Most business people, developers and designers nowadays are familiar with CPanel, either because their corporate website is hosted using CPanel or they might have created an account themselves. In case you don’t know, CPanel is a Linux-based web hosting control panel system that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site. The last few years CPanel has become increasingly popular among web designers and hosting providers because it significantly reduces the technical barriers to managing a web hosting environment. In other words, CPanel enables people who would otherwise not be capable of running a web hosting service to do just that.
Why is this a problem?
While these people are no doubt quite capable of operating the browser based interfaces for the most common task, the question is: What happens when something goes wrong? Most likely, they’ve managed to get themselves in a situation without the level of technical ability that is required to get them out of whatever pickle they’re in.
But the real problem is for the customer who is unaware of the technological gap that exists between web designer and the hosting environment. As a result, when they experience a slow, or broken website they have to deal with a designer or developer who has no idea why that custom built high performance web application is not performing as expected. It can definitely be a very frustrating scenario.
Of course, it’s not expected for every web designer to develop systems administration skills, but it is the responsibility of every web designer/developer to provide proper advice and not just go with the cheapest option in the market.
From a systems administration perspective, CPanel makes a horrible mess. Cpanel compiles its own versions of software, and the work required to apply patches to all of these custom compiled versions is immense. For instance, it stores configuration and log files in non standard locations, this can be troublesome when you are trying to resolve problems, and it can result in longer outages. CPanel can also be a security risk, it provides unencrypted FTP access to the servers or they run outdated versions of software that is often the reason websites get hacked. Problems may also arise because when they apply the updates they expose the websites they host to many risks due to incompatibilities in client code and application versions.
In summary, CPanel is unarguably a functional tool that has a place. But if you’re a business that wants a site hosted in a shared or dedicated hosting environment, perhaps a host that doesn’t operate on CPanel and is supported by qualified professionals will look after you a lot better.
If you want to run your own hosting service but you’re not a systems administrator then by all means go down the CPanel road, but best do it with your eyes open for what you’re getting yourself into.