Web Hosting Control Panels: An Overview

The web hosting control panel is the nerve center of your web hosting business. In fact, you can't run a web hosting business without one. There are several popular makes of web hosting control panel. All of them have similar functions and features.

What Does A Web Hosting Control Panel Do?

A web hosting control panel is exactly what it says on the tin. It is an interface with menus and icons for controlling the services offered by a web hosting provider. A web hosting control panel will usually have an interface for administration and one for the end user. It may also have one for resellers. Sometimes these interfaces are wrapped into one, while at other times the interfaces might be slightly different.

The interface for a web hosting control panel usually consists of a combination of icons and text (and perhaps menus, depending on the particular software package) to control the various functions. This makes them very easy to understand and use, whether you are an administrator, a reseller or an end user.

Web Hosting Control Panels: Key Features

There are a number of important features that will be in almost every web hosting control panel. A key function of web hosting is being able to create and remove accounts and to add and remove domains, sub domains and parked domains. Most web hosting providers have a range of packages that they offer to users. These are differentiated by such factors as bandwidth allowance, number of mail and FTP accounts, number of MySQL databases, number of domains, disk space allowed and many other features. A web hosting control panel provides an easy way to set up and administer these packages and to change them when upgrades are needed. It makes it easy for your to set or change the number of mail accounts, FTP accounts, domains, sub domains and so on that are available to end users. This includes quotas and bandwidth, access to scripts and dedicated IP address.

Tracking is essential for every web hosting provider and tracking functions are built into every web hosting control panel. As a web host, you will be able to use a web hosting control panel to have an overview of the users who have signed up with you, along with their contact details, package and quota. You will be able to see the domains, sub domains and parked domains on each account. You will also be able to keep track of the bandwidth used by certain accounts and to limit this if necessary. There may be some warning if accounts are getting near to their bandwidth limit.

The web hosting control panel will allow you to keep track of server uptime and get early warning of any potential problems. As well as to manage functions such as Front Page extensions, DNS entries, MX entries and scripts, themes, applications and add-ons. A web hosting control panel may also allow you to control resellers and reseller packages in the same way, as well as manage support tickets.

Popular Web Hosting Control Panels - Cpanel/WHM

Cpanel is a very popular web hosting control panel and is widely used. There are two interfaces. The Web Hosting Manager is for the web host, while the Cpanel interface is for the end user. The WHM interface features a left hand menu bar, with icons on the right, both of which control the normal administrative functions. There is a similar interface for the end user, though all the functions are controlled in the icon panel. This includes management of mail, file transfers, scripts, statistics, databases, support requests and much more. Scripts can be installed with one click through the Fantastico interface. The Cpanel interface has been criticized for being cluttered and clunky, but it is easy to use and many people love it. Cpanel offers a one time license at $1,499 as well as a one year license at $425. Monthly options are available from Cpanel distributors at around $20.

Popular Web Hosting Control Panels - Plesk

Plesk is another popular web hosting control panel. The interface is a Windows XP style file interface, which gives access to news in the top half and server information, statistics and management functions in the bottom half, with a control bar on the left side to manage general and system functions. Unlike Cpanel, you can get an at a glance overview of statistics without even having to click. There are 12 main tools, each of which is clearly explained and there is also a bar to store favorite functions for easy access. The end user interface is very similar but with fewer functions. The one time licence for Plesk is $1,139, with monthly leasing starting at $29.99 for 30 domains.

Popular Web Hosting Control Panels - HSphere and Direct Admin

H-Sphere is seen by users as simple and easy to navigate and those who use it wouldn't consider changing to another web hosting control panel. However, H-Sphere has a lot of functions and if you're just starting out as a web host it might be challenging to learn the program. The admin interface and user interface are similar, with icons as well as drop down menus. There are at a glance statistics when using this web hosting control panel. There is a $95 installation fee for H-Sphere plus a one time fee of $4.50 per account. However, you must buy at least 25 accounts at a time.

The Direct Admin control panel looks the same whether you are an administrator, reseller or user; it just has different functions enabled. The interface is clear and uncluttered with easy access to statistics and functions. It is priced at $299 for a lifetime license, $200 for an annual license or $29 for a monthly license.

How To Choose A Web Hosting Control Panel

When choosing a web hosting control panel, a web hosting provider has to consider the ease of using it to administer web hosting and the experience for the end user, as well as the add-ons that are available for installation. Most web hosting providers have online demos of the different interfaces so you can try all aspects of the control panels. This is certainly worth doing because selecting the right web hosting control panel will make a big difference to the ease with which you manage your hosting business.