There was a time, not too long ago, when those choosing Unix- or Linux-based web servers had to understand kernels, secure shell and command line in order to manage their websites, or pay someone to manage the sites for them. At the time, Microsoft offered an easier and more…well “Windows-like” experience with their IIS web server. Those familiar with Windows computing could generally learn IIS by tooling around the software for a bit and the familiar Windows operating system made learning fairly easy. Unix/Linux, by comparison, was the purview of techies, hackers and code-slingers who tapped away furiously on their keyboards and eschewed their mice as “tools of the ignorant.” For the small business owner on a budget, the expense of Windows and the knowledge requirements of Unix/Linux offered a dilemma.
In Steps the Control Panel, aka “Hosting Automation”
Luckily for the owners of about 80 million websites (and their web hosting companies) interacting with websites hosted in a Linux/Apache environment got a whole lot easier with the advent of the “control panel,” a software package meant to be installed along with the web server software and used by users to more easily manage their sites. cPanel, now the de facto standard in this arena,
So, what exactly is cPanel?
“ According to the company itself, cPanel is a fully featured web-based control panel that allows you to manage your domain through a web interface. The idea is to transfer as much of the control and responsibility of managing your web site to you. You have the ability to manage all aspects of e-mail, files, backup, FTP, CGI scripts, and web site statistics. ”
So, while old-school programmers and the technophiles of the world will likely continue tapping away at their keyboards, the rest of the website-owning world can take a very different approach to website management. For all intents and purposes, the cPanel management console looks like the online account one would have with an online merchant, their bank or a domain registrar, though with significantly more options:
Users can manage their e-mail accounts in a variety of ways, including setting up new mail accounts, setting up spam filters, managing mailing lists and creating forwarders and auto responders.
Files (Web Pages, et al)
Users can use the “Files” section of cPanel to create backups manually, create backup schedules that run automatically, monitor disk usage and create and manage FTP accounts.
Users of cPanel can view raw log files or utilise one of the several log analyser files that are bundled with the control panel software.
Security options include password protection of directories and files, managing IP denials, protecting against hotlinks to images and managing SSL and SSH access.
In addition to those noted options noted above, cPanel also has a “Software/Services” option that allows users to interact with third party software, including bulletin boards, blogs, shopping carts, search marketing programs and WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) HTML editors. Finally, an “Advanced” section helps more advanced users with Apache handlers, error pages, cron jobs, and a variety of other useful tools for website management. In short, the difficulty of managing a website is a thing of the seemingly distant past, and website management has been brought successfully into the hands of site owners.