Web hosting control panels are an essential part of website hosting. A website hosting control panel is the software application behind the scenes of your hosting account. It lets you administrate your website, keep it secure, and perform other maintenance and upkeep to ensure it performs at its best.
This article breaks down some of the essentials of web hosting control panels, how to use them, what they look like, and what to look for when evaluating your web hosting options. After reading this, we won't likely make you a control panel expert, but you'll better understand how to navigate yours. Let's get started.
Understanding Web Hosting Control Panels
A web hosting control panel is a set of administrative tools that allow you to manage your web hosting account, usually with a graphical user interface. This includes creating and managing websites, email addresses, databases, security, and more.
Web hosting control panels vary from one host to another but typically include features like file management, domain management, database management, and more. They also work across multiple servers and operating systems.
If you're looking for a new web host, ask about the hosting control panel included with your account. Otherwise, you may struggle to manage your website on your own.
New users to website hosting management will typically find the cPanel the easiest to work with. Some hosts have proprietary website management tools or control panels, mostly with managed WordPress hosting and higher-level plans.
What are Some of the Most Popular Control Panels?
cPanel and Plesk are two of the most popular web hosting control panels. cPanel is typically used by shared and reseller hosting providers, while Plesk is often used by (VPS) virtual private servers and dedicated server customers. Both incorporate a web-based graphical interface and can run on Linux and Windows servers.
Other lesser-used panel options include Control Web Panel (formerly Centos Web Panel), a free application with a Pro upgrade, and Vesta control panel.
Both cPanel and Plesk offer a wide range of features that can be customized to meet your needs. If you're trying to decide between Plesk and cPanel, it's essential to consider both ease of use and features.
cPanel is generally considered more user-friendly, while Plesk offers more advanced features like web server management. However, both panels have a wide range of options and can be customized to meet your needs.
Regarding ease of use, cPanel's interface is more intuitive and easier to navigate. It also offers a wide range of documentation and tutorials to help you get started.
On the other hand, Plesk requires a bit more knowledge to use effectively. However, once you get the hang of it, Plesk provides great power and flexibility.
If you're looking for more features, Plesk is a clear choice. It offers a wide range of tools and a web-based interface for server management running Linux or Windows operating systems, including the capability to manage multiple servers, domains, email accounts, and much more.
If you need multi-server management, and the ability to run server management tasks, Plesk will be your best choice. Plesk has a more sophisticated interface for managing servers, dedicated servers, or cloud servers within the same control panel.
cPanel also offers a wide range of features, but it can't match Plesk's depth and breadth. Ultimately, your best choice will depend on your needs and preferences. If you want an easy-to-use panel with a wide range of features, cPanel is the way to go. If you need more power and flexibility, Plesk is the better option.
How do I Choose the Right Web Hosting Control Panel for My Needs?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the best control panel for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. The web hosting company often makes that decision for you based on factors such as the hosting plan selected and the price paid for hosted services.
However, if given the choice, there are a few things to remember when choosing a control panel.
Ease of use
Ease of use might be the most critical aspect of choosing a web hosting panel. You won't find yourself being that productive or able to accomplish much if you can't figure out how to use it.
Choose a control panel that is easy to use and navigate. Ideally, it should have a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to find and use the features you need.
Consider the features offered by each control panel. Some standard features include email management, database management, file management, and website statistics.
Other features, such as website templates, FTP management, and one-click script installs, can also be helpful. Choose a control panel that offers the features you need to manage your website effectively.
Security is another important consideration when choosing a web hosting control panel. Ensure the panel offers secure login, password recovery, and anti-spam features. These features will help protect your website and data from hackers and other online threats.
Make sure the control panel you choose supports the platform you plan to use it on. For example, if you plan to use WordPress, ensure the control panel supports WordPress hosting.
Choose a control panel that has the functionality you need. For example, suppose you need a control panel to install software within your website's directories. In that case, you'll need access to a panel with automation tools like Softaculous, which will auto-install software, saving you from the manual approach.
If you plan to create and manage multiple websites, look for a control panel with website management tools. Plesk and cPanel can manage multiple websites, but Plesk has more capabilities for system administrators to install packages and run command line installations.
Ensure the control panel is compatible with your web hosting account and server. This will ensure that you can use all the features of the control panel and avoid any compatibility issues.
This is typically already decided for you by your choice of hosting plans, but sometimes you can choose cPanel, Plesk, or another way to administrate.
How do I Access my Web Hosting Control Panel?
Typically, you can access your web hosting control panel by logging in to your web hosting account and clicking on the “Control Panel” link. Alternatively, you may be able to access it directly through a URL like https://yourdomain.com/cpanel or https://yourdomain.com/admin, or you might have a port number that needs to be added, like, https://yourdomain.com:2083
If you're having trouble accessing your hosting control panel, contact your web host for help or submit a support ticket. This will be the easiest way to figure out the problem.
What are Some Common Features of Web Hosting Control Panels?
Web hosting control panels typically include a variety of features that you can use to manage your web hosting account. Here are some of the most common features when using a powerful control panel like cPanel.
Most hosting control panels include a file manager for managing files on the web server, which adds functionality like uploading, downloading, and editing. Additionally, you have basic tools for server management, the ability to back it up and restore from a backup.
Added features such as the ability to rewind your server to a previous day and administrate FTP accounts and file transfer services are also present.
Many control panels include tools for easy management of a domain name, such as registering, renewing, and transferring domains. You can typically find the ability to park or add on domains, which allows you to piggyback additional websites onto your hosting if your web host plan allows that.
Suppose your website uses a database (such as MySQL). In that case, most control panels will include tools for managing it, such as creating and deleting databases, adding and removing user accounts, and running SQL queries.
You also get access to your database tables using the Php My Admin tool. This allows you direct access to your database. Proceed with caution, as this is an advanced feature where making the wrong move could take down your website.
Some hosting control panels include tools for managing your email accounts, such as creating and managing email addresses and forwarding messages. Many offer advanced email management tools such as email filters, firewalls, forwarders, routing options, and email deliverability tools.
A good control panel will allow you to set up two-factor authentication, monitor who's accessing your domain, and more. These steps can help keep your domain safe from hackers and other online threats.
This is also a critical control panel area for managing SSL certificates, blocking IPs, and applying advanced security protocols for your website or domain.
Some of the more important things you can manage within the software section of your control panel are integrations with Cloudflare, which will aid in improving the security and performance of your website, website builder tools if your host offers them, the ability to select between multiple PHP versions, and access to the Softaculous WordPress sites manager.
The advanced panel will allow you to make adjustments based on additional features hosting providers might have configured for you at sign-up. In this A2 Hosting control panel, you can see an a2 Optimized feature that adds extra security features to WordPress and in general.
There may be a virus scanner tool, cron jobs tool, and terminal or command line access. Tread lightly in this area if you are not an expert or do not have knowledge of these tools, as they can be as harmful as they are beneficial.
Administration & preference management
With the administrative management web panel, you can change your contact information, password, language, adjust overall control panel settings and perform general upkeep.
How do I Troubleshoot Problems with My Web Hosting Control Panel?
If you're having problems with your web hosting control panel, the first step is to contact your web host for help. They can assist and resolve any issues you're having. If your hosting plan has premium support, call, email, or chat to resolve your access issue.
In addition, there are a few things you can try on your own to troubleshoot common problems:
Check your internet connection: If you're having trouble accessing your control panel, ensure your internet connection is stable and working properly.
Clear your browser's cache: Sometimes, cached data can cause problems when accessing a website or web-based application. Clearing your browser's cache may resolve the issue.
Try a different browser: If you still have trouble accessing your control panel, try using a different web browser. This may help if there is an issue with your browser's compatibility with the control panel.
Restart your computer: If you're still having problems, restarting your computer may clear any temporary issues that could be causing the problem.
Check your login URL: If attempting to access your control panel directly, ensure you have entered the URL correctly in your browser.
In most cases, following these techniques will resolve any problems you're having with your web hosting control panel. However, contact your web host for further assistance if you're still having trouble.
5 Tips for Using Your Control Panel Effectively
Regardless of the hosting control panel, your web company, and the hosting plan providers, there are some simple tips to ensure you are using it effectively. Control panels are only as good as the knowledge of the user.
- Take advantage of all the features your web hosting control panel offers.
- Use the control panel to manage your website's files, databases, and email accounts.
- Take advantage of the security features offered by your web hosting control panel.
- Use the web panel to create backups of your website's data.
- Use the control panel to troubleshoot any problems you may encounter with your website.
Maximizing the value of what a web hosting control panel provides can guarantee your website will work as expected and that you will have fewer issues that need to be supported.
5 Top Website Hosting Companies That Offer cPanel
5 Top Website Hosting Companies That Offer Plesk
5 Top Website Hosting Companies That Have Proprietary Tools
- Hostinger – Offers the hPanel as an easy hosting control panel option.
- SiteGround – Offers a proprietary control panel called Site Tools.
- Kinsta – Uses a custom WordPress hosting dashboard and toolset.
- Cloudways – Offers its custom control panel and a great comparison vs cPanel.
- iPage – Uses a proprietary control panel WordPress toolset.
Web Hosting Control Panel Comparisons
When you sign up for web hosting services, you want to know what type of control panel you are receiving with your hosting services. Some are more user-friendly than others, and some have non-standard tools that might be tied to an additional service provided, like a free website builder.
Bluehost vs GreenGeeks
Both Bluehost and GreenGeeks use cPanel. Both have been branded and made minor alterations, but it is a standard cPanel instance for the most part.
Fastcomet vs Bluehost
A2 Hosting vs Bluehost
A2 changes the layout slightly when you are on a VPS plan but still provides all the functionality within a familiar cPanel layout.
Web Hosting Control Panels Wrap-up
Understanding how to use the features within your control panel is critical to ensuring your website's success, email accounts, security, and more. If you're not a system administrator, you need to know the specifics on how to work with the web applications your hosting control panel includes.
Whether you choose a hosting company that uses cPanel, Plesk, a proprietary control panel, or another web-based interface of tools, learning the ins and outs of the valuable features will set you on a path to success.