, at first I began to automate its deployment. I used Ansible to start, and it worked great, in fact I still use Ansible to this day with my servers.

But, as time went on and I didn’t have as much time to maintain my personal infrastructure 24×7 anymore, and wanted something easier to manage.

I began my review for web panels, and after dozens of hours I decided to use cPanel on the first iteration, this was four years ago.

cPanel had its quirks, it was fairly simple to manage and has come a long way, but it didn’t offer my all the flexibility and control I wanted. So after two years I decided to switch to Webmin, and Webmin was great. It worked wonderfully to easily manage my system.

My needs grew, suddenly my wife wanted a blog and wanted to run her own e-commerce shop. I also wanted to show her how to do some basic maintenance, backups, and writing basic code.

Webmin wasn’t the most newbie-friendly, so I switched to Plesk and I was quite impressed! Plesk had been easy to use, good web interface and was simple to teach my wife how to use.

After around six months of Plesk, I was still pleased with it. I decided to give DirectAdmin a review after friends gave it high recommendations due to its new layout. While I wasn’t a fan of Exim it has grown in me. I love how DirectAdmin developers are taking user reviews and actively implementing the ideas.

I migrated to DirectAdmin after two weeks of testing due to its flexibility, the developers response to feedback, and the fact the learning curve between Plesk and DirectAdmin is very minimal. For end users from cPanel, Plesk, and other panels it’s mostly a visual interface change.

While some plugins like Acronis aren’t available yet, there are tons of options like encrypting with Restic and syncing to BackBlaze B2 (I do this personally). All the custombuild system just works efficiently and I’ve yet to have it break on me.

I’ve very easily fell in love with DirectAdmin, and while my wife prefers the Plesk colour scheme she has adjusted very quickly. The other day she mentioned she finds it “very performant and simple”, which prompted me to write this post!

What Panel should I pick?

What panel you pick depends on your personal preference and experience. I encourage you to try out every panel for a few weeks and find what fits your workflow best.

In my case, I prefer DirectAdmin and I’ll be encouraging my customers and friends to use it heavily. It provides a visual control layer but doesn’t remove the power from you. You can always jump on the console and adjust things yourself. 

Which panel do you like the best? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you prefer and why!