If you’ve ever created a website with the help of a web hosting provider, then you’ve probably heard of cPanel. In a nutshell, cPanel makes it easier for you to manage your server or website by providing an intuitive graphical user interface (GUI) for you to interact with.

But what exactly is cPanel, and why do you need it when managing your online business? In this article, we’ll discuss cPanel basics such as how to access it or install it, the pros and cons, and how to use cPanel for everyday functions like managing files or viewing website metrics.

What is cPanel and why is it important?

As we’ve already established, cPanel is a GUI that’s used as a control panel (hence the name) to simplify the process of server or website management. With cPanel, you can navigate system management with the help of graphics, buttons, links and navigation tools.

cPanel helps you manage a wide range of functions, including:

  • Managing site files
  • Installing software
  • Creating websites and domains
  • Adding and updating DNS records
  • Managing MySQL databases
  • Launching and managing email networks
  • Monitoring website and server metrics
  • Configuring security settings

cPanel is only compatible with Linux-based operating systems. Linux distributions are difficult to navigate for those who are unfamiliar with website and server hosting, but cPanel solves this by allowing you to interact with a graphical interface rather than typing commands into a command-line interface. This is why a control panel like cPanel is essential for those who want to create and manage a website, especially if they don’t have a lot of technical experience.

What is WHM?

cPanel is often paired with WebHost Manager (WHM), which allows hosting providers to easily manage their servers and all user accounts on each server. Whereas cPanel is a user interface, WHM is a server management interface that provides administrative control to the hosting provider. Customers use cPanel to run and manage their websites, and web hosting providers use WHM to:

  • Monitor the server
  • Create cPanel accounts for customers
  • Manage multiple websites and accounts
  • Transfer and back up data

When a hosting provider uses WHM to create cPanel accounts for its customers, this is known as cPanel hosting. With cPanel hosting, cPanel is included in the price of your web hosting plan, and the software will already be installed on your server before you get started with managing your website.

Is cPanel free?

Although cPanel hosting customers don’t have to pay an additional fee for cPanel, this doesn’t mean cPanel is free. In fact, cPanel licensing is actually quite expensive. Therefore, hosting providers who’ve partnered with cPanel pass on these fees to the customer through the overall cost of their web hosting packages. In some cases, cPanel may be a free add-on for the first year of a hosting plan and then the provider may charge a cPanel fee for subsequent years.

Advantages of cPanel hosting

Is it worth it to choose a web hosting plan that includes cPanel hosting? Here are the main benefits you can expect from cPanel:

1. Intuitive, easy-to-use interface

cPanel’s GUI simplifies the process of running and managing a website, even for total beginners. If you want to start a website but have been put off by your lack of technical knowledge, rest assured that anyone can get to grips with running their website with cPanel’s clear graphics and tools.

2. Automatic software installation

cPanel is integrated with Softaculous, which is an auto-installer that helps you install apps easily without having to type commands into a command-line interface. This makes it much easier for Linux users to install apps like WordPress.

3. Wide range of features 

cPanel includes features such as domain management, file management, website monitoring, app installation and database management. Plus, each section is clearly labelled to help you find exactly what you need.

4. Compatibility 

cPanel is compatible with multiple web browsers (such as Google Chrome and Safari) and third-party applications. This means you don’t need to worry about cPanel not working with your favourite tools.

5. Support

With cPanel, you’ll get plenty of technical support from online blogs, forums and guides. cPanel is a very popular control panel tool, which means there are lots of online resources dedicated to it.

Disadvantages of cPanel hosting

However, there are also some downsides to cPanel. Many hosting providers offer alternatives to cPanel like Plesk, so it’s important to think carefully about which website management tool would be the best for you. Here are some of the disadvantages of cPanel hosting:

1. Price

cPanel licensing is pretty expensive compared to other control panels, which means installing cPanel yourself may not be the most cost-effective option. However, you can usually get a better deal by opting for cPanel hosting from a web hosting provider as they can split the licensing costs among customers.

2. Security

There have been some security and data concerns with cPanel in the past, such as vulnerable two-factor authentication settings and accidental data loss issues.

3. Lack of flexibility

The web interface of cPanel is great for beginners learning how to manage their websites, but it can actually be quite restrictive for those hoping to accomplish more complicated tasks. For more in-depth and complex server configuration, cPanel isn’t ideal.

4. Time-consuming

While cPanel is easy to use, it can also be very time-consuming. There are lots of different sections and actions to explore, and some of these procedures (such as modifying folder permissions) can take a very long time to configure.

How to log into cPanel

If you’ve chosen cPanel hosting, logging into your cPanel account is very straightforward. Your hosting company should’ve provided you with a cPanel link, which you can click to be brought straight to the cPanel login page.

If you can’t find or don’t have a link, it’s still very easy to get to cPanel. Go to the address bar of your web browser and type in your website’s address. If your website address begins with ‘http’, add :2082 to the end of its URL. If it begins with ‘https’, add :2083 to the end of the URL. It should look something like this:

  • http://www.yourwebsite.com:2802
  • https://www.yourwebsite.com:2083

Alternatively, you can add /cpanel to the end of the URL (https://www.yourwebsite.com/cpanel). Another option is to use your website’s IP address instead of your domain name and add :2082 or :2083 to the end – this is particularly useful if you’ve got a new site and your DNS records still need to be updated. Once you get to the cPanel login page, bookmark it so you can easily access it in the future.

The final step is to just enter your username and password on the login page. You should have created these details for your account when signing up to your hosting plan. Then, click the ‘Log In’ button to be taken to your website’s control panel. 

How to install cPanel

If you’ve chosen to buy and install cPanel yourself rather than choosing a cPanel hosting plan, getting started with cPanel won’t be quite as simple. 

When installing cPanel on your Linux server, you’ll need the following prerequisites:

  • Set Regular Hostname and Domain Name
  • Perl
  • cURL

We would also recommend installing Linux Screen before running the cPanel installation command, as this allows you to reconnect to the server via Terminal if the network connection is lost.

Once the prerequisites are installed, you can get started with installing cPanel. Start a Screen session with the name ‘cPanel’ with the following command:

screen -S cPanel

Then, log into the root user account and type the following code into your Terminal window:

curl -o latest -L https://securedownloads.cpanel.net/latest

This will download the files for cPanel and WHM. Finally, you can install these files with the following command:

sh latest

To learn more about the installation process for cPanel, read our helpful guide on accessing and installing software in cPanel.

How to use cPanel

Once you’ve logged into your cPanel account, it’s time to get started with managing your website. But what can you actually do with cPanel, and how does it all work? Read our quick guide to using cPanel below, or download our in-depth cPanel user guide for more information. 

1. Preferences

One of the sections you’ll notice on your cPanel interface is called ‘Preferences’. This is where you can configure your interface’s styles and themes, change the language and much more.

‘Preferences’ is also where you’ll need to add your contact information. Make sure this section is always up to date so that you can be contacted if there are issues with your website or cPanel account.

2. Domain management

Next, let’s look at domain management. Within the ‘Domains’ section on cPanel, you’ll be able to add new domains, manage domain names, set up addon domains, create parked domains, redirect URLs and create subdomains. To learn more about managing your domain names, take a look at our domain management guide.

3. File management

In the ‘Files’ section, you’ll be able to see your images, disk usage and data backup options, including the option to set up a backup wizard to schedule how often you want to back up your files.

Click on ‘File Manager’ if you want to manage your website’s files directly. This will show you a page that lists all of your website’s folders and files. From here, you can add files and folders, upload missing files, edit files and remove old or unneeded files.

4. Database management

You won’t need to look at your database on a day to day basis, but it’s important to know where it is and how to navigate it if you ever need to edit or transfer your data. You’ll find your website’s database in the ‘Databases’ section, which includes buttons for managing MySQL databases.

Using these options, you can view your currently active databases, which could include eCommerce product information, user contact information and WordPress hosting information. If needed, you can add new databases in this section or modify current ones.

5. Email management

By navigating to the ‘Email’ section on cPanel, you can manage your business email addresses (e.g. yourname@yourbusiness.com) if email hosting is included in your cPanel hosting and web hosting plan. There are plenty of options in this section, including the ability to create new email addresses, set spam filters, create autoresponders, track email disk usage and manage your email marketing.

6. WordPress installation

Thanks to cPanel’s integration with the Softaculous app installer, you can quickly and easily install a wide range of applications for your website. Softaculous is an auto-installer that allows you to install almost 400 different apps without having to use the Linux command-line interface.

One of the key apps that Softaculous can install for you is WordPress. Simply click on the WordPress icon in the ‘Apps Installer’ section to begin your installation.

7. Metrics

In addition to helping you manage your website, cPanel helps you monitor important metrics like website visitors, resource usage and bandwidth. cPanel displays these metrics with clear and easy-to-understand graphics, stats and charts, making it easier for you to keep track of your website’s performance and decide how to improve it.

8. Security settings

To protect your business and the customer information stored on your cPanel account, cPanel provides a range of excellent security features to deter criminals and keep your data safe. These features can be found in the ‘Security’ section and include options like SSH access, two-factor authentication and hotlink protection. In this section, you’ll be able to control who can access your account and set up security features like SSL certificates.

9. Advanced features

Finally, once you’ve mastered the basics, you can head over to the ‘Advanced’ section to configure advanced features for your cPanel account. Although these features aren’t necessary to set up and manage your website, they’re an excellent tool for more experienced users who want more control over their websites. For example, in this section, you can access WebHost Manager, track DNS and create Cron Jobs, which automate commands or scripts on your website.

Frequently asked questions about cPanel hosting

Do I really need cPanel?

Unless you’re very experienced with Linux and command-line interfaces, we would definitely recommend using a GUI like cPanel. This will make it much easier for you to manage your website, install software and stay on top of tracking website metrics. So, although you don’t need cPanel, it’s very useful to have.

Is cPanel necessary for WordPress?

No, you don’t need cPanel for WordPress hosting. However, as above, cPanel will make it much easier for you to manage your WordPress website, and cPanel’s integration with the Softaculous app installer means that it's extremely simple to install WordPress through cPanel with just one click.

Are there any alternatives to cPanel?

Yes, there are other control panel tools you can install or use as part of your web hosting package with certain hosting providers. A popular alternative is Plesk, which can be used on Windows and Linux operating systems. Both cPanel and Plesk are very popular because they’re commonly included with web hosting services. To learn more about the similarities and differences between these two control panels, read our Plesk vs cPanel article.

Whether you’re interested in cPanel, Plesk or our own intuitive control panel, we’ve got the perfect web hosting plan for you. Get 99.999% uptime, up to 5GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, up to 5 domain names, 24/7 support and your preferred control panel software with our web hosting services. Get in touch for more information.