Late last month cPanel, the most-used control panel for web hosts around the world, including NameHero, announced a shocking change to their license pricing structure.
For over two-decades they had been licensing their control panel software to web hosts under a three different options: cPanel Solo (1 domain), cPanel & WHM VPS (virtual servers), and cPanel & WHM Dedicated (dedicated servers).
Both the cPanel & WHM license options (VPS and dedicated) allowed web hosts the ability to create an unlimited number of cPanel accounts per server.
Those that chose to pay the license fee yearly vs. month-to-month also received a discount around 17%.
Additionally, they also offered aggressive volume discounts to those that purchased multiple licenses: 10% off (2-4 yearly licenses), 20% off (5-14 yearly licenses), 25% off (15+ yearly licenses).
For web hosting companies, data centers, and large resellers, they also had a Partner Program that offered even larger discounts, 30% off (or higher).
Here’s a screenshot from Archive.org showing the different options:
New Pricing Structure
Their initial proposed new pricing structure did away with the volume and partner discounts, yearly pricing options, and also placed limitations on the number of cPanel accounts created per server.
They did however offer larger “Partners” that host more than 1,780 cPanel accounts the ability to get 50% off the $0.20 per-cPanel fee once they reached the Premier license threshold of 100 accounts per server (meaning the 101st license onward would be $0.10 vs. $0.20).
They also removed their “cPanel Solo” option and re-named VPS to Cloud and Dedicated to Metal.
Cloud licenses were now to be used by Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and Cloud instances with Metal licenses limited to dedicated servers.
The new license options look like this:
- Admin License ~ 5 cPanel Accounts – $20/mo
- Pro License ~ 30 cPanel Accounts – $30/mo
- Premier License ~ 100 cPanel Accounts – $45/mo + $0.20 per additional cPanel account
If we put these into a practical example, the new cost for web hosts looks like this:
Old cPanel Pricing Per VPS ~ Unlimited Accounts – $16.67/mo (paid yearly)
New cPanel Pricing Per VPS ~201 Accounts (Using as an estimate) – $65.20/mo (paid monthly) [$45 base fee + 101 accounts * $0.20 *excludes partner discount*]
A whopping 219% increase! [Note: this is reflecting their old yearly discount price but not partner/volume discount(s)]
Reason For The Price Increase
In cPanel’s official announcement they credited the increase to be a result of new technologies such as the cloud which allow for much powerful servers/hardware the ability to host many more accounts per server than in years past.
They also noted the price had not been altered in over two decades and their organization now requires much more resources than when originally founded. Here’s how they put it:
Announcing Account Based Pricing
Today, we announced a new pricing and licensing structure to our Partners, Distributors, and our cPanel Store customers. Our pricing and licensing will now be standardized for all of our customers, be billed monthly, and include multiple Tiers.
When cPanel defined its original pricing structure, some twenty plus years ago, servers were not as powerful as they are today. Thanks to constant innovation in the hardware sector and optimization in our software, we can now run hundreds of websites on a single processor system. With this change, we align ourselves with this growing technology.
Our goal is to be as transparent as possible with our prices. We want to make it easier to become a cPanel customer. Additionally, it is important for us to provide licenses that target smaller instances, opening up a new revenue opportunity for our customers.
Historically, cPanel has based its services and pricing around a VPS or Dedicated license with unlimited cPanel Accounts. As the company has evolved, cPanel has added more development resources, more structure, and more brain power that, in turn, makes it possible to take on an increasing number of development projects. Adjusting our prices will ensure that we can continue to invest in product development, thrive in an increasingly hostile security landscape, grow our customer ecosystem, and remain a leader in hosting automation.
For cPanel Store customers: details on how this new structure impacts your account with cPanel can be found in today’s email. You can also find details in the Store Licensing Guide.
For Partners and Distributors: Please refer to the email from earlier with details about your new structure, and then reach out to your Account Manager for more details.
Current cPanel Customers Go Into A Rage
I personally became flooded with text messages, calls, emails, etc. from people throughout the industry, customers, and our own team members asking for my thoughts and how it would affect NameHero going forward.
Initially I was not shocked as I had suspected for a long time that something like this would eventually come:
- Cloud Servers – cPanel is not wrong noting the change in technology. The cloud has changed the game completely from the early/mid 2000s. I used to cringe when web hosting companies would put more than 100 cPanel accounts on a given server. Most of the time this meant severe overselling, low redundancy, and performance starved servers leading to very poor quality web hosting. With servers deployed in the cloud, resources can easily be added on-demand including re-sizing instances completely to have entirely different hardware. Back in the “old days” rebuilding the server would require a complicated migration or several hours of downtime to physically rebuild. That’s why when I started NameHero, we made the decision to go with a cloud-only infrastructure, despite it being much more expensive than traditional dedicated servers.
- Oakley Capital Acquisition – At the start of last year’s cPanel Conference in Houston, they made the announcement they had been acquired by Oakley Capital, a private equity investment firm that has also acquired other popular web hosting companies such as Plesk, Solos VM, and WHMCS. As with any acquisition this means new management which alters the overall direction and vision of a company (i.e. new leadership). While the web hosting industry doesn’t have the best “track record” for these type deals (increased prices + lower quality of support) not all of them are horrible in my opinion. Relying heavily on cPanel, I knew this announcement would bring about change, I just hoped it would be in the right direction. Given Oakley Capital is a private equity firm, a pricing increase makes sense, with the goal being injecting their capital into an organization to expand operations and make more ROI.
Given both of those points, I did feel their new pricing structure was a bit sudden (no advanced notice), radical (complete overhaul even for existing licenses), and non-rewarding for larger partners (lack of discounts/incentives for continued business).
Based on the real-time feedback from the industry (their review rating on FB went from close to 5 down to 2ish overnight), I felt they’d have to change up something as this really rubbed some people the wrong way.
cPanel Founder/CEO Writes Letter; Alters Pricing
As I expected, about a week later, their founder/CEO Nick Koston wrote an open letter published on their blog acknowledging the feedback from customers and giving an altered account-based pricing structure.
Given the announcement seemed to “come out of no where” he announced implementation support for partners issuing a full credit for September’s invoice (up to $10,000) as well as assistance on helping providers make the change within their internal systems (switching from a fixed to dynamic pricing model is going to be a pain).
For cPanel customers currently using WHMCS for their billing system, they agreed to hold off on the account based pricing structure for 30-days after a module was made available to implement it.
[Wait… What? They announced the pricing change before they could support it within their own software?!? Shouldn’t that have been implemented way before the pricing change to allow for testing/debugging/troubleshooting?!?]
For those not yet using WHMCS, they have the option to switch over at a year’s free license. [that’s kinda funny IMO]
Altered cPanel Account Based Pricing
With implementation knocked out, he then announced a couple additions to the account-based pricing structure:
New Partner Benefits
Since their original announcement seemed to violently neglect the large partners that helped build cPanel, they came up with some perks:
- Plus License ~ 50 cPanel Accounts – $25/mo *For Partners Only*
- Fixed Pricing Packages – For those with over 100 cPanel accounts on a server, that don’t want to hassle with auto-scaling at $0.20 (or $0.10 for partners) per cPanel, you can also purchase a fixed package:
- Premier Fixed 100 ~ 100 cPanel Accounts – $32/mo
- Premier Fixed 150 ~ 150 cPanel Accounts – $34.50/mo
- Premier Fixed 200 ~ 200 cPanel Accounts – $39.50/mo
- Premier Fixed 250 ~ 250 cPanel Accounts – $44.50/mo
- Each additional 50 accounts above 250 is $5/mo
- Partner Protection – If a customer of a partner (i.e. someone with a VPS at NameHero) fails to pay for their service for a month, a credit for the cPanel license can be requested for the following month.
- Account Manager Assistance – Help from dedicated account managers.
New Direct Customer Benefits
For your average webmaster/developers purchasing their license direct, they can also expect some updated benefits:
- Solo License ~ 1 cPanel Account – $15/mo *Reinstated*
- Yearly License Extension – For those that purchased a yearly cPanel license that will be expiring between June 27th – July 20th, they have “additional time” to make their new license selection (up until July 21s) [They are just too kind]
- Simplified Partner Application – For those not yet a cPanel Partner, they’re going to make it easier to become one and reduce the min monthly spend from $500 to $200.
That’s It Folks…
As of today, July 17th 2019, that’s where we are.
If you’ve followed me this far, it’s likely you’re just as confused as me.
As I mentioned at the very beginning, I completely expected a license increase, it even makes sense to me, but I’m having a hard time with how they went about it.
It’s a bit concerning why they would change the prices without giving partners enough notice to at least make sure they could modify their billing systems for successful implementation.
Additionally, despite witnessing one of the largest public relations disaster I’ve ever seen, the followup seemed like a bit hollow (you prob noticed my bracketed comments).
Where NameHero Goes From Here
Regardless how I feel or what I think, my decisions are based on what is in the best interest of our current and future customers.
To me, the overall climate within the web hosting industry seems very emotional and even somewhat erratic.
Within hours of the announcement, some companies notified their customers they’d be discounting their reseller hosting packages.
Others have publicly stated they will be abandoning cPanel completely going with alternatives such as Direct Admin or their own custom builds.
Our support and sales teams continue to keep slammed daily with questions on how we plan on handling and how it will affect their accounts going forward.
Unfortunately this post doesn’t contain the “cut and dry” answer you maybe wanting, but I hope to ease wondering minds.
My entire reason for publishing this post is to let all of our current (and future) customers to see the situation and know it’s not something we’re ignoring or turning a blind eye too.
While I think cPanel could have handled things better, I understand it’s a business decision, and try not to take it too personal.
Why We Use cPanel At NameHero
When I launched NameHero in 2015 I had a very simple plan: take the same infrastructure I had developed since 1998 for my own online businesses and release it to the public for an affordable price with superb customer service and support.
My thought being, if it worked for my online businesses that lived and breathed based on performance, reliability, and uptime, it would work for others.
Included in that was cPanel/WHM. I have tried others, but non left the lasting impression as cPanel, so I never looked back.
In the late nineties it was nearly impossible for a non-technical person to setup a web hosting account quickly.
Web hosting companies aimed to solve this problem by developed their own custom control panels only for many of them to disappear following the “dot-com crash” or for a number a different reasons.
Not to mention it was a major pain in the ass to move to a new hosting company having to “re-learn” where everything was.
cPanel, as well as countless other products, came out and helped develop a universal solution that has pioneered the entire web hosting industry. They made things consistent, simple, and easy for people of all skill levels!
Unlike many others, cPanel has traveled a long, impressive journey, battling many storms, continuing to constantly innovate while maintaining an exceptional user experience.
While I may not be pleased with cPanel’s recent actions, that still doesn’t erase my confidence in them as a platform in whole. I still feel they’re the “current best” web hosting control panel.
Now with their new direction, this could change. It certainly opens the door for discussion about alternatives as well as the ability for other platforms to leverage those that are made the decision to leave.
Changes To NameHero Hosting Packages
As I’ve stated a few times throughout this post, a pricing increase for cPanel wasn’t something I didn’t expect. I always try to err on the side of caution when it comes to putting all my eggs into one basket.
The actions of any one vendor are not going to put NameHero out of business nor force me to sale to some other company. We are here to stay.
We are also not going to make drastic changes based on emotions.
Given all of this came at once, we’ve placed a limitation on new Startup Hero and Entrepreneur Hero Reseller packages to allow for 40 cPanel accounts on the Startup and 60 cPanel on the Entrepreneur. You still have the ability to add unlimited add-on domains on any given cPanel. [Existing customers remain unaffected as long as they do not allow their subscription to lapse]
These limitations are something I’ve pondered since the beginning and really feel the majority of our users would reach disk capacity far before touching these limits.
We are currently still evaluating our VPS Hosting packages.
With cPanel’s old licensing structure, it was a very simple fixed cost for a license for all of our packages.
Their new account based pricing structure brings many more license options to the table (i.e. not one license fits all).
We not only have to implement the changes to generate these within our own system, but also how to handle existing licenses.
We have some VPS hosting customers that have 1 or 2 cPanel accounts on their VPS while others have 50 – 100+ for Reselling.
We obviously will not be making any changes without providing all of our customers ample notice as well as additional options. It’s also our goal to absorb as much of the cost as possible (i.e. don’t use their updated pricing as a guide).
Our team is currently exploring other control panels to see which would be the best fit for those that wish to abandon cPanel. Since I haven’t looked at other options in several years, it’s been pretty cool to see what else is out there. There are some really good options that bring a lot to the table!
In summary, it’s business as usual here at NameHero. Since our launch in early 2015, we’ve experienced rapid growth, becoming one of the fastest growing in the industry!
I continue to be humbled each and everyday at the opportunity to work with you all and provide an exceptional web hosting solution for businesses of all sizes.
I Want Your Feedback
Finally, I want to hear from you!
The last two weeks I’ve been reaching out to several of our customers asking for their thoughts and feedback on cPanel and decided it’d prob just be easier to get this post out so everyone could chime in!
I want to know what YOU think about cPanel as a whole as well as other control panels in the industry. What other options would you like to see us have? What features/benefits are most important to you with your hosting account?
As I said above, I try and make every decision on what is best for our customers:
PEOPLE ARE GREATER THAN PROFITS
Write your thoughts to ryan at namehero.com and I will take every single one of them to heart. I also try to reply back to them all!
As we move along, we have a REALLY exciting announcement coming (and no it’s not an acquisition it’s a new feature) that we’re confident you’re going to love!
If nothing else, don’t stress, I have your back and am not going to turn my back on you!
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.