Many hosting providers make use of a third party interface called CPanel that allows users to manage various aspects of their website. CPanel is an easy-to-use dashboard that includes many of the tools and features that most webmasters want included with their web hosting packages. These include support for PHP and MySQL, FrontPage extensions and one-click installation of a variety of scripts including WordPress, Mambo, Drupal and Joomla.
A content management system is a complex piece of software that relies on a database to contain the content of a website, and a method of extracting that data to provide content for webpages. Most content management systems use MySQL as the database, and PHP as the method of extracting the data from it and both of these technologies can be accessed through the CPanel. For many people new to web design these technologies can be overwhelming, but by using the simple interface provided by CPanel even totally inexperienced users can quickly get up to speed.
If any of these content management systems are installed through CPanel, it will probably be via Fantastico – a simple interface that provides installation of a script with just a couple of clicks. Depending on the hosting provider, the version installed in this way may not be the most current, so it is worth checking before you install that you will be using the latest edition of the software.
CPanel also provides users with convenient statistics enabling users to see at a glance how much disk space or bandwidth their site is using. Even more useful are the tools that allow users to see web statistics, including site traffic, entry and exit pages, the number of hits and the number of unique visits made to a website and displayed graphically using data directly from the server logs. The server status can also be viewed from the CPanel.
Every Webmaster needs to have control over the mailboxes for his or her website, and once again these can be accessed through the CPanel together with any subdomains and additional FTP (file transfer protocol) accounts set up. It also gives access to documentation about the website and the web server, and allows users to find the correct paths to Perl, essential for utilising any Perl scripts, and sendmail – essential for sending e-mail directly from the website.
CPanel is a relatively simple method of making complicated technology easily accessible in a graphical, user-friendly way. It gives users total control over the files, images, scripts and databases used in a CMS and groups of these into convenient related sections to make it easy for people to find their way around. Preferences can be changed to customise the interface to a user’s liking, and security levels individually set.
There are other similar interfaces available through different hosting suppliers but for a great number CPanel is the preferred choice and often the deciding factor when it comes to choosing a hosting provider. Open source content management systems are the modern way to build websites, but there complicated architecture and server technologies mean that maintaining a CMS would be outside the capabilities of most users if it were not for the CPanel interface.