DirectAdmin beats cPanel
I read online marketing forums for a couple of years before I needed a host, and really heard a lot about Cpanel during that time. When I did decide to move, I spent more than 20 hours researching hosting, starting at WebHostingTalk.com. (WHT from now on.)
To my surprise a control panel I had never heard of, DirectAdmin, seemed to be as respected as Cpanel. The WHT forum is the best place for hosting information that I have ever seen. Many of the posters are hosts themselves and bring a lot of experience with them.
Since DA is newer, it gained that support in less time. Quite a lot of the comments supporting CP mention that they have never used DA. CP has been around longer and is more common. Typically the DA supporters say something like "I prefer DA, but I'm biased having used both. "
One of the first positive things I read about it, have seen repeated, and have never seen anyone deny at WHT, is that DA handles add on domains better. An add on domain applies mostly to CP when a person is able to host more than one domain on a single account. DA handles extra domains so well that there is no point in calling them add on domains.
The CP system uses a sub domain type of arrangement for the extra domains and you can get to the add on domain by typing addondomain.com.primarydomain.com in your browser. I have seen two different forum threads started by people asking how they could stop that from happening.
With the DA system all the domains are in the same folder, "domains" so obviously that isn't going to work.
If you want you can even change the default domain in 2 easy steps. The first takes 3 single clicks. One on domain admin, one to select the domain you want to be your default domain, and one to save the changes.
The second step does take a bit longer. You want to wipe off the sweat, pour a double brandy, and take a break before your next big job.
One of the web hosts at WHT said, "All my customers came from CP, none of them would go back to it." It doesn't sound like he was a very big host if he knew that about all his customers, but it still seemed like a powerful statement to me.
A couple of years ago there were comments that DA was simpler for newbies and they could put up a site with it out of the box, but of course it couldn't do all the more sophisticated things that CP could do. Lately I have seen 3 different threads where someone responded: "Name one thing that you can do with CP that you can't do with DA," and in all 3 of them no one took up the offer, even though they went on for awhile.
Personally, I like a list type of view and have my documents and folders set up that way. CP uses an icon system and it isn't a big thing, but language works well enough for me. No point in learning what each of the icons means. Just the lists and the way they are grouped is more logical to me. Incidentally a few older threads mention WHM (Web Host Manager) for reseller accounts with CP, but that is also available with DA.
For more reading here are a few links.
You can try a demo of the DA panel at DirectAdmin.com.
Except for the cPanel sub domain fiasco, a good ftp program like Filezilla can sort through most of the problems. They are less cumbersome when you are working on your desktop and using ftp.