What is cPanel?

Maybe you’ve heard of cPanel, maybe you haven’t. If you ever bought hosting, at some point, you’ll definitely wonder, what is cPanel? And why is the c lowercase?

The Short Answer

cPanel stands for Control Panel and it’s how you manage your hosting features.

In the world of programming, when you often combine two words, you make the first word lowercase and the second word capitalized – this helps you differentiate between the two words – this is known as camelCase. There is another naming convention known as Hungarian notation, which takes this even further, abbreviating the first word to its first letter (so c is for control). Hence, cPanel.

The Long Answer

cPanel is a proprietary piece of software installed on servers that allows you to manage many different features. It’s how you create FTP users, how you manage caching systems sometimes, it can have one-click installation scripts (for popular systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc) to get you set up quickly, it’s how you can create basic email addresses and inboxes, it’s how you can manage your directories, domains and their DNS records, subdomains, etc.

A lot of web hosts use cPanel and give you access to it so you can manage your piece of the server. There are web hosts who don’t use it. For example, Dreamhost doesn’t use cPanel, it has its own control panel. Siteground does use cPanel.

Here’s what cPanel looks like inside Siteground:

a screenshot of cPanel in Siteground

cPanel can be skinned in different themes, so its appearance may change from host to host. Web hosts can also choose which cPanel features are available to you, often this depends on the plan you choose with them. So your cPanel instance may look different from the one above – both in looks and features.

There are two simple ways to access the cPanel:

  1. Sign into your hosting account. There should be a very clear and accessible way to get into the cPanel. Accessing the cPanel this way doesn’t require you to remember the cPanel username and password.
  2. Go to yourdomain.com/cpanel. This method does require you to know your cPanel username and password. In the account settings of your hosting, you should be able to find your cPanel username and password, as well as be able to reset it from there.

The one annoying thing about cPanel is, it can only have one user, usually. For example, you can’t give limited access to your cPanel to say, the person who manages emails in your team. They either have access to it all or nothing. You can have multiple FTP users that have access to only certain parts of your directory on the server, but the hosting control panel (aka cPanel) is all or nothing access.