While it may not be the most exciting aspect of owning and operating a Web presence, control panels are one of the most important elements in your Web success. When you can manage a website efficiently, it is easier to control costs, provide the necessary functionality for your Web team, and it even offers the users of your website features that will keep them returning.
In Web hosting, control panels are the Web-based interfaces that offer the ability to manage hosted services such as the website itself, databases, emails and more. Control panels are an integral part of your success as they provide the ability to “control” the entire website operation. Unfortunately, it is all too common for website owners and their teams of Internet workers to be unfamiliar with a great deal of the built-in functionality provided by control panels.
Some of the more essential control panel features include:
Access to Server Logs: Web analytics tools abound but there is no more accurate reflection of your own site’s performance than in actual server logs. While unattractive to look at for the most part, most control panels provide some basic log analysis software/ statistics programs. In the case of Cpanel, for example, Awstats and Webalizer are available — both of which are helpful in understanding usage statistics.
Details of Webspace/Bandwidth: Another rather valuable feature in most control panels is the ability to see at a glance how much disk space and bandwidth are being used. Knowing this information can minimize the threat of going over the allotted quota, saving you time and frustration when your next blog post goes viral, and providing proof that you may need to scale up or down accordingly.
Email Configuration: While social media has changed the way we communicate with each other, there is undoubtedly still a place for the old standby, email. While creating and removing email accounts should be standard, many control panels help their users go a step further. Features include building and maintaining mailing lists, and creating autoresponders. While the attraction toward using hosted services is on the rise, the greater amount of control of managing your own email has its well-documented benefits.
Database Management: For the more advanced users, the ability to create and manage databases is immensely important — particularly if you are planning to run many of the popular Web applications. Managing databases also means managing the users that can access those databases and being able to establish their privilege levels.
Everything Else: Control panels don’t just provide the essentials — many go well beyond what you might expect. For example, your control panel might enable you to addon or park domains, create error pages, edit DNS zones or create MX entries and authentication, password protect directories, deny IP addresses, and more.
About the Author: Peter Prestipino is Website Magazine's editor-in-chief.