Control panels overview

What is a control panel

A control panel is a graphical interface to manage your web hosting. It generally comes with a set of tools to help you to control some aspects of your hosting:

  • a file manager, also called web ftp: use it to manage the files that you put on your server
  • databases creation and deletion
  • domain name management
  • email manager: to create your mailboxes if needed
  • other advanced aspects

Here is an example of one of the most used control panel, cPanel:

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-21-00-16

Why a control panel?

Because it’s way more simple for a user with no skills in server administration! It’s like if you don’t have a graphical operating system on your computer: you would have to run every program with command lines!

giphy

(we will see this aspect later as knowing how to use command lines a little bit is just GREAT for many reasons).

To summarize, a control panel converts all the code that is needed for your actions on the server in a couple of buttons and other graphical items which are easy for you to use. For example, if you click on the file manager button, you will see you can upload a file from your computer to your server. This action seems to be very simple from your admin panel as you just have to click on a button, select your file, and click on “upload”. However there are some lines of code behind all this which have been “translated” into these graphical items.

So it’s very easy to use, and, in all cases, way easier than having to code every one of your requests! But it’s also more limited as you don’t have access to everything and also some items may have been set with specific values or settings that will not be suitable for all programs.

The most known control panels

If you buy a hosting, whoever the hosting provider is, a control panel will be provided to you. This control panel may be home made, most of the times, if you buy or get a free hosting, or it could be one of the most used panels. Indeed, like for the operating systems, there are many different control panels. Here is a list of the most used ones:

  • cPanel (paid)
  • Plesk (paid)
  • ISPconfig (free)
  • VestaCP (free)
  • Ajenti (free)

You may have a larger list of hosting panels here on the Tecmint blog.

If you have the choice, or if you get a VPS or a dedicated server, I would suggest to get a panel like cPanel (most used by biggest hosting providers) or Plesk. Or, if you are comfortable with it after having read all my articles, you can install Ajenti, but that means you know how to use SSH commands (we will see this aspect in another article).