Overview of the usual tools available in a control panel

The file manager

It allows you to send a file on your server. Open the file manager and navigate through the right folder on your server to send your file(s).

Note that you can use it to send an archive with multiple files, and then extract this archive directly on your server. It is a very smart option compared to a FTP software with which you can send files but not extract them (we will see that below).

From the file manager you can also change the permissions of files and folders, remove a file, edit a file, rename it and download it.

You may not have all these options on all control panels. Some are very limited and thus provide very limited options, like not being able to extract a file, or not being able to accept all kind of files (may extract a zip file but not tar.gz one). You can also have some limitation in the use of some options like being able to upload a file but under a certain limit, like files under 2M. It can be very limiting since you may want to upload a big archive of several dozens of Mb on your server, or a backup of several Gb (even if in this case the file manager is not the best option, but we will see this later on).

The ftp access manager

In the last chapter of our course about control panels we will see how to use a FTP software to send your files. It is another option to send your files to your server, with its own advantages and as I said previously, you may have some limitation on your hosting panel that you can bypass by using a FTP.

So that’s the section from which you create your FTP access.

The database manager

The majority of softwares are working with databases, and that’s also true for web applications. So, a website is made of files as well as information stored in a database which are used by the files.

For example, if you look at the top of this website and you are logged in, you will see your username. If another user logs in to the website, another username will be displayed. This “username” information is stored in a database and is called by the files when needed. It’s just like the file is saying: “hey database, what username should I display here?”, then the database looks at who is logged in and replies to the file with the right username to display.

So to create a database you can create the database manager.

In order to be used, the database must be controlled by a user. That’s why you also have to create a database user in this section. Then you have to associate this user to the database. The same user can be associated to several different databases.

You can also choose the privileges of a user regarding a specific database to which he is associated. In 99% of the cases, for our use, you will have to give this user all privileges, so we will not see the privileges aspects.

From this section, you may also have the link to the PhpMyAdmin panel. That’s a specific panel for MySQL databases. What? Yet another panel?

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Yes, as we’ve seen in a previous article, the databases have their own server, so they should also have their own panel to be manipulated with ease! We will see how to use phpMyAdmin later 😉

The domain name manager

Most of the times, if you use a web hosting you may want to use a domain name also, in order to display your website under your domain name for example.

So this section is the one from which you will manage your domain name.

The domain name issue should have its own chapter as there is so much to tell! Let’s look at this option with the assumption that you have purchased both your domain name and your hosting at the same time at the same hosting provider. With this assumption, your domain name and your hosting server are already “linked”: when one enters your domain name in its browser the Internet “knows” it has to display the files which are on this computer (your server). Thus that means your domain name is manageable from this section.

So you may be able to manage the DNS of this domain. DNS stands for Domain Name Servers, just see it like the service which tells the Internet with which server your domain name is associated. So if you need to associate your domain name, or one of its items, with another server, you can do this from this section.

You can also create a subdomain, like test.yourdomain.com, if you want to use a subdomain rather than your main domain name. Subdomains are very common. For example, while browsing on the web, you may have seen that international websites often use subdomains to display the right content to the right user depending on his language, with, for example, fr.domain.com for a French user. In this example, you can see that fr.domain.com is a subdomain of the main domain “domain.com”.

Subdomains are often unlimited so you can create as many as needed, and having for example a test.yourdomain.com to create a test environment for your, guess what?, tests!

We will have a closer look at the use of these functions in the next articles about Plesk and cPanel.