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If you've used any web hosting service in the past decade, you've most likely encountered a cPanel.
In short, the cPanel is a web-based hosting control platform with handy automation tools and a user-friendly interface to simplify the entire web hosting experience.
It is an industry standard software that facilitates the effective management of websites on a hosted platform. Websites are a vital part of a brand’s online presence.
It isn’t rare these days to see small businesses and even individuals juggling several domains at the same time under the umbrella of one brand.
Fortunately, “cPanel has made it easier to manage your domains in a single place.” It comes with a broad range of tools effectively designed to handle tasks at different levels of complexity.
cPanel has a 3-tier system that empowers end-users (who are typical site owners), administrators, and even the best hosting resellers to manage their hosting resources effectively.
While this guide focuses on the novice site owner trying to wrap their heads around cPanel for the first, it can also serve as a resource for the more experienced user eager to refresh their cPanel knowledge.
Strap on your seatbelt as we go on a ride of adventure on the road to discovering cPanel.
What can cPanel Do?
cPanel can be used to accomplish a wide range of tasks central to managing a website and administering, such as the following:
- Enabling users to connect domain names to their hosting service.
- Setting up emails for accounts.
- Installation of WordPress (if it isn’t there by default) and other content management systems).
- Backup and failsafe redundancy on your website.
- Upload and download files to the server, with or without using an FTP client.
- Check metrics such as bandwidth and other usage statistics.
- Managing access and security settings.
- Installation of add-ons and other third-party applications on your server.
- New database creation, in addition to managing existing ones.
- Building different optimizations into a site’s infrastructure to boost performance.
While these capabilities are only a fraction of what cPanel can do, don’t feel overwhelmed.
Although it provides a substantial capacity of features and fine-grained customizations, quality web hosting has never been easier with cPanel. Moreover, you don’t have to grasp every single one of these to effectively manage your website.
Its ubiquity on most hosting services makes an important utility to learn. However, we can’t go through everything it covers in this guide. Since our focus is to help beginner users, we will stick to our mandate and provide the basic tasks required to operate cPanel.
The Basics of cPanel
All You Need to Know 📝
Use of cPanel
You don’t need to do anything to create or deploy cPanel - it is integrated as the default control panel by the web hosts that use them.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to access the cPanel platform. For instance, if you’re hosting with GoDaddy, after logging into the dashboard, you can access cPanel from your user profile in the “cPanel Admin” button located around the upper right corner of the page:
The graphical interface that will be displayed and the method required to access cPanel will depend on the version of the software your web host is currently running.
Conversely, you can route directly to the cPanel dashboard through a web browser. For those managing dedicated hosting or having so much traffic they need a top-of-the-line VPS hosting solution, the cPanel TCP inbound uses port 2082, or simply by adding “/cpanel” to the end of the hostname URL.
cPanel can also be accessed using a secure socket protocol (HTTPS) on port 2083. Therefore, you can use your domain name, along with cPanel’s port address to connect to cPanel, like this:
cPanel Login and Interface
Whichever way you opt to use to reach your cPanel host, you’ll subsequently be asked to enter your cPanel password and username once you land on the page:
Your hosting service provider will usually provide you with the opportunity to create login credentials to access your cPanel Admin area, so we won’t go into it.
After you successfully log in, the details displayed might be peculiar to the hosting service or version of cPanel they are running. However, the cPanel admin area normally displays information relating to your primary domain, cPanel login (which is hidden), plan details and so on.
As you can see, it has a simple-to-use dashboard that categorizes and list the applications available to the user, making items easy to locate. However, if you need to quickly find an item, simply enter the text in the search bar on top or use the ctrl+f command to find it.
The latest version of cPanel for 2019 uses a theme called Paper Lantern. Don’t panic if your cPanel looks nothing like this. Go to the Preferences section to change the style of your cPanel.
It isn’t currently in view in the above graphic but you’ll find it right after in the Web Applications section near the bottom. Click on Change Style:
Your choices will depend on what your hosting service provides. The options available in this example are Basic, Dark, Light, and Retro styles.
To use the same scheme shown, choose “Basic” and then click the “Apply” button located at the top right corner, positioned next to the style. The page will be reloaded with the new style subsequently applied.
Finding Your Way Around cPanel
Which is Which 💭
The Navigation Bar 🧭
The navigation bar is located at the top of the cPanel dashboard screen, near the right corner. It is nothing fancy, comprising of a search field, along with a link to your username avatar. Beside it are a notifications bell, followed by the logout link.
These are the functions of the Navigation bar.
- ☑️ Use the search field to find the crucial options in cPanel
- ☑️ The user preferences link enables you to change your password, modify contact information,etc.
- ☑️ The notifications bell, as its name suggests, is the place where you can view important updates
- ☑️ The logout link is self-explanatory – it is to be used to log out when you’ve finished working with cPanel
The Search Bar 🔎
The search field is next to the navigation bar, located at the topmost part of the page. The Search Bar functions a bit similar to the navigation bar, but instead of showing you results from a drop-down, it filters out the cPanel dashboard to display only the items matching your search criteria. Once you start typing, it immediately starts to condense the cPanel to display only the options that fit your query.
For example. If you are looking for any modules relating to domain functions, typing in the search bar will display this:
The Sidebar 📚
The cPanel sidebar is on the left side of the dashboard, and it usually comes numerous icons. The precise number depends on what is made available for you by your host. In this particular case, from the top down, we have the icons for Home, Notifications Bell, Statistics, and Dashboard.
- ☑️ Home brings you to the main page of cPanel
- ☑️ Notifications bell is where your cPanel notifications are
- ☑️ Statistics provide vital details relating to your hosting resources
- ☑️ The dashboard serves as a quick resource and reference page
Managing cPanel Accounts
Contacts, Accounts, Profiles and More 📒
Top Tip ⭐
As soon as you log in to a new account, the proper procedure is to change the login password of the account. Besides this initial action, security professionals advise users to periodically change their passwords to make their accounts more secure.
Changing Your Password 🗝️
On the cPanel home screen, click on the username icon displayed over the right corner of the dashboard.
Click on the Password & Security option. If you can’t find this option, you might need to contact your hosting provider to activate it or provide an alternative way for you to change your password.
You will subsequently be redirected to the Password & Security page. Once there, you have two options to provide a password.
You have the option to take advantage of the Password Generator or to otherwise manually enter a password of your own. For enhanced security, using the Password Generator is recommended as it was designed to generate passwords that are both strong, random, and secure.
If you decide to use the Password Generator, then go ahead and click on the button and it will do the rest for you. Otherwise, enter a New Password the field provided, re-enter it again in the Confirm New Password.
If you think you might need to access your Web Disk through an unencrypted connection in a windows machine, then you should enable the Digest Authentication option.
After your done entering the details, click on the Change your password now! button to effect the changes. If all is successful, cPanel will automatically log you out. You will have to login again with the new password recently created.
Managing cPanel Accounts: Updating Contact Information 🧑🤝🧑
One of the main things to undertake after getting a cPanel account is providing an email address where you’ll receive updates on information concerning your web host. This is crucial because the system email address or any other email address connected with your domain can’t be used for this purpose.
This step is crucial because, without a working email, you’ll not only lose important updates, but cPanel will be unable to communicate with you in the event that something significant happens to your system.
You must set your email address to one that isn’t already attached to a domain name hosted on your current cPanel account. Because if the server encounters problems or anything damages the configuration files, then that domain will be automatically compromised, making it impossible to contact you.
Fortunately, the cPanel interface allows you to change your contact information. Follow these steps to update your contact information:
Step 1 - Navigate to the cPanel home screen, click on the username icon on the right corner of your dashboard.
Step 2 - Click on the Contact Information option to bring up the Contact Information Interface.
Step 3 - Specify the email address in the box provided. Make sure it’s the email you want the system to use to contact you for important notifications.
- 3.a You can optionally provide a second email address for cPanel to send a copy of the message sent to the primary email as a backup.
Step 4. It is highly recommended to have all the boxes under “Contact Preferences” checked. This is because these are all important updates that could alert you to suspicious activities, for instance, someone attempting to change your password or a consequential hosting problem such as your disk space being used up imminently.
Step 5. Finally, click the Save button for cPanel to commit the changes.
Adding a New User through cPanel 🤝
Through cPanel’s User Manager section, you are allowed to control all the users in your account through cPanel’s singular interface. The User Manager’s interface displays all the user accounts available under your account who have email accounts or FTP accounts that are associated with your domain.
Under the PREFERENCES section of the cPanel dashboard, click on the “User Manager” icon.
Once you click on it, you’ll then be taken to the following screen:
Once you’ve advanced to this page, all accounts that are currently set in your cPanel will be displayed. In this example, there is only one current user. Click on the Add User button on the top corner, to the right of the screen.
Provide the requested user information on the form. With regard to the domain information, if there are multiple domains on your hosting account, you can simply specify which domain’s email/FTP/Webdisk this new user will have access to.
You’ll be required to decide whether The user will set the password or rather Set the user’s password by yourself. If you elect to set the user password by yourself, an option will appear that allows it to be generated by the system.
You are also required to specify which services the user will be granted access to by clicking the slider next to the Disabled/Enabled option. You have the option to set quotas for email and FTP; and specify Home Directory location and permissions for Web Disk.
Working with Files and Data
Files, Data and All That Comes With Them 💽
What Is the File Manager
As a user, it is important to know how to both work with and safeguard your files. cPanel provides File Manager as the gateway to access and manage files on cPanel. File Manager has useful options to easily and quickly coordinate file-related functions within the convenience of the cPanel interface.
Its explorer-like interface provides an immediate snapshot of the file system, enabling you to collapse and expand folders to view underlying content. In addition, File Manager eliminates some of the hassles associated with using FTP.
The File Manager interface enables users to create, upload, modify or remove files. Unlike an FTP, it provides a feature most users are accustomed to, which is the ability to move files to Trash before permanently deleting them, thereby making it possible to recover them later.
To open the File Manager, go to the Files section of cPanel’s dashboard and click on its icon:
This action will trigger the opening of a new tab, which displays the File Manager Dashboard. With its explorer-like familiarity, File Manager gives you the flexibility of navigating through your files and folders.
Working with File Manager
One of the appeals of File Manager is its versatility. It has a menu bar through which is used to execute your core file functions, with icons which provide visual, self-explanatory cues to their underlying functions.
File Manager is equipped to handle a wide range of file functions, and we’ll be focusing on some of the most basic:
Searching for files and folders
File Manager makes the task of searching for your file(s) convenient. There is a search bar suitably placed on its Title bar, with the word Search conspicuously placed beside it. With this search functionality, you can perform deep searches, whether on the public_html or your current directory. Just type in the name of the file you want to locate and File Manager will do the rest for you.
Note: The public_html folder stores all the public-facing files that are accessible at the frontend of your website.
Related Read: Front-end Dev Beginner Guide
Creating a File
Go to the folder where you want the new file to be stored, and click on the File icon on the File Manager’s menu bar. A dialog box will open requesting the name of the file to be created. After you enter the filename with its extension, select where you want the file to be created, or otherwise leave it in its current directory.
When you’re done, click on the Create New File button to direct cPanel to create the file.
Creating a Folder
Creating a folder follows an almost identical step to creating a file. Go to the directory where you want your new folder to be placed, then click on the Folder icon on the File Manager’s dashboard.
A dialog box will be displayed, but this time requesting the name of the folder to be created. After entering the folder name (no extension is required), change the location of the folder if you so desire. Then click on the Create New Folder to execute it.
Copying/Moving a File(s)
The method used here also applies to folders but we’ll focus on files to avoid redundancy.
Copying or moving single or multiple files is simple and intuitive in File Manager. Simply select the file(s) you want to copy or move by clicking on it with the mouse.If you want to select multiple files, press down the Ctrl key while clicking on the desired files. File Manager highlights the selected files as you click.
When you have finished your selection, click on the copy or move icon.
The action will open the appropriate dialog form, either Move or Copy.
In the figure above you’ll notice that the files highlighted in the background: 404.shtml, index.php, license.txt, wp-blog-header.php, are the same as those displayed in the Move dialog box since a multiple file selection was made.
Enter the desired path you want the file(s) copied/moved to in the field provided, then click on the Move File(s) or Copy File(s) button, depending on the circumstance.
Uploading a File
To upload a file in File Manager, navigate to the folder location from which you want the upload to be initiated from and click the Upload icon.
Choose your selection preference - you can drag and drop the files or select them via the Select File button. You can also instruct File Manager to automatically overwrite files with the same name by checking Overwrite existing files box.
Uploading an Existing Website To cPanel 🖿
We’ve just looked at how cPanel’s Upload feature can be used. Now, we go a step further and look at how users can extend this functionality to moving an entire website into their current domain.
For instance, if you’re transferring an existing website to a different host, you can take advantage of the Upload function to achieve this more systematic way.
- Step 1 - Navigate to File Manager if you aren’t already in it (this has been previously covered)
- Step 2 - From the explorer-like menu of File Manager’s left side, select public_html
- Step 3 - Upload the file(s) using the add (+) file icon on the top menu
- Step 4 - Once uploaded, extract the zipped file from within the public_html folder.
Backing up and Restoring Data
So You Don't Lose Your Stuff 🛍️
Preventing Data Loss 📦
Your data is important so you need to be prepared because anything can go wrong like a system failure that could result in loss of data.
cPanel backup feature is equipped to perform such important utility functions. Backup comes in handy when you’re making fundamental changes to your website files or database.
It is wise in these circumstances to create a backup of the original website. Because having a backup enables you to revert back to the original state in case anything happens while editing.
Moreover, even if anything awry occurs to your hosting provider, you’ll be protected by virtue of having a copy of your website. cPanel’s backup process creates a compressed, zipped copy of your website.
You can also use the backup feature to transfer a copy of your site to the new host.
Full Backup 👜
Step 1 - To select backup on cPanel’s dashboard, click Backup from the Files section in cPanel and the Backup form will be displayed.
cPanel provides two kinds of backup: full and partial backup. A full backup compresses all of the data stored on your server into a single file which you can subsequently transfer or download locally.
On the Backup form, you can choose to execute or download full backups of your data. Or download and restore only key parts of it through a partial backup.
Step 2 - To perform a full backup, click on the big blue “Download a Full Account Backup” button. This will subsequently take you to the next screen.
Step 3 - There are several options provided for the Backup destination. In this screenshot, it is left at the default Home directory. This means that it will create the backup in your home directory, from where you can subsequently download it at a later time.
Provide an email address to receive notifications and alerts whenever the full backup of your website is ready to be downloaded.
Step 4 - Click on the Generate Backup button to initiate the backup process. You will see a message informing you that it has commenced: “Full Backup in Progress ...”
Please note that a full website backup takes quite some time to generate, so you’ll have to be patient for it to complete.
Partial Backups 🎒
Unlike the full backup, with partial backup can be downloaded instantly. In addition, partial backups enable you to download aspects of your data separately, such as your home directory, email forwarders/filters, and databases.
Partial backups share the same interface with the Full backup. Just scroll down a little and you’ll encounter the Partial backup options
To download your home directory backup, just click on the Home Directory button. On the other hand, if you want to restore your home directory, just upload the same file using the right-hand side of the form interface where Restore a Home Directory Backup is written.
Likewise, you can perform the same activities with Databases, Email Forwarders, and Email Filters.
Managing Domains and Subdomains on Cpanel
Refresher Course 🌊
What Are Domains? 🌐
This is a beginner’s guide, so we’ll quickly do a refresher on domains before getting to subdomains.
A domain is simply the address of your website that users have to type into a browser so they can access it.
A domain consists of a TLD (Top Level Domain) and SLD (Second level domain). Take, for example, google.com - google represents the second-level domain of the TLD, which is .com. You can, therefore, say that google is the subdomain of the .com TLD. You may have heard of other TLDs such as .org, .uk, .au, .in, and so on.
Similarly, a subdomain functions as an additional part of your domain. Subdomains help organize your site and assist users to navigate around it. For instance, consider blog.hostingdata.co.uk - in this example, blog is a subdomain of hostingdata.co.uk
In this segment, we’ll be looking at how cPanel helps you to add, remove, and change subdomains.
Creating a Subdomain 💻
Step 1 - You will find SubDomains under the Domain section on the cPanel’s dashboard. Click on the SubDomain icon.
Step 2 - Enter the name of the subdomain you want to create in the box provided. When you select the root domain, the Document Root will automatically be filled for you according to your subdomain.
Once the subdomain is successfully created, you’ll see a message like the one below:
Addon Domains 📡
cPanel makes it easy to manage multiple domains from a single hosting account. We’ll look at how it enables us to do this through the Addon Domains functionality. As its name suggests, Addon Domains are addition domains that are stored in subfolders and hosted on your account.
It is a viable option if you need to run a whole different website under your same hosting plan.
Therefore, while a subdomain is directly related to your domain and in fact, constitutes a part of it, an addon domain is an entirely separate, standalone domain that just happens to be run from the same host account.
Creating an Addon Domain 🛰️
Step 1 - To create an addon domain, simply click on Addon Domains under the Domain section of the cPanel dashboard.
Step 2 - Enter the relevant information about your new domain and subdomain. cPanel automatically populates the Document Root for you. You can optionally create an FTP account that will be associated with this new addon domain if you so choose, but clicking on the Create an FTP account checkbox below.
Lets Summarize 📚
cPanel provides an exceptional, yet simplified experience in helping users to manage their web hosting tasks. It does this by supplying outstanding features fundamental to the hosting process. This guide’s focus was on making cPanel’s simplicity more so refreshing by bringing a surgical precision to the immediate tasks a beginner would find useful.
Whether you’re a newbie dipping your toes into quality web hosting for the first time, or a grizzled hosting veteran, this guide both serves your interest. Wherever you are on the knowledge curve, it can either introduce or reacquaint you with the fundamental basics of cPanel.
If you have any questions or comments, please drop by in our comments section and leave a note, thanks.