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WH - 12. What is a Control Panel?

A control panel allows the web site owner to administer a web site. There are many different control panels available, among the more common are cPanel, xPanel, vDeck and Plesk. All use a graphical user interface, which makes administration simple, even for inexperienced users. The control panel is accessed through the users’ web browser of choice. The various forms of control panels that are available differ in some ways, but all will allow the web site host to perform the basic tasks needed to set up and administer the web site.

During set-up, a control panel will help the host in establishing the various email accounts that are needed and setting up any FTP accounts that may be needed. When setting up email you will often be given the chance to set up any auto-responders or email forwarding that you may require. If the site will be using any server-side scripting, such as PHP or Perl, then this too can be done at this time using the control panel.

For on-going administration of the web site, the control panel will allow the host to do many things. Most control panels will show details of disk space and bandwidth used; allowing the host to ensure the site is not exceeding the limits of the web hosting plan currently used. There will also be access to statistics that show the number of visitors to the site, the pages they visited, and the time they spent on the site. This helps to identify which parts of the site are more popular, allowing the host to modify any pages if desired. The host will also be able to see how the visitor came to the site, making it easier to target any search engine optimization that may be needed. Any errors encountered by the visitor will also be logged, enabling the host to fix any broken links that may exist.

Other tasks that the control panel may offer are database management, the ability to create or manage sub-domains, to set-up redirections for URLs, or to set different levels of security for different parts of the site. One important task that the control panel should allow is the ability to back-up the site.

If the web site is going to be on a shared server, then the web host will have to use the control panel that the hosting company uses. If the particular control panel supplied does not suit the user, then the only option really is to change to a different hosting company. Those users who are intending to run a dedicated server, or a co-located server will be able to choose the control panel that suits their needs best. It would be advisable, if unfamiliar with the many different choices available, for the user to take the time to research what is available to see with which they would feel most comfortable.