Put simply, cPanel is a dashboard that’ll help you manage your hosting account. It operates similar to the desktop on your computer, where you’ll find icons and a variety of programs you can use to accomplish certain tasks.

Without cPanel, managing your hosting environment would be very technical. But, by using a dashboard like cPanel doing complex tasks only takes a couple of clicks. This unique software makes it possible so complete beginners can manage their own hosting accounts. 

A lot of web hosts use cPanel (including HostGator), so it’s a good idea to understand how it works if you want to get the most out of your hosting.

Below you’ll learn what cPanel is, the benefits to having access to a cPanel dashboard, and the types of hosting tasks you can accomplish via cPanel.

What Is cPanel?

As mentioned in the introduction, cPanel is a control panel that helps you manage the backend of your hosting dashboard. It simplifies the hosting management process and lets you accomplish tasks with a couple of clicks.

The beauty of cPanel is that it’s built for complete beginners. Even though you can accomplish complex tasks, it’s a very straightforward and easy tool to use.

Here’s a quick example of the cPanel you’ll get access to when you sign up for HostGator hosting:

hostgator cpanel dashboard

As you can see there’s an intuitive navigation bar, along with a number of different applications you can use to effectively manage your hosting account.

For example, here are a few tasks you can accomplish in cPanel:

  • Install WordPress, or another CMS with a couple clicks
  • Organize your server and manage files via a visual interface
  • Create domain-specific email accounts
  • Check your current server usage statistics
  • Install new applications and software onto your server
  • Manage any security tools
  • Run or schedule website backups

Of course, this is just the beginning. There’s a whole bunch more you can do from within cPanel. It seems there’s a near endless array of features and tools you have access to.

But, don’t let this be intimidating. You don’t need to understand how every feature works to use cPanel effectively. Instead there are just a few core tasks you’ll need to know how to do. The rest you can learn in time, or just leave it as is.

Why Would You Want to Use cPanel?

Without cPanel it would be pretty difficult to actually manage your server. You’d need advanced technical knowledge to accomplish pretty simple tasks. Unless you were willing to put in the time to understand how the command line works, you’d have a very hard time managing your server, or even launching a website.

cPanel is one of the most widely used control panels in the hosting space. It’s commonly used across shared hosting plans, but you’ll find it on a variety of other hosting styles as well. However, when you get up to more advanced forms of hosting like WordPress managed hosting, VPS, and cloud hosting you’ll typically find a custom control panel.

cPanel helps beginners manage their server environments without too much of a learning curve. The feature set can be a little overwhelming for beginners, but accomplishing certain tasks to get your site launched are pretty straightforward. 

The Benefits to Using HostGator cPanel

When you’re trying to get started online, you want it to be a straightforward process. Sadly, a lot of hosts make managing your server and setting up your website more complicated than it needs to be. Luckily, HostGator is equipped with a beginner-friendly cPanel.

It’s very easy to get started with, but also equipped with more advanced features for total server control and customization.

Here are some of the biggest benefits to using the HostGator cPanel:

1. It’s Easy to Use and Learn

Trying to manage your own server and launch your website would be a near impossible task if you don’t have the right programming skills and experience.

But, with cPanel, you literally just have to find the right application, click it, and let the software do its thing.

Running the basic applications to get your website live, online, and built only require a couple of clicks. Managing your server files and installing additional server scripts will take more work, but no task is too difficult to accomplish in cPanel.

2. It Can Save You Time and Money

Managing, updating, and running your own server takes time and money. With cPanel, doing all of these tasks is as simple as a couple clicks, but without this tool your only option would be to pay a developer. Or, invest a ton of time into learning these skills yourself.

Instead of having to hire technical staff to maintain your website, you can handle all of these technical tasks yourself and rely on the bundled software installers. 

3. It Includes Tons of Bundled Software Installers

With cPanel you get access to hundreds of different software applications–instantly:

software installs available in cpanel

For example, there are software installers that’ll enable you to do things like:

  • Manage your files on your server visually (no command line needed)
  • Create and manage new email accounts associated with your website
  • Run or schedule automated website backups
  • Install a variety of CMS on your site

Basically anything you want to do with your server or website, you’ll find software that’ll allow you to accomplish the task. 

4. It Has a Variety of Support and Tutorials Available

Finally, because cPanel is one of the most widely used control panels, you’ll be able to find a wealth of different tutorials and support articles that’ll help you master using this tool.

For example, the HostGator Knowledge Base has hundreds of support articles that’ll help you work through any issues you might be experiencing with cPanel.

hostgator support articles for cpanel

Now that you understand the power of cPanel and the benefits it can bring you and your website, let’s get into how you can actually use the tool. 

How to Use cPanel

When you sign up for a hosting account with HostGator, cPanel will already be installed. You don’t have to do a single thing to activate it. Once you complete the signup process you’ll receive an email that contains your cPanel URL, along with your username and password.

cpanel login screen

Once you login you’ll be taken to your cPanel dashboard, it will look like the image below.

cpanel dashboard hostgator

If this is your first time using cPanel, then you might be a little overwhelmed with all the applications. But, once you spend some time in cPanel it starts to make sense pretty quickly.

When you sign up for hosting you should automatically receive your cPanel login. If not, get in touch with your hosting provider to send over your login details. 

For most users the top panel labelled ‘Popular Links’ will give you access to the programs you’ll use the most. These apps will allow you to do things like access the website builder, install WordPress, manage files and folders on your server, add website-specific email addresses, install subdomains and more. 

popular links in cpanel

As you scroll further through cPanel you’ll find additional applications for in-depth server and domain management, database management features, security tools, and much more. 

What You Can Accomplish in cPanel

As you can see, cPanel lets you accomplish a ton of different hosting-related tasks. We won’t go into everything you can do with cPanel below, but instead some of the most common tasks you’ll find yourself doing in cPanel.

1. Add and Manage Domain Names

Depending on your hosting plan you can host multiple domain names and websites on a single account. This can be useful for users who manage multiple websites they want to run, or even to test out new projects and ideas without having to create an entirely new hosting account.

Here’s how you can add new domains to your server. Keep in mind that you’ll need to own and have your domains registered before you can add them to your account.

Once you’re in cPanel you’ll look for an icon titled ‘Addon Domains’. This will either be at the top section under ‘Popular Links’ or under the ‘Domains’ section.

find addon domains in cpanel

Click ‘Addon Domains’, then on the next screen enter your new domain name. You can also create a subdomain, or create a new folder. However, most users will simply enter the domain name in the ‘New Domain Name’ box and click ‘Add Domain’.

create an addon domain in cpanel

Once you’ve added the domain you can start building a new website

2. Create and Manage Email Accounts

One great feature of cPanel is the ability to create email accounts that are associated with your domain name. This gives you a professional email account, instead of using your traditional Gmail email address. 

Most hosting plans also give you the ability to create multiple email accounts so you can create email addresses for every member of your team.

To create new email accounts find the application titled ‘Email Accounts’.

create email accounts in cpanel

On the next screen you’ll be creating your email handle and selecting the domain name that you want the account to be associated with.

add email account in cpanel

You can also set your mailbox quota (how many emails this account can have in the inbox). One you’re satisfied click ‘Create Account’ and your new email will automatically be created.

You can even check, manage and send emails directly from your cPanel account as well. Just click on ‘Webmail’, select the application you want to use, and you’ll be able to use your email account as you would any other email client.

3. Access and Manage Server Files

Not every user will need to manage files on your server, but it can be helpful to know how to do it. We’ll be using the visual file manager named ‘File Manager’.

access server files in cpanel with file manager

Whenever you use one of the cPanel applications to install software on your server or create a new website, a series of files will be created for you.

When you open up File Manager in cPanel, you’ll be able to view these files, make changes, and even delete old website files you’re no longer using. It operates similar to your file system on your desktop or laptop, so you should have no trouble.

cpanel file manager

4. Manage and Create Website Databases

Most modern websites use databases to manage content and keep things running behind the scenes. This is especially true for WordPress websites and sites that have a lot of content or user data.

Usually, these databases will get created automatically. However, it’s still helpful to know how to create or manage your existing databases. 

manage website databases in cpanel

To create a new database click on the ‘MySQL Database Wizard’. This will bring up a tool that’ll walk you through the process of creating a new database, all you need to do is answer a few questions and the software wizard will create it for you.

5. Use the One-Click CMS Installation Software

One of the most often used pieces of software in cPanel is called ‘Softaculous Apps Installer’, this useful application is a bundled software installer and lets you quickly install all kinds of different software on your website. 

Virtually any kind of software you need to install on your website can be done with a few clicks from this tool. You’ll be able to install WordPress or another popular CMS, eCommerce software, built-in chat, forum software, and on and on.

how to install WordPress using Softaculous

Every application you can install is equipped with a helpful setup wizard, so you’ll only have to enter a few fields and the software installer will do the rest. 

In Closing

By now you should have an in-depth understanding of the cPanel control panel, why you’ll want to support your website with this unique software, and the kinds of hosting-related tasks you can do with ease.

Here’s the great news: to manage your website effectively, you don’t have to become an expert at using cPanel. With just beginner-level knowledge you can take care of all the tasks required to launch your website, create an email address, actually build your site, and even schedule backups.

Get started today by reading up on these cPanel best practices.

Kevin Wood writes about technology and human potential. You can find him at his virtual homes Wooden Writing and Counter Culturist.