Anyone managing web hosting servers will understand how important it is to be able to easily manage your web hosting services – monitoring infrastructure and managing the platform. There are many different ways to perform these management and monitoring functions, but a web hosting control panel is a commonly used method that simply makes life easier.
Web hosting control panels use a graphic user interface to help you issue server-level commands, and most web hosting companies will include a control panel with their hosting packages. It makes it very easy to make changes to your web server or to keep an eye on essential web server functionality, no matter where you are – all you need is an internet connection.
Typical features included in hosting control panels
Web servers are complex services and so most control panels will give you a really wide range of options and tools. Of course, every control panel will have a slightly different feature set, but you can usually expect most of the following tools:
- The ability to manage DNS for your websites.
- Changing key parameters for your DBMS, including adding and removing databases. Most hosting control panels would include the ability to manage MySQL and PostreSQL.
- Managing server accounts including setting up users, editing quotas and specifying access rights.
- Backing up your server, with many tools offering fully automated backup or at least backup scheduling
- Managing e-mail including mail server management, configuring SPF, DKIM and DMARC. Most control panels will support the common protocols including POP3/SMTP and of course IMAP.
- The ability to install and manage SSL certificates.
- Access to server log files and full reporting capabilities
- A web interface that lets you monitor essential system services from a remote location
- Installing new servers and new apps on your server
- Support for Windows and Linux OS
- Dedicated features for managing WordPress, Joomla or other content management systems
The very best control panels will add a range of advanced features. For example, the ability to manage multiple servers using just one interface, or to manage multiple virtual private servers (VPS) from that single interface. Better control panels also support IPv6 while giving you management control over security policies and your website firewall.
How to choose a control panel
You always want to look out for a control panel that offers reliable support and which continuously rolls out fixes and updates. Past that point everyone will have different preferences for their hosting control panel of choice because every control panel works differently and offers a different feature set.
Some control panels require more advanced technical knowledge to use, while others are easier to use for someone new to web hosting, and this may be a factor in your choice.
Finally, it is always worth looking out for popular, well-regarded and reputable control panels such as cPanel or indeed Plesk so that, when you switch hosting companies in the future, you don’t need to re-learn how to use the control panel.