cPanel is the most popular application for managing hosted websites. With a point-and-click interface, it allows you to do the most common tasks (set up email accounts, create backups, install software, etc) on your site easily.
Many web hosting companies offer cPanel. So if it is important to you, you have a lot of choices. This guide will help you sort through the issues to consider and pick the right host for you.
What is cPanel?
Whether you’re a novice or an experienced webmaster, the control panel on your hosting account is the key to a smooth, easy experience, and cPanel has become almost industry-standard.
But is it right for you? And what about the competition?
Let’s take a look at the dashboard, to get a better idea of what to expect. All features covered in this section are accessible by this dashboard:
Take a look at the Dashboard – you can try it yourself on the cPanel Demo Site.
What Makes cPanel So Popular?
The cPanel control panel was originally developed for a web hosting company that offered Linux hosting. It allowed hosting customers to manage elementary parts of their hosting service, such as their FTP logins and email addresses. The software has evolved over 15 years and outlived a spinoff product, WebPanel, thanks to its friendly user interface and simple navigation.
There are a few big bonuses for hosts that deploy cPanel:
They can distribute generic help documentation and don’t need to develop as much help in-house
Customers can transfer their knowledge when moving from host to host
cPanel stops web hosting customers from doing anything risky or prohibited
WHM and cPanel work beautifully together, so the host can use the combination of both on server-based hosting accounts, giving users a consistent experience
WHM can also offer easy management of multiple client sites while providing a user-friendly cPanel backend
WHM and cPanel are secure if properly managed.
Check out the file manager below:
A tidy looking file manager, accessible straight from the dashboard.
Hosting customers like cPanel because:
It’s super easy to navigate
The experience is the same on almost every host
Technical tasks have a very simple graphical interface
Built-in help stops you from doing anything potentially damaging
You spend more time on your website and less on the admin behind it
It can do all kinds of things you wouldn’t expect.
Common cPanel account features to look out for:
Unlimited resources like email accounts, databases, disc space, and bandwidth
Brief demonstration of the Database options and mySQL management.
cPanel can also be used as a platform for bolt-ons. The most common is Fantastico, a script library that offers hundreds of applications for one-click install. Fantastico takes all the hassle out of setting up and deploying applications like WordPress, PhpBB, Joomla, and OScommerce.
Beyond Fantastico, you may also want to look for Softaculous script installer integration, as this will enable you to extend cPanel’s functionally even further.
Lastly, the cPanel host you end up choosing will be based on the goals of your website. For example, if you want to start an e-commerce website, then it’s a good idea to search around for a host service that bundles a free SSL certificate, along with shopping cart integration. You can usually add these on for a fee at a later date, but if you know you’re gonna be selling products, then it’s smart to make sure these features are included from the start.
Overall, most people end up opting for a hosting provider that provides a cPanel control panel, or at least their own customized version of it. Still, there are other options out there, which we dive into below.
Put simply, a cPanel host is any hosting provider that utilizes a cPanel control panel to manage its servers. This means there are a variety of cPanel hosting environments you might end up using. cPanel is most commonly used in shared hosting environments, as it’s incredibly beginner friendly and includes features like one-click software and CMS installs, easy database creation, simple domain management, and more.
Plenty of mail and e-mail management options, all covered by cPanel.
However, cPanel can also be used in more advanced web hosting packages, like VPS and dedicated servers. Those who are using VPS or dedicated hosting will enjoy SSH and root admin access, along with cron jobs creation, and simple database management options.
In short, it isn’t only cPanel’s features which make it worthwhile, but the problems it eliminates. We picked out 5 of the most important ones:
cPanel Feature Details
Each of these could use some details.
Your most valuable resource is time. It doesn’t take long running a website to realize that.
Due to cPanel’s ease of use, it saves you plenty of time by making complex operations easy.
Your developers are a valuable resource. But they can be expensive.
With cPanel you can take on a ton of tasks, rather than having to pay other people to do them for you.
Because cPanel is so easy to use, it is likely that you won’t have to hire developers.
Zero to little development resources are required for determined webmasters. If you are willing to learn, you can do most things yourself.
When you run a website, there is always plenty of stress. So any way that you can reduce stress is great.
cPanel makes doing literally hundreds of difficult thing easy. And this will reduce your stress load — always helpful.
Even though we all make mistakes, having cPanel drastically cuts down your rate of annoying mistakes. It always helps to have tools do the work for you.
While if you’re planning on being a cPanel reseller host, then being able to offer your customers either cPanel, or cPanel and WHM hosting can be a huge benefit. Since most beginners are on the lookout for a cPanel backend.
Brief demonstration of the Database options and mySQL management.
If you’re sold on cPanel then you’ll have the choice between a free cPanel license and cheap cPanel hosting. The simplest way to get cPanel web hosting is to choose a cheap host that includes a cPanel license with their hosting plans. But, you’ll also have the ability to pay for a cPanel license and grab free hosting. This might sound appealing, but when it comes to making the best decision for your site, grabbing cheap hosting with bundled cPanel is going to be the best option.
Are Custom Control Panels Bad?
Not necessarily. Many hosts develop carefully optimized user-friendly control panels. DreamHost is a good example.
There are two main challenges for customers when it comes to custom control panels:
First, what is the learning curve going to be like? When you move hosts, and the two control panels are different, it’s going to take you a while to get used to the differences. That can make ordinary administration much slower and more cumbersome after the switch.
Second, can you export content from your old site? Databases and files aren’t usually a problem, but it’s far more difficult to export cPanel settings (such as email addresses and FTP accounts) to a completely different control panel. Often, it’s impossible, and you’ll need to recreate everything by hand.
Some custom control panels are well designed and very functional. Some are ugly and difficult to use. Whatever the control panel may be, give it a test drive before you commit to a contract with the host.
We wouldn’t exactly recommend complete beginners to go for a custom control panel, unless you’re an extremely fast learner.
Often you may find that a custom control panel works better for you, although the average webmaster is accustomed to cPanel, hence why it’s their first choice. Let’s take a look at some potential risks with custom control panels, as opposed to cPanel:
Risk of maintenance costs, should anything go wrong
Features must be integrated by a developer, as well as maintained
Promised fast loading times and more
A great armory of features, covering mostly all aspects of website management
What About Plesk?
The main competitor to cPanel is arguably Plesk. Some customers are fans of cPanel; some swear by Plesk. The two applications do more or less the same thing, so if you can work in both, it’s a bonus.
Plesk have a transparent and useful information page on known issues, preparing users for hurdles to overcome.
Plesk is also a good looking control panel, although slightly different in layout.
Here are the main differences between cPanel and Plesk:
Plesk is available for Windows and Linux; cPanel is Linux-only
Plesk contains server admin options if your account permits it. In cPanel, you don’t have any, since these tools are deployed separately in WHM
The two control panels look completely different, making it difficult to move from one to the other
You can’t export content from Plesk to cPanel, or vice versa.
It doesn’t matter whether you use cPanel or Plesk as long as you’re comfortable with the choice. Just don’t walk blindly into a hosting contract without checking which one you’ll get.
Other Alternatives to cPanel
If you have root access to your server or VPS, you can install anything you like, and there’s no reason to be limited to cPanel, that’s of course if you fancy the custom option. It goes without saying this can carry risks. If you’re willing to experiment, there are all kinds of control panels, and many of them come without the license fee that cPanel attracts.
General Pros and Cons of cPanel Hosting
Prior to cPanel, managing a website was a painful experience, avoided by many.
Thanks to the simplified usability and functionality, website management has become a stroll in the park.
This is due to automated features, as well as a non-programmer based user-interface.
Yes, you guessed it right. Due to cPanel being such a simple interface to use, you often do not need a programmer or developer by your side, depending on the size of your project.
Even if you do, you are not required to pay them for all those extra hours of hard coding.
Licensing for cPanel is pretty costly when one has to purchase it privately.
Other than the downside of licensing, cPanel hosting as a whole really does not have many negative features. We could ask for an even hotter user-interface in the coming years, I guess?
My Top 3 Choices for cPanel Hosting
You have a lot of options for good cPanel hosting. But to make it easy on you, I’ve provided you with what I think are the three base. They should give you a solid starting point.
When you’re looking for the best cPanel host you’re going to have a lot of different options to choose from. If you’re a beginner, then SiteGround is going to be a great choice.
You’ll find scalable cPanel web hosting that can grow with your site. Plus, your site will be backed with a 99.9% uptime, Cloudflare CDN integration, a free SSL certificate, and a ton more.
SiteGround logo via SiteGround.
Another solid beginner-friendly cPanel host is Bluehost.
If you’re a beginner who’s looking for cheap prices and speedy hosting, then give Bluehost a spin. Depending on the package you choose you’ll be able to take advantage of the domain manager, unlimited email account creation, plus automated regular backups of all your sites files.
Bluehost logo via Bluehost.
InMotion is another great cPanel host. With InMotion, you’ll get business class hosting at bargain-level pricing.
When you create an account you’ll also get access to a free domain, regular backups, and an incredible support team behind you. Plus, there’s even an entire cPanel education resource section, so you can easily get the most out of cPanel.
InMotion logo via InMotion.
Other features in Web Hosting Control Panels: What Are the Best?
cPanel is a hosting control panel. It allows you to change the settings on your account, set up email accounts, add domains, and more.
cPanel also makes it relatively easy to create backups of your account, and move all of your data from one hosting provider to another.
Is cPanel free?
Hosting accounts purchase cPanel licenses, and they pass the cost onto customers.
On shared hosting plans, you probably won’t have to pay extra for it.
On VPS and dedicated server plans, you may be asked to cover the cost of the license yourself.
What can you do with cPanel?
On the cPanel dashboard, you can find tools to create and manage email accounts, manage your website files, backup your data, create and edit databases, and more.
Some hosts create their own add-ons for cPanel to increase its functionality.
Is cPanel easy to use?
Yes. cPanel is easy for beginners to get to grips with.
You don’t need technical knowledge to use the most common features, and there’s plenty of help material on the World Wide Web.
cPanel is practically identical on every host, so once you know how to use it, you won’t have to re-learn it.
What kind of hosting plans does cPanel work with?
cPanel can be used to manage shared, dedicated server, or VPS hosting plans.
It’s included with most shared and reseller hosting plans, and may be installed on dedicated server or VPS hosting plans. Sometimes there’s an additional license fee for this.
What are the installation requirements for cPanel?
cPanel must be run on a Linux operating system: either CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) or CloudLinux.
Your server should have a 226 MHz processor, 1 GB of RAM, and 40 GB of disk space. Before installing cPanel, you must install Perl on your server.
Why is cPanel so widely used?
cPanel is just one of many control panels available for hosting users, but cPanel is the most common and established. That’s partly because of the comprehensive tools it offers, and because it’s also very reliable and intuitive.
It’s generally easy to find community support, tutorials, and assistance for cPanel.
Perhaps the most
Aren’t all web hosting control panels the same?
No. Control panels vary considerably in terms of the features and interface they offer. cPanel is widely regarded to have the best of both, although some people do have a personal preference for another control panel.
How does cPanel compare to Plesk?
Unlike cPanel, the Plesk control panel works on Windows as well as Linux servers. Plesk arguably provides more control over certain features, but it isn’t as intuitive.
One positive aspect of Plesk is that it can be used to manage accounts and server settings, so there’s no need to install any other software if you plan to resell.
How does cPanel compare to DirectAdmin?
DirectAdmin is a competing control panel for Linux servers. It’s less expensive than cPanel, it’s simpler, and it’s not as resource intensive as cPanel. But DirectAdmin lacks many of the features and tools in cPanel.
Also, many hosting clients prefer and expect cPanel, partly because it’s so common and many hosting users already know how it works.
What’s the difference between cPanel and WHM?
WHM is often used in conjunction with cPanel. WHM is for server administrators and hosting resellers, and allows them to create multiple hosting accounts, and manage settings on their VPS or dedicated server.
cPanel just controls the settings on one hosting account.
Are there any drawbacks to using cPanel?
Some developers and hosting providers have reservations about the way cPanel stores data. These won’t affect you as a hosting user.
If you’re a system administrator, you probably already know that cPanel is too basic to do everything that you need to do. But many hosts give you the option of installing a different control panel, if you find cPanel restrictive.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of cPanel is that it doesn’t work on Windows hosting accounts.
Why do some hosts refuse to migrate non-cPanel accounts?
If you’re planning to move from one host to another, you need a really easy way to grab all of your account data. cPanel makes this very simple.
Your host can seamlessly transfer all of your site content, databases, mailboxes, and preferences at once.
With other control panels, this isn’t quite so simple. Some don’t have any export options at all, and the ones that do will produce an export file that is incompatible with cPanel.
When you consider that cPanel is the most common control panel on shared hosting accounts, this can present a problem for hosting providers, because they have to move everything manually.
cPanel to cPanel transfer is therefore very efficient, and has a very low risk of data loss. It’s quick and easy for hosts to transfer cPanel customers, which is why they often provide free migration.
Can I uninstall cPanel from my server?
If you have a VPS, your host may allow you to uninstall the control panel software. However, it might not help you to install an alternative. If you have a dedicated server, you should be able to install whatever control panel software you prefer.
Who develops and owns the cPanel software?
cPanel is developed and owned by cPanel, Inc., a privately owned company based in Texas. It was first developed in 1997 by developer John Nick Koston, who is now the CEO of cPanel, Inc.
About Kevin Wood
Kevin got his start as a web developer. Now he spends his time as a technical writer and poet. His main interests are technology and human potential. When he's not diving headfirst into technical topics, you can find him scrawling lines of poetry and getting lost in the woods.
Connect with Kevin
Who's Best for cPanel Hosting?
We think SiteGround is a great choice for webmasters who want to use cPanel.