All hosting plans come packaged with a web hosting control panel. This interface allows you to administrate every aspect of your website including:
- File Management
- Traffic Stats
- Database Administration
- Email Accounts & Configuration
- FTP Management
- Cron Jobs
- DNS Zones
There are a number of web hosting control panels available to you. Some hosting companies use one type of web hosting control panel, whilst others will let you decide up to four options. Today, most web hosting control panels also allow you to install popular scripts such as WordPress at the touch of a button.
Does the Web Hosting Control Panel You Use Matter?
All web hosting control panels offer essential functionality such as database, email and file management. There are some slight differences between each option, however by and large, these differences are visual rather than functional. That is to say, for most people, it comes down to which user interface they prefer.
You may find that the first web hosting control panel you use is the one that you love as it is the one that you get used to. Switching to a different control panel can be daunting at first as the interface is different. However, it usually only takes twenty minutes or so to familiarise yourself where everything is.
Transferring a website from one host to another is very easy if both websites are using the same control panel. Unfortunately, there is no easy way of transferring a website to a new hosting plan that uses a different control panel (you would have to transfer everything manually).
If you given an option as to what web hosting control panel to use for your websites, I recommend taking a quick look at the official website for the control panels available and testing each control panel in demo mode.
Most Popular Web Hosting Control Panels
Although hosting companies have many of web hosting panels available to them, the vast majority tend to use a select few. Below you will find the most common hosting control panels used online.
Launched in early 1996, cPanel is by far the most popular web hosting control panels online. One of the reasons it is so popular is because hosting companies can easily customise it. It is common for hosting companies to change how the control panel looks and feels. They frequently remove certain features too (this can stop inexperienced problems making mistakes).
Its interface displays icons for each section down the right hand side of the page.cPanel was designed for Linux servers, however they do offer a web hosting control panel called Enkompass that was created for Windows servers.
In VPS and dedicated hosting plans, it is common for cPanel to be provided with its WHM (Web Hosting Manager). This additional control panel lets you administrate multiple websites and tweak every aspect of the server.
Plesk is a user-friendly web hosting control panel that is available for Windows and Linux. It is one of the few control panels that offers an iPad and Android app for customers.
Originally launched in 2003, Plesk is beloved by many hosting companies and grown to become the most popular control panel after cPanel.
Virtuozzo Power Panel is used to manage Virtual Private Server (VPS) plans. Plesk can be installed and tweaked from this control panel in a similar way to how cPanel and WHM operate together.
DirectAdmin is a web hosting control panel for Linux servers that places an emphasis on ease of use, speed and stability. You will either love or hate its simplicity.
Webmin is an open source web hosting control panel that is available for unix, linux and Windows. It is geared towards technical users who have experience managing servers. Due to this, many hosting companies will not provide technical support for it (they will, of course, install it for you).