If you’re planning to purchase a Cloud VM or dedicated servers, you might probably be exposed to multiple options. Some hosting providers might include a hosting control panel with your server and some might not.

Wondering what a server control panel is? A hosting control panel is a web-based server management portal through which you can effortlessly manage your server. We will deep dive into the complete concepts of the what is a hosting control panel and some we will look for some of the examples in this article.

What it takes to manage a server?

In order to manage a server, in the past, people had to have a ton of experience. When the computers were themselves fairly new, to host a website using a server required a ton of knowledge, experience, and patience.

Most of the popular web hosting platforms back in that day required users to manage the server and website only through command-line systems.

There won’t be any displays, if you run commands to the server, it will do what you want or respond with the data you’d like to see. It was like using an MS-DOS where there won’t be any graphics or even a mouse.

Managing a website using a command-line tool is not very easy and you will need a ton of experience just to run the website without any issue.

Undoubtedly, this allowed only people with greater tech knowledge to run a website. And then there was the solution for these problems – the hosting control panels.

What does a hosting control panel do?

A hosting control panel allows you to visually manage your website and its components rather than typing in 100s of lines of commands to get a simple task done on the server.

So if you need a new email account, you click a button or two, and voila, you have your email account created on the server rather than going through a lengthy manual to get the same task done in a CLI system.

Is it impossible to host a website without a Hosting Control Panel?

No. There’s nothing like that. Many popular applications on the internet are hosted without the help of a control panel.

Why? Because some of the world’s complex applications need an extra hand of customization on the server which only IT guys can do manually and in such cases, hosting a website or app without a control panel would make sense.

Also, those who like a bit of technical challenge and those who want to save their ongoing costs as much as possible use CLI tools rather than opting for a web hosting control panel.

But as a general rule of thumb, all web hosting providers provide their users with an easy-to-use panel at no additional cost to let their users build their website effortlessly.

While almost every hosting provider provides their web hosting users with a free web control panel, and users who opt for technically advanced and powerful solutions like Cloud Servers and Dedicated Servers are not usually provided with a free control panel by default as most of such users don’t need one.

Those who need a good control panel are required to install the control panel system by themselves on their Cloud or Dedicated Server by most of the hosting providers while few good hosting providers (like us) install the control panel on the user’s server on-demand.

How does an Hosting control panel help you?

A control panel helps you to operate your website without touching a command-line interface at all. So a control panel usually takes care of all aspects of your website by itself.

Here are some of the tasks that most web control panels take care of for you by providing clutter-free UI and management tools:

Domain Management

Your website is essentially a domain name with associated files. Most of the popular web hosting provide you with tools to manage your domain names easily.

Almost all web hostings on the market come with a DNS server stack included on the control panel itself allowing you to manage your domain, DNS, and other aspects right within the control panel once you connect your domain to the hosting account using a nameserver.

Most of the popular web hosting panels allow you to manage, create and delete the following:

  • Subdomains
  • DNS Records (like A, TXT, MX and other DNS records)
  • Addon Domains / Extra Domains
  • Domain Aliases

File Management and FTP

Your website is usually made up of 100s of files and there has to be some way for you to upload, download and manipulate your files on the server.

Almost every good hosting web panel on the market is shipped with an in-built FTP system.

An FTP is an old-school way to upload your files to the server. In order to upload files using FTP, you will have to download FTP software on your computer like FileZilla and connect with your server through that software and then finally upload or manipulate files on the server.

FTP is not exactly rocket science, but it ain’t effortless. It is very old and using it is fairly hard for a beginner.

That’s why some hosting control panels provide you with a web-based file management system. A web-based file manager works just like Google Drive, OneDrive, or Apple’s Storage service.

To access a web-based file manager, you don’t need complex software, or you have to go through a tutorial. All you need is a web browser (which you already have) and you can just drag and drop your files into the server – easy peasy.

While most of the control panels at the time of writing come with a web-based control panel out of the box, some hosting control panels don’t support them or demand extra fees for the same. So make sure you choose a hosting control panel with a web-based file manager – it will save a ton of your time.

Emails

You might think that emails are old, not as quick as instant messenger. But think twice. Emails are still the lifeline of businesses. More than 80% of inter-enterprise conversations happen on emails and most of the hosting control panel services come with an inbuilt email system, allowing you to create and maintain your email accounts and emails.

Some of the common email features available in most common hosting control panels include:

  • POP3/IMAP Syncing
  • SMTP System for sending and receiving emails
  • DKIM and SPF Record Setup functionalities
  • Email forwarer (which allows you to forwared an email recieved at one email address to an another one automatically)
  • and a webmail system (which allows you to access your emails on a browser)

You can connect your email account created on your Hosting account control panel in any email client of your choice including Outlook, iMail, Mozilla Thunderbird, Gmail for Android, etc.,

One-Click Script Installers

Installing WordPress, Joomla, Magento, or any other CMS or e-commerce system will take time and a lot of manual work.

For example, in order to install WordPress, you will have to manually download WordPress from wordpress.org, then create a database, then create a database user, then upload WordPress files to your site’s root directory, then finally install WordPress.

See, how much work you got to do?

One-click installers allow you to install any of the most popular scripts (such as CMS, eCommerce systems) on your website by just clicking a button.

It saves a ton of time for first-time website owners as they don’t have to spend time configuring and debugging the installation process.

Not every hosting control panels include this functionality (even the most popular ones).

Some new platforms like CyberPanel do offer this feature.

In case if your hosting control panel doesn’t offer this functionality, you can install a 3rd party script-installer on your hosting account control panel like Softaculous or Fantastico which are available for a few bucks a month.

Databases

When you’re planning to operate a dynamic website, a database system is essential.

Most of the hosting control panels available in the market support MySQL Databases (or its sister MariaDB) while some hosting control panels extend support to database systems like MSSQL.

A hosting control panel allows you to easily create and manage databases with a sleek UI so that you don’t have to tinker with the command line tools.

You might want to choose a hosting control panel that supports the DBMS you’re using. If you’re going to use a popular script like WordPress, you probably don’t have to worry about it, as most of such can work on any DBMS platform.

SSL Certificates

SSL is an important feature for your website which helps your website to stay secure online. They encrypt your website’s data transmission and keep your website and data secure from prying eyes.

A hosting control panel will allow you to install, manage and remove SSL Certificates on your website.

Some hosting control panels go beyond management and provide essential tools to install an SSL certificate like an in-built CSR generator.

Backups

What good is a hosting control panel if it does not come with an inbuilt backups system?

You’re spending hours (or thousands of dollars) on a website, doing hard work to create valuable relationships via email, and a lot more. If your hosting control panel doesn’t provide you with a tool to backup your hard work, you’re risking your data.

Most of the premium hosting control panel solutions allow you to make backups of your website (both on-demand and periodically) using an easy-to-use interface.

You can later upload your zip file (the backup) to your server whenever you need it, and restoration is also done in just a few clicks.

Will I get a control panel from my web hosting provider?

If you’re purchasing a web hosting account, you’ll get a free control panel with all web hosting providers. In the case of a Dedicated Server or Cloud Server, some hosting providers include a hosting control panel for free, while some do not.

But when you’re using a Dedicated Server or Cloud Server, if you need a hosting control panel, you can install it all by yourself on your server by choosing the right hosting control panel that meets your needs.

Most Popular Hosting Control Panel Options

Today, there is plenty of options available in the web hosting market. But there are options available to free and premium ones. Its upon you, how would you choose it. There are always options that meet your requirements.

Let us take a look at some of the options:

cPanel/WHM

cPanel is one of the industry’s most popular hosting control panels available on planet earth (we don’t yet know how things work on Mars though). It is the most used and considered to be the most user-friendly hosting control panel option available.

cPanel/WHM supports only Red Hat based Linux distributions (like CentOS, RHEL) and supports PHP and MySQL stack on the server. You can optionally add support for ASP tags by tweaking the settings.

However, if your project is based on Microsoft-powered software stacks like ASP and MSSQL, it is always better to choose a hosting panel that is made for it and supports it natively.

cPanel is by far the most used control panel due to its wide adaption across the industry.

However, after recent incidents when cPanel arbitrarily increased its prices by 1000% with no further price-locks, the wind started flowing in the opposite direction and people are now ready to try out alternatives as they have lost trust in the company behind it.

Even though thousands of servers have switched to alternate control panels like DirectAdmin, cPanel still has the major market share.

DirectAdmin

DirectAdmin is the fastest-growing control panel in the market after cPanel’s arbitrary price increase incident. It offers the same features as cPanel and supports the same software stack (PHP and MySQL).

DirectAdmin supports servers with both RHEL and Debian-based servers. So it supports RHEL, CentOS, Debian, and Ubuntu operating systems.

While cPanel supports only Apache web server system, DirectAdmin supports Apache, Nginx, Openlitespeed web servers.

DirectAdmin even has skin that looks exactly just like cPanel. So if you’re used to using the cPanel UI, you won’t feel major differences between both cPanel and DirectAdmin.

If you’re looking for a worthy alternative to cPanel, DirectAdmin is something you can look into.

Plesk

It is one of the most popular hosting control panels for a reason – it supports Windows and Linux servers, at the same time.

It is more like a cPanel for Windows and it holds the highest market share in Windows-based servers and offers a clean and neat UI to do your tasks. It also includes most of the features that are offered by cPanel.

Closing thoughts

A hosting control panel is an inevitable part of the web hosting ecosystem. We can say, It is a tool that almost all website owners need.

If you’re going to use a web hosting service, your web hosting provider will provide you with a hosting control panel already and you won’t have to worry about which hosting control panel is the best for your server.

If you’re planning to get a web hosting control panel installed on your Cloud Server or Dedicated Server, based on your requirements you can choose the best hosting control panel. Or you can signup for a free trial and test the control panels that you have shortlisted yourself on a secondary server and choose the one that you like.

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