So you have just purchased your domain and hosting (if not you can follow our guide here) and you need to setup your hosting account and get the ball rolling. In this guide we will go through the basic functions of your web hosting control panel – cPanel. Keep in mind we will not tackle all the features of cPanel but rather the most commonly used ones. We will cover the rest in a more advanced guide at a later stage
You might also notice some items in our screenshots that may not be visible in your cPanel, this is because different hosts offer different extras and addons and this is why we will only be covering the basics that all web hosts offer
Login to your cPanel
First of all you should have the details to your cPanel. This is provided on registration from your web host and is normally sent to you by e-mail. You will need to use the link provided along with the username and password. Once you get hold of these we can proceed.
Start by opening the cPanel login screen. The link should be something like https://yourdomain.com/cpanel OR https://ip.address.of.your.server/cpanel. On this login page you will need to enter the username and password and press Log in. You will be greeted with the main cPanel page with icons for all the different features that cPanel offers.
Change your cPanel Style
Notice: If your cPanel does not look like the one in the screenshot do not worry. This is just a style setting that we can easily change. If you are good with the theme that you have and do not need to change it you can continue to the next part of the guide
To change the style; Go to the top right of your cPanel and press on your username. A drop down menu will appear and press Change Style. You will be taken to the style screen and you will have the option to change the style. The one we are using for this guide is Basic. You can also use the Basic Style with a Dark Mode or Grey mode. There is also the Retro option which is what the older versions of cPanel looked like.
Simply choose your style and press the apply button in the top right hand corner of the style box and you are done! To be honest we love the Dark style but we stuck to the basic white theme for this guide.
This sidebar contains a quick glance at the basic information pertaining to your hosting account including space and bandwidth usage along with a list of used/available e-mail accounts, databases and so on. This can be very useful in times where you need to check your usage and limitations.
This is the first section you will find cPanel main page. We will start from here and explain the main functions found here.
The file manager is exactly what it sounds like.. to be used to manage your files. You can check, move around, delete, extract compressed files and more. You can also use this to upload a few files using the browser based file uploader.
Your main website files will be stored in the “public_html” folder. Please be careful with the files in the file manager. Moving or deleting a file by mistake can break your hosting account, especially files in the root directory.
The file manager also have a built in HTML editor and the ability to change file and folder permissions should this be needed.
This function allows you to get a better look at what files and folders are taking up space in your hosting account. This will be very useful especially later on if you need to figure out why you are running of space, maybe you can track down a file or folder with old files that you can delete or even and old files maybe old backups that are taking up all your space.
FTP or File Transfer Protocol is a way to move files between your pc and your website. This was a very popular way to move files around especially a few years ago before easy html file upload came around. Here you can create an account and use the credentials created along side an FTP client on your pc and you will be able upload, delete and change any files directly from the FTP client to your web hosting server.
To create a new account enter a username for example “ftpaccount”, and choose a password which is need to be entered twice. You can also choose to direct the user to connect directly to a specific folder in your hosting account and a usage quote but this is not necessary if you will be using it yourself.
You can also see existing accounts and their statistics. By default most hosting accounts create one or two FTP accounts. One will be the main admin account and another for logging.
(We will have a guide on how to use an FTP client linked here in the future)
phpMyAdmin is a web based database administration tool. Although this is sometimes considered as an advanced feature, we have decided to include it as it might come in useful should you get locked out of your scripts such as a WordPress Installation or other web app. You can also use it to edit and import SQL databases if this is needed. It might be a bit scary to look at for a beginner but its really quite easy to use.
Simply locate the database you wish to edit from the left hand side list and click on it. This will load the full list of tables inside that database. You will need information on what you’re looking for to be able to make a change, just be careful as messing something up here can break everything that this database is controlling. A change is as simple as locating the row with the info you need to change, double click the entry, edit it and click out. Everything is saved instantly.
You might also run into a situation where you install a script and you need to import the database files. Simply create a database (As shown here under), open it as we did above, head over to the Import tab in the top centre of the screen, choose the file and press go at the bottom of the page. The default settings should be fine in most cases unless otherwise stated.
MySQL Database Wizard
The database wizard is exactly what it sounds like. It is an easy and simple way to create databases and users for that database with just a few clicks.
Step one is to choose a database name for this example we can use test.
Step two is to choose a username and password – make sure the password is a good solid one.
Step three is to choose privileges – Most of the time you just select all of them unless otherwise needed The database and user are now created and associated together for use.
In this section you will be able to make changes to your databases and your users. You can modify users, add new users, combine users to databases, change passwords and delete any users or databases you do not need. Here again a word of caution when making any changes and it can break anything on the front end using the usernames and databases connected together here.
If your hosting package allows it, you can use this to add a new domain to your web hosting account. This new domain will be given its own sub folder and make it independent of the main domain already associated with your account.
Simply enter the new domain in the first text box, once you tab out of this into the the next text box they will be automatically filled out but feel free to make any changes before pressing Add Domain. You can also add an ftp account specifically to this new domain should you need to.
Sub domains are prefix names that can be added to your domain to be able to separate a particular section of your website or to make an easy to remember address in the form of a redirect. For example you have an app installed in a specific folder and you want to make it easy for you or your users to get to. Or also to install a specific app or put some html files in the sub domain directory for direct access to these files.
Lets create a redirection example; You want to redirect an app within your domain; https://yourdomains.com/apps/myapp/index.php or as we are going to do here redirect our sub domain to our YouTube channel.
You create a sub domain first; Fill in the first text box with the sub domain name you want example myapp. This will automatically populate the other text boxes and then press create.
Once this is created, the lower part of the screen will list your newly created sub domain. At the end of line of the new sub domain you should have a Manage Redirection button, go ahead and click on that. All you need to do now is type or paste the link to the file/folder you want to redirect to.
As the name implies, in this section you can make an alias of your domain. Lets say you have mydomain.com as your main domain but you have also purchased mydomain.net and mydomain.org. You can add all of these domains to you account by simply entering these extra domains you have purchased into the text box and press the Add Domain button. (Be sure you point these domains DNS to your web host as described in our Domain & Hosting Guide)
Redirects is also exactly what it sound like but unlike redirecting sub domains as we have done above, you can also redirect other parts of your domain to another folder or an entirely different domain.
Set the option if this will be a temporary or permanent redirection, choose the domain or sub domain you wish to add a redirect to and enter the redirect url. You can also opt to have the redirects work with or without the leading www. We suggest you leave this at the default setting to allow with and without www for ease of use. Finish off by pressing Add.
In this section you can create e-mail accounts for your domain(s). This is a very easy process. Press Create. Select a username, password and quota (If you want to limit mailbox size). Once created on the main screen you can press Check Mail to load web mail clients, Manage to make changes to passwords and quota limit or Correct Devices to get the settings you will need to setup your e-mail account in any e-mail client.
A forwarder is an e-mail account without a mailbox. Basically you can create one mailbox say [email protected] and set that up in your e-mail client. You can then create a forwarder e-mail such as [email protected] and setup a forwarder to forward anything received on [email protected] to [email protected] Keep in mind you will only be able to reply to forwarded e-mails via the mailbox account ([email protected])
To setup a forwarder press Add Forwarder, enter the forwarder name (just the name without the @…) and enter the destination e-mail and click Add Forwarder. Simple as that.
Autoresponders will send an e-mail back to the sender for the selected account. This can be used to send a confirmation that an e-mail has been received for example. Or maybe to set up a notice that you are away on holiday for a while.
Start by clicking Add Autoresponder, enter the number of hours between each e-mail sent back to the sender in case they send more than one. We like to set this to 8 hours as default. Enter your username for example yourname (just the name without the @…), enter the From Which can be something like “Your Name” and also enter the Subject line example “I am currently on holiday”. Then you have to enter the content of your autoresponder which is the body of the e-mail. Lastly select when this autoresponder will start and when it will end (If you want it to end at all)
After creating this autoresponder you can always come back and change it and even after it expires you can come back and edit the same one as it only deactivate when it expires it will not be removed.
This is a very useful function that can save you a lot of time and hassle. Basically you can tell the server receive any e-mails sent to the domain no matter if there is an e-mail account or forwarder setup. For example you have setup a e-mail account for [email protected] and a forwarder for [email protected] If someone misspells yourname and types yourmame instead, this method will make sure that you still do not miss the e-mail.
All you have to do in this instance is to select if not already selected the domain you want to catch all e-mail names from and press the Forward to e-mail Address radio button. Enter the e-mail address that will get all these “unknown account” e-mails and your good to go.
This is a very extensive section. To cover the basics, Most web hosts offer pre-configured one or few click installations for a number of open source and free web apps such as WordPress and other popular scripts. We will cover WordPress in a separate guide but to install any of the apps you can use the Softaculous app installer. Opening this app installer will give you a full list of the apps available for installation.
You can see what each one does and if it is of interest for you. To install one simply click on the Install button and fill in any information requested to complete your installation. Once installed the final screen will provide you with your login link and other information related to the installation you just did.
Lets take a quick look at some other basic features in brief as they are pretty self explanatory.
You have the Metrics section that has a number of apps to be able to check visitors to your hosting, bandwidth usage and Awstats offering a very detailed look of your visitors split into various categories. Although its not pretty to look at but you can get a good sense of your visitors, their origin, time on your site, OS used and much much more.
You then also have the security section. Most of this is a bit more advanced but you can use later on to Block IP Addresses, Check your SSL Certificates, Stop people from downloading files directly (Leeching) and also offers the ability to further secure your hosting account with Two Factor Authentication.
You also have the advanced section that includes Cron Jobs (Used for automating tasks by setting a timer and a command to run and also a very effective virus scanner that can scan your entire account or just parts of.
We hope you have found this guide useful and feel free to comment if you have any questions or suggestions. We will be doing a more in depth review of the more advanced cPanel functions later on but this should be enough to get you started with the basic functionality of your web hosting account.