cPanel User Guide and Tutorial

4 (1 reviews total)
By Aric Pedersen
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  1. Introduction to cPanel Hosting

About this book

"A great book for getting the most out of your cPanel-supporting web host"

If you have web hosting requirements beyond the most basic, you should look for a host that offers cPanel. cPanel gives you tight control over every aspect of your web site, email accounts, and domain names.

But once you've got a web site with cPanel support, how do you go about using it? While the documentation  included with cPanel may provide a quick reference, to really get the most from it you need a more detailed, systematic tutorial.

Read this book to find out exactly how to get the most from cPanel in all aspects of your web site management: web, email, FTP, security, domains, back ups, and more.

Publication date:
March 2006
Publisher
Packt
Pages
206
ISBN
9781904811923

 

Chapter 1. Introduction to cPanel Hosting

The cPanel web hosting software is an easy-to-use, feature-rich tool for managing your website. But before we dive into all of cPanel’s features, we need to have a basic idea about cPanel—What is it used for, what tools will you need to get started working with cPanel, how to locate a web host that offers cPanel, and what to look for in a good host.

So let’s start by learning a little bit about what exactly is cPanel.

Webmaster, Meet cPanel…

Once you’ve decided that you want to create your own website, you have a lot of work ahead. You need to design content and figure out how to upload it to your site. Then you need to attract people to your site and manage any other features that your web host may offer such as e-mail, databases, subdomains, site security, etc. If you have no previous experience with handling any of this, it can be quite overwhelming.

cPanel is a web hosting control software that can be accessed using any modern web browser. It is designed to make the complex task of managing your hosting account easy. With the aid of cPanel and this book you should be able to get your new site up and running in no time.

 

Webmaster, Meet cPanel…


Once you’ve decided that you want to create your own website, you have a lot of work ahead. You need to design content and figure out how to upload it to your site. Then you need to attract people to your site and manage any other features that your web host may offer such as e-mail, databases, subdomains, site security, etc. If you have no previous experience with handling any of this, it can be quite overwhelming.

cPanel is a web hosting control software that can be accessed using any modern web browser. It is designed to make the complex task of managing your hosting account easy. With the aid of cPanel and this book you should be able to get your new site up and running in no time.

 

What Tools Will You Need?


These are a few things which you will need before you start working with cPanel:

  • Private Internet Access: You need to be able to freely access the Internet from a private location. For security reasons you should never try to access your cPanel account or work on your website from a public location like a library, school, or job.

  • A modern web browser: cPanel works well in any recent web browser like Internet Explorer 5.5+, Netscape 7+, Mozilla, Firefox, Safari, or Opera. If you are using an older web browser you should upgrade if you want to use cPanel.

In addition, you may also want to make sure you have access to some of the following optional tools:

  • An HTML editor: Such programs make it easier to create or edit files that are part of your website.

  • An FTP client: This sort of program is used to upload, download, and manage files on your website. A client that supports SFTP (Secure FTP) is a bonus.

  • More than one modern web browser: This can be handy to test your new website to make sure it looks the same on a wide variety of browsers.

  • An e-mail program: If your hosting account includes e-mail, you will most likely find managing e-mail easier if you use a dedicated e-mail program rather than web‑based e-mail programs.

You can find a list of commonly used tools and resources in Chapter 12.

 

Finding cPanel Web Hosting


If you don’t already have a web host that offers cPanel, then the first order of business will be to locate one. There are probably tens of thousands of web hosts that offer cPanel to their clients. How do you go about finding the one that is right for you?

Types of Web Hosting

There are several different kinds of web hosting options, and it is important to understand the difference between them before you begin looking for a host.

The most common type of web hosting (and generally the cheapest) is Shared Hosting. Shared Hosting means that there are many websites hosted on a single web server. A web server is a special computer that handles storing and displaying websites. For most people who are looking to host a website for the first time or those who are concerned about the cost, shared hosting is the best choice. Since many websites are served from a single machine, the costs are generally lower than other hosting options. Costs vary from 0 to 40 USD per month on average.

However, shared hosting does have some drawbacks. The more sites a web server hosts, the more likely it is that your website may react sluggishly, since there are many demands on the web server. If you decide to purchase a shared web hosting account, you should ask your host what kind of hardware they host accounts on. Faster machines with more RAM are preferable. For example, a Dual Xeon CPU server with 2 GB of RAM will generally perform better than an old single Celeron CPU server with 512 MB of RAM. Just as important as knowing the server hardware, is getting a sense of how many shared hosting accounts your host will put on a server before considering it full—the fewer, the better.

The next type of web hosting is often referred to as Reseller Hosting. This is similar to shared hosting, except that you are allowed to resell shared hosting accounts to others. Reseller hosting allows you to start your own web hosting business. The average cost of a reseller hosting plan tends to fall between 20 and 60 USD a month. For those people who want to start a web hosting business but who do not have money for a VPS or dedicated server, reseller hosting is a good choice. The drawback is that like shared hosting, there may be many reseller hosting accounts on a server, each with many resold accounts. Knowing more about what kind of web server you will be hosted on is important.

On servers that contain resellers, the actual number of shared hosting accounts may vary widely, depending on how many accounts each reseller has. Many hosts do not require that you actually resell accounts if you buy a reseller plan. If so, then it is a good step-up from standard shared hosting since you can typically host many domains under a single reseller account with no extra fees involved. In addition, you get more control over the domains you manage in a reseller plan.

Some hosts will also offer VPS/VDS hosting and perhaps even Dedicated Servers. VPS (Virtual Private Server) and VDS (Virtual Dedicated Server) hosting are different names for the same type of hosting accounts. Such accounts use special software to take a single physical web server and divide it into two or more separate virtual web servers. Each virtual server acts as if it is a completely separate machine. Each virtual machine gets a guaranteed amount of the physical server resources including use of the CPU and disk space. VPS/VDS accounts have many of the advantages of dedicated servers without the higher cost. A VPS/VDS account may cost from 30 to 120 USD a month on average.

If you purchase a dedicated server, you receive an entire web server with no other accounts on it. Most of the time dedicated servers also permit you system administrator access (which allows you complete control over the server). Dedicated servers on average cost between 100 and 500 USD a month.

Windows versus Linux Hosting

In addition to the variation in types of hosting you can buy, some web hosts may offer both Linux and Windows operating system hosting. Some people who are new to web hosting may think that if they run Windows at home on their computer that they need Windows hosting. This is not true. Linux hosting plans typically cost less than Windows hosting plans due to the relative costs of the operating systems (Linux is often free and Windows costs money). cPanel only runs on Linux at this time, though Windows and Mac OS X versions are being prepared.

Hunting for Hosting

Now that you understand the difference between the various sorts of hosting you can purchase, you’re ready to start looking for a host for your website. There are many different places you can look for information about hosting companies and hosting plans. Of course, you can visit Google (http://google.com/) and search for cPanel hosting to find some web hosts, but just because a host appears near the top of the search results does not mean that it will be the best host for your needs.

Finding the right host requires a good deal of research and perhaps even a bit of luck. There are so many web hosts that it is impossible to compare them all. A good general starting place is Web Hosting Talk (often referred to as WHT), http://webhostingtalk.com/. This forum is one of the busiest web hosting-related sites on the Internet and it attracts many web hosts and customers. For example, if you are looking for shared hosting, a good place to start is the shared hosting advertising area, http://webhostingtalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=4. You can also sign up for a free account and talk to others about web hosting and web hosts.

If you are looking for an answer to a particular question you should always try to use the search feature first before posting, since your question may have already been answered. If you find a web host with a plan that looks interesting, do a search and see what others think of that host. If you find a web host with a very cheap plan but you find that there are a lot of negative comments about it, then you might want to consider finding another host.

Another place to go if you are looking for cPanel web hosting is to cPanel Inc.’s own forum, http://forums.cpanel.net/. In the Ads and Offers area (http://forums.cpanel.net/ forumdisplay.php?f=22) there are a number of web hosts who post specials.

Once you’ve tracked down a few hosts that offer plans you are interested in you’ll want to find a site where you can compare those hosts to find the best one for your needs. One such site is http://findmyhosting.com/. Here you will find articles on a number of web hosting-related topics as well as an extensive database comparing many hosts and their hosting plans. Not only can you find hosting plans based on how much you are willing to pay, but you can also search based on a wide variety of other criteria such as where the web host is located, the standard features they offer and even how well actual customers rate them. Although most sites like this do not allow you to search based on the type of hosting control software used, if you already have a short list of possibilities, you can compare these hosts to fine-tune your selection.

The Quest for Features

Many hosts offer a plethora of features with their hosting plans and it can be quite confusing to figure out what you really need. Here are some of the most important features you should look for in any web hosting plan:

  • Disk Space: This is a measure of how much stuff you can store on the server. Disk space is measured in either computer megabytes, (1 MB = 1,024 KB) or metric standard gigabytes, (1 GB = 1,000 MB). If you are unsure how disk space is measured, you should ask the host. How much space you actually need depends on what you plan to do with your website. If your site is going to be just a few static web pages that won’t change often, then you could probably do with as little as 20 MB of disk space. If you plan on creating an online photo gallery, expect to need a lot more disk space, several GB, typically (pictures and media files tend to take up a lot of space). Generally most people seem to think they need far more disk space than they really do. The key is to get a bit more than you think you will use right now, but not too much more. When in doubt, assume you will use less disk space than you think you need.

  • Bandwidth: Bandwidth is a measure of how much data is transferred to or from your hosting account. Typically this is measured in computer gigabytes. Again, if you are unsure about how your host measures bandwidth, be sure to ask. Bandwidth includes any and all traffic coming to or from the server for your domain including web pages, FTP transfers, e-mail, and so on. Bandwidth on most cPanel servers is measured from the beginning of one calendar month to the beginning of the next. Bandwidth is typically reset some time on the first of every month. People tend to use more bandwidth than they think they need, so getting more is always a good thing. Many hosting companies make obtaining extra bandwidth rather expensive (sometimes as much as $5 per extra GB over the standard plan amount), so generally it is better to upgrade to the next higher hosting plan rather than pay for extra bandwidth every month.

  • MySQL Databases: Databases are used to store information. Even though you may never have used a database before, you will need at least one for web hosting. The reason for this is that many web-based programs (typically called scripts) use a database to store data that gets accessed regularly. For example, many forums and photo gallery scripts require the use of a database. While you can often get away with just one if your needs are modest, you should ideally look for plans with unlimited databases so you can feel free to use as many as you need. Keep in mind that data stored in databases typically counts against your disk space usage, so while you may be able to create as many databases as you want, you still cannot go over the total disk space assigned to your hosting plan.

  • PHP: PHP is a programming language that a lot of web-based scripts use. Make sure any host you choose offers at least PHP 4.4.1 or later.

Note

PHP rather unimaginatively stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP 5 is the latest major version of PHP but not all PHP scripts work well with PHP 5 at the time of writing (because PHP 5 is fairly new). PHP 4.4.x offers the widest compatibility. You should avoid any web host that offers PHP 4.3.x or earlier as these versions contain some potentially serious security issues.

 

Questions to Ask Hosting Companies


Once you have two or three companies on your hosting short list, you need to contact each one of them and ask plenty of questions. This cannot be stressed enough: if you want to really be sure you’ve picked the right host, you need to ask questions before you sign up. If you don’t do that you could be unpleasantly surprised later.

Here is a sample list of questions (along with hints about what sort of answers you should get) that you may wish to ask a potential host.

How’s the Company’s Support?

There are lots of companies out there offering all sorts of features trying to compete for your money, but the most important feature is support. Tons of features don’t mean a thing if your host is missing in action when your website goes down.

  • Do you have true 24/7 technical support? Some companies claim they have this, but when you actually try to get support you might find that help at 2 AM is rather sparse. If you can submit your questions late at night, this is a good test to see if they are serious about their claims.

  • What support methods do you offer? Phone, fax, e-mail, helpdesk ticket, live help, instant messenger, etc. It is always good to know what alternative contacts are available in the case of a serious emergency. Always try to respect a web host’s chain of support though. If they want most of their support requests to come in via e-mail, don’t pick up the phone and call them every time you have a question or minor issue.

  • Do you have any guaranteed response time for support requests? Most hosts will not have a guaranteed response time, but the response time should be reasonably short. If you are paying 40 USD a year for hosting it may not be reasonable to expect responses in 15 minutes or less, but answers in less than an hour for critical items and less than 6 hours for less serious support requests is a good thumb rule.

What Special Features does the Company Offer?

Many companies offer special perks with their service. You should be sure that you understand these perks before signing up or you may find that that special feature your host offers isn’t nearly as special as you had hoped.

  • Do you provide free domain names with your hosting accounts? A domain name is typically required for web hosting so people can find your site. Some hosts offer free domain names when you buy web hosting from them. Be careful, though, as some hosts will keep your domain name if you decide to leave them, causing major headaches for you if you’ve spent much time promoting that domain. Domain registrars like GoDaddy, http://godaddy.com/ offer inexpensive domain registration, so if you have any doubt about your host’s policies you should register your own domain and not use the offered free domain.

  • Do you offer a referral program? Some hosts offer special gifts or free hosting if you refer friends or family to them. Be sure you know what they offer so you don’t miss out on free stuff if you like the host.

  • Do you automatically back up data on all servers in case of an emergency? Please note that regardless of your host’s answer to this question you should always make your own regular backups. Thanks to Murphy’s Law, the one time you don’t have a backup is the time that your host’s backup drive will fail also.

What are the Company’s Hosting Policies?

Amid all of the marketing material on your potential host’s website there is usually some fine print (or worse yet, some things aren’t even mentioned publicly) concerning the rules they impose on themselves and customers. You need to make sure the host’s rules don’t interfere with your current and future plans for your website.

  • What sort of hardware do you use for your servers? Ideally, fast dual processors and at least 2 GB of RAM are what you are looking for.

  • How many accounts do you generally place on a shared hosting server before you consider it full? Many hosts won’t be able to quote an exact number, but you are looking for an honest ballpark figure. If they tell you they don’t put more than 10 accounts on a shared server and you see their average account costs about $5 a month then clearly the host isn’t telling you the truth. A ballpark figure of 100-200 accounts per server on fast hardware is OK. If they use single Celeron CPU servers with 512 MB of RAM, then 20-30 accounts would be OK.

  • Do you offer a money-back guarantee? If so, how long do I have before the guarantee expires? A good host should have at least a 14-day money-back guarantee so if you find that this host isn’t the right one for your needs you can move on to another host without wasting money. Ideally, they should offer a full 1-month guarantee.

  • If I pre-pay for a year and then need to cancel my account half-way through the year, how do you handle that? What if I want to upgrade my plan in the middle of this term? Many hosts offer a discount if you pre-pay for a full year of service in advance. The host should always offer to refund any full months of unused service on a pro-rated basis. An example of a pro-rated refund: You buy a year of hosting for 100 USD and have used 3 months and cancel your account, the host should give you back approximately 75 USD (100 USD minus three months of service at 8.33 USD a month, 75.01 USD). Note that not all hosts offer pro-rated refunds (or even offer refunds at all). Hosts can handle upgrades in several ways, but always be sure you are getting your money’s worth.

  • Do you have any uptime guarantee? If so, how does the guarantee work? Many hosts claim to offer 99.9% or greater uptime, but you may find that a host can’t live up to that promise. If your site is unavailable for more than approximately 44 minutes in a given month through no fault of your own you may be due some recompense. You should find out what your host will do in such cases. Make a note of any limitations on the guarantee. For example, your host might only guarantee the data center in which the server is located will be up 99.9% each month and not your particular server. If you have a good host they will always try to make things right for their clients after an excessive amount of unplanned downtime without being prodded. Since the host has a business to run don’t expect a free month of hosting every time your site is only available 99.8% that month, but they should always offer some sort of recompense.

  • What happens if I use more bandwidth than my plan allows? cPanel hosts should tell you that your account will be suspended if you go over your bandwidth limit until you either buy extra bandwidth or the first of the next calendar month rolls around. Do not buy hosting from any company that says they automatically charge your credit card for every extra GB of bandwidth you use. While this might seem like a nice feature, it is very dangerous. All it takes is a mention of your website on another major site or in the news and you could find yourself with a bandwidth bill of thousands of dollars.

  • What sort of content do you allow on your servers? Some hosts do not allow certain kinds of content on their servers and you should know what the restrictions are before you sign up. Some hosts do not allow adult hosting or IRC servers, for example. Further, some place restrictions on the types of media you can host. If you want to host your band’s website and your host does not permit hosting of music or video files, you may want to look elsewhere.

If your potential web host answers too many questions in an unsatisfactory way, you probably should move on to evaluating the next host on your list. It is important to always be sure to look for and read the Terms of Service or Acceptable Use policies of any host you are interested in. If you cannot find these legal documents be sure to ask about them. These items may be dry or a difficult read but failing to read them can lead to nasty surprises later.

 

Summary


In this chapter you learned what cPanel is and what tools you need to work with it. In addition you learned how to search for cPanel hosting companies, what to look for, and what to ask those companies so you can find a perfect host for your needs.

In Chapter 2, you will learn how to access your new cPanel hosting account and begin to explore the interface.

About the Author

  • Aric Pedersen

    Aric Pedersen has been using cPanel on a daily basis for over 6 years both as an end user for his own websites and as a systems administrator. He currently works as a systems administrator for several hosting companies and also for http://www.netenberg.com, the creators of Fantastico Deluxe (a popular script auto-installer for cPanel). Aric has been providing companies and end users with web hosting and related documentation for several years.

    Browse publications by this author

Latest Reviews

(1 reviews total)
Quite an old book but still has some useful information.
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