cPanel has been the industry standard for providing web hosting for over two decades now. Anyone involved in hosting as a user or provider will either use it or know about it. Is it still the best? Is it right for you? Let’s have a look.
What is cPanel?
cPanel in simplest terms is a control panel for end-users that allow them to manage their hosting account. Install software to a website, manage files, create an email address, take backups, check on visitors statistic and so on.
cPanel provides each user with a graphical interface for users to quickly manage all aspects of their website.
Virtually everything you will want to do can be done with just a few clicks.
Whether you are a complete beginner or a more experienced user, anyone will be able to get going quickly and simply using cPanel.
Beyond cPanel with addons
Something very useful cPanel provides is the ability for 3rd parties to develop plugins. This allows the functionality of the panel to be extended considerably. For example, here are some very popular plugins.
JetBackup is a complete solution to manage user backups, it elegantly ensures all accounts are backed up based on a schedule set by the hosting provider. It can also allow resellers to make backups off-site to their own cloud storage such as Amazon S3.
LiteSpeed WebServer is a replacement for the standard provided by cPanel. It can dramatically improve the performance of users websites.
CloudLinux is an Operating System that allows providers to limit the CPU/RAM and other resources on a per-user basis. For an end-user, it means they are not affected by another user who may be trying to use too many resources which impact everyone else. It also provides the ability to make changes to software and install packages that cannot be done with a standard Operating System.
Imunify360 is a suite of security tools that help to protect against threats and also discover issues and alert you to them. It is a useful tool worth having available.
For me at least, I would expect to see all of the above being provided by my hosting provider. They are essential to allow the best hosting experience, squeeze as much performance out of each website as possible and be able to manage a website effectively.
cPanel is the front, WHM is the back
If you have only ever used shared hosting you may not be aware that it is one of two panels. Where cPanel is for the end-users to manage their site. WHM is the back-end control panel that web hosting providers and resellers use to manage their accounts.
For hosting providers that installed the panel, WHM is used to configure every aspect of the server. From here they have complete control over what is provided to the end-user in cPanel.
For those with Reseller accounts, you will also get WHM to manage your users but the number of configuration options are far less.
Is it the best control panel?
This question is very subjective. What I will say is that it has been around for a long time. It is the leading web hosting control panel in the industry based on both popularity and features.
It is near impossible to go looking for web hosting services and not find cPanel being used.
One of the most appealing aspects of its age and popularity is that every user regardless of experience and skillset will be able to get to grips with cPanel quickly. For any issues, there is a wealth of information you will find if something goes wrong.
Any issue you come across will be an issue someone else has had and the answer will be easily found.
Another major benefit is that if you find yourself in the position of having to move providers, your new provider will most likely be able to move your websites for you. If not, the process is actually quite simple.
My own personal view is that unless you have a specific reason not to use cPanel, it is the best option and I personally recommend it over others. That is not to say I think others are bad, just that cPanel is the best overall.
Recent negative press around cPanel
You may have seen some negative press around the panel in recent times. It is worth addressing that here and understanding my unbiased views. This is important as many views can be very biased and I will explain why.
As noted, cPanel has been around a long time. During that time they have provided an incredibly cost-effective solution for web hosts. They offered two licences, one for a VPS you could pick up for as low as $13 per month and their standard dedicated licence at $45 per month.
There were no limits to how many user accounts (websites hosted) could be created on a server licence. It was also possible for web hosts to create a massive VPS on a dedicated server and pay just $13 for a cPanel licence whilst hosting hundreds, in some cases thousands of accounts. All for a $13 licence (plus other costs of course).
Imagine a web host that is able to provide 1,000 web hosting accounts and charges only $2 per month each and requires just two $45 cPanel dedicated server licences to achieve this. That is $2,000 of income each month and you only pay $90 for the software that makes it possible and does the majority of the work for you.
The result was that many hosts could offer shared and reseller services for as low as just a couple of dollars each month.
Then it changed
The company behind cPanel was sold. That was ultimate to a company that understood cPanel was being undervalued and need to change its pricing structure. Something that most web hosts even though they didn’t like what was coming knew was not unreasonable.
What happened though was a change that nobody saw coming, it was quite dramatic.
Using my example above you can see the difference.
|Description||Old Pricing||New Pricing|
|Number of users||1,000||1,000|
|Monthly Cost of licences||$90||$97|
|$0.30 cost for each user above 100||$0||$270|
|Total Cost per Month||$90||$367|
|Total cost per year||$1,080||$4,404|
Accurate as at March 2021
So as you can see, the new pricing structure means that the price of the licence has increased but in addition, there is a charge for every user account above 100. So that means paying $0.30 per user for the 900 users above the 100 included in the licence.
So a very clear and significant price increase. So what has been the effect?
For some hosting providers, there have been little change others it has been quite dramatic. For example, the biggest hit providers are those that were offering an unlimited number of accounts that could be created on reseller plans. As well as those who were charging such low prices that they were no longer going to profitable.
So some providers have either increased the price of their plans, nothing else. Other providers have not increased pricing but placed a specific limit on the number of user accounts that can be created. Some have increased pricing and set a limit.
For budget hosting providers that could no longer continue to maintain their low pricing and could not increase it due to the risk of customer losses. They have moved to a different panel. Those that have moved chose DirectAdmin. I will be looking at that next.
For end-users of cPanel, the change means nothing for the panel itself. It still does everything it did before. Many have seen no change at all. Others have either been asked to pay a bit more. If you had a Reseller plan then you have likely seen a limit placed on the number of accounts that can be created.
In my view, there are plenty of services out there to fit all budgets and there is really little effect on the majority of end-users.
Pros and Cons of cPanel
as I have noted, it is the panel of choice for me. Whilst there have been increases in the pricing of late, it has little effect on me as an end-user. If you are new to hosting then this panel really is the best option to get started.
For anyone looking to get into the hosting industry and start offering web hosting services the costs quickly ramp up based on the number of users you have so factor that in.
- The most popular panel
- Best feature set
- Easy to move between providers
- Suits all skill levels
- Can cost as little as $1 per month
- Can get expensive as you grow
- Other panels can be much cheaper
- May be limits on the number of accounts you can create
- Future price increases are likely
- Can be expensive for web hosts
Next I am going to look at DirectAdmin as the most popular alternative to cPanel