Introduction to the cPanel – What is cPanel?

In order to manage your hosting, including uploading files, setting up e-mails, installing a content management system and so on, you need a control panel.

“cPanel” is a brand of control panel interface that has quickly become the gold standard for hosting management control panels. It’s very user-friendly, while being versatile and powerful at the same time.

It’s a graphical interface created to help you easily control your websites/domains and manage their files without going through a server’s command line (lots of ugly, confusing code).

There are many different control panels: WPEngine and DreamHost have their own control panels, while iPage, FatCow, and StartLogic use a control panel that they call the vDeck.

That said, cPanel is by far the fastest, easiest to use and most beginner-friendly. You will find it offered by the majority of web hosting companies.

What Do These Control Panels Look Like?

Standard cPanel (click to enlarge)
cPanel Screenshot
WPEngine Panel (click to enlarge)
WPEngine Screenshot
DreamHost Panel (click to enlarge)
DreamHost Screenshot
vDeck Panel (click to enlarge)
vDeck Screenshot

What can the cPanel be Used For?

The cPanel will be your primary launching point for most activities dealing with your website or hosting. It is here that you can configure e-mails, monitor usage statistics, set up new domains, manage your FTP (file transfer – used when uploading files to your website) and other common uses.

Let’s take a quick look at six of the most common uses for cPanel:

1. E-Mail – Ever wonder how people have a [email protected] email address? In cPanel, you can create emails that use your domain name. After setting up the initial address, you’ll need to connect it to your mail client (ie: Apple Mail, Outlook, etc.).

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2. File Manager – If you’re creating a site, this is where all your files go. Here, you can upload new files, delete those you don’t want and manage any of the files associated with your website.

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3. Easy Backups – You can create a full backup of your cPanel, and then restore it from this backup if you run into trouble or if you’re transferring hosting companies.

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Because of this easy backup process, it’s super simple to change your hosting company. For instance, if you have a Bluehost account and you want to switch to HostGator, all you need to do is contact HostGator and give them access to your Bluehost cPanel. They will then click a couple of buttons –and because both use the cPanel, the transfer only takes a few minutes.

4. Addon Domains– If you want to add more of the domains you’ve purchased to your hosting plan, this is the place to do it. Once added, you’ll be able to manage those domains from the cPanel as well.

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5. MySQL Databases – You’ll need these if you’re setting up a content management system (like WordPress or Drupal) manually (without an automatic script installer like Softaculous). If you don’t plan on doing this, don’t worry about the databases.

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6. Script Installers – This is where the magic happens. If you don’t know how to code, and you don’t want to use a crappy site builder, this is where you can install a content management system (CMS) in under three minutes.

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Of course, before you install a CMS, you have to know which one you want to use! In the next section, we’ll briefly cover how to choose the right CMS for you, and walk you through the installation process.