Why I still love using cPanel. Despite all the new panels popping up. And even with cPanel’s massive price hikes.
Yes…maybe some of you are shocked to hear this. Since I’m known as a new-school tech enthusiast and always reviewing the latest and greatest. How can it be that Johnny still likes the old-school cPanel?!!
My cPanel use case
End User, Developer, Server-Admin, Webhosting Business
I am all four of these things! Please keep that in mind when you read this post. Because many of you will try arguing with me that such and such other panel does things better than cPanel…and while I may agree on some points…they definitely aren’t anywhere near competitive on ALL these points.
cPanel strengths over other control panels
- Many webhosting users are familiar with cPanel. They know where to look for things.
- And when they don’t know where to look, there’s an abundance of free and available 3rd-party documentation.
- You can’t underestimate familiarity. It’s not “oh this is good because I’ve seen it before”. It’s more like “this looks the way I think it should look”.
- Other panels may have less visual clutter but things are now in different places and/or don’t even have the same features. Which can be jarring for end users.
- Yes, this is a major convenience for users.
- It’s not just for uploading files but can also edit files. So much faster than opening up FTP client, downloading and re-uploading to change one tiny line. (Also easier if I need to make an emergency edit from my phone.)
- They can do everything with only their cPanel login. No need to remember and learn how to use an FTP client. No need to pass an extra set of credentials to their devs.
- File Manager in someways can also be more user-friendly than an FTP client. It looks friendlier, can compress/extract, cut & paste.
- Many other panels don’t even have a File Manager, and don’t even make an effort to build one.
- Yes, I’m definitely of the mentality that serious email hosting should never be done from your server.
- But the reality is most end clients don’t understand this and still insist on doing things the way they’ve always done it. CPanel easily allows them to do so whereas again, most other panels do not.
- We can argue all day about deliverability and blah blah, but what if clients just want a cheap holding box for inbound email. Or to forward to their Gmail. See? cPanel makes it easy for them.
Disk Usage tool:
- Super handy visual tool that shows how much space each directory is taking up. Great for finding large files and cleaning up your sites.
- So many panels don’t have anything like this.
Panel load time:
- CPanel loads really quick between screens. This really is an underrated quality for me.
- Whereas many other hosting panels (GoDaddy, Kinsta, etc) can be super slow 2-3 seconds between clicks. Or try to click on phpMyAdmin and you have to wait 5 seconds.
- Even some of the new-age fancy cloud panels like Cloudways can feel (2-seconds) slow between clicks. Ughhhh.
- Yes…the familiarity benefit works for developers, too! We don’t have to dig around for so many random logins and possible panel settings areas.
Available 3rd-party documentaton:
- Client doesn’t know how to do something?
- Easy, send them a link to a page or Youtube video that explains how! No need to explain it yourself in back and forth emails.
- File Manager – yes, I love this as a developer. So easy to pop in and out.
- Disk Usage – yeaup, I use this too. Track down storage waste and also where client assets are located.
- Oh hell yeah! WP-CLI baby!
- Need to do SSH & CLI stuff? There’s also a handy web-GUI SSH terminal right inside of cPanel.
- The good ole “familiarity” rears its head again. Admins benefit from a huge knowledge-base and many forums documenting every possible issue you might come across.
- Tons of experts out there to help you (or guinea pig) things for you!
- Hiring emergency admins is so easy because everyone (even junior admins) know where the common issues and files are.
- cPanel is the most mature webhosting panel out there. It has more features, and fought through more bugs, under harsher mass-hosting conditions than anyone.
- It isn’t perfect but it’s as close as I see anybody else getting within the next 10 years.
- Even now I see other panels with only 10% of the functionality and still getting bugs in basic tasks. (Yes, even the super popular ones you hear about today.)
- How many panels do you know can effortlessly handle hundreds of accounts, and even hundreds of sites within each account?
- I feel the 100-site mark is what separates the men from the boys. Most of those cloud panels you see nowadays aren’t efficient for handling many sites. It just takes longer to do simple tasks.
- And by “simple task”, I mean super basic…like finding the site and knowing which server it’s on (using only the client’s name).
- What if i wanted to quickly migrate the entire server to another physical node? Or backup the entire server all once? Or how about to restore the entire server from a backup? Trust me…you will see a clear separation right away.
Speed & productivity:
- cPanel has decent speed in every sense of the word. Things load fast. The server loads fast. I get so many things done faster in cPanel than with any other panel.
- One argument against cPanel used to be that it was “slow”. That it either slowed down servers (too much resource) or slowed down sites (poor stack configuration). But this hasn’t been the case for a long time now. And I’m not going to explain why those sentiments were out-of-context in the first place.
- Anybody who wants to play a game with me…let’s see how long it takes you to 1) log into your webhost panel, 2) open up phpMyAdmin, and 3) make a change in wp-config.php. You let me know.
Server stack flexibility:
- There aren’t too many server panels that let you choose between Apache, LiteSpeed, and NGINX. cPanel is one of them. (And yes, it gets so many points for being LiteSpeed-compatible…my favorite web server.)
- Want to juggle between MySQL, MariaDB, and Percona? Yeah, you can. I’ll admit Percona may require a little hacking but it’s doable.
- Want this module? That module? Or how about that weird one that nobody ever uses? Yeaup…cPanel has them all.
- Do you have a different opinion about performance or security from everyone else? WHM has a wide range of options to suit your configuration OCD.
- There’s like a million ModSecurity options for you to choose from. You can knock yourself out with Config Server & Firewall too.
- You can also switch out different PHP handlers to track down processes more easily.
- Aside from having an abundance of security and security management features…I love that cPanel lets you tweak things for your use case. A personal cPanel server with only a few (carefully-managed) sites shouldn’t be secured the same way you would with a busy server with many tenants.
- WHM/cPanel has so many integrations and so many essential ones that stand as a major feature benefit on their own.
- Do you want some custom function? There’s a chance an addon module already exists for it.
- Do you want to make your own custom module? You “can” do it with cPanel. (“Can” depending on your technical ability.)
- The more you need special automations and integrations from traditional webhosting industry POV, the more cPanel separates itself from the competition. Like literally 20 years ahead of the competition.
- The 3rd-party marketplace is a great idea and the only one I’ve seen in the entire webhosting market. (Yes, I know Plesk which is owned by the same company has one as well.)
- So you can jump into CLI right from your server management platform. No need to SSH around. It’s also easier for other staff to poke in and out of things as well.
- Very few other panels have a web-based terminal available.
Account isolation control:
- There are many people who hate that cPanel lets you put many sites into one account. The argument is that this increases the chances of hacks from one site spreading to all other sites within the account.
- The argument is valid BUT, not as big of a deal IMO depending on who is managing the account and how many sites are in there.
- I personally love that cPanel gives admins the choice to combine or isolate accounts however they like. It’s much faster to manage than to have literally every single site (even a tiny one) separated into its own directory…forcing you to pop in and out for every little task.
Resource isolation control:
- Sick of troublesome sites (or clients) hogging all server resources?
- You can cage them down with CloudLinux, picking and choosing who your favorite children are.
- Now why don’t you tell me how other server panels manage this? (You’ll find out most can’t.)
Account transfer between servers:
- Do you want to migrate a cPanel account from another webhost to yours? Or how about an existing client from one server to another?
- cPanel makes this 1-click easy. All files, databases, even emails.
- Are one of the servers not a cPanel server? If it’s a major server panel, there’ a chance it might be compatible with cPanel server transfers (even if only inbound or outbound).
- This is so useful to help clients switch datacenters or when offloading busier or problematic nodes.
- WHM/cPanel has so many damn notifications. You might even complain that there’s too many but I do appreciate that it can be so thorough. Notifications for every possible little thing.
- High resource use, space running, bandwidth use, SSL’s didn’t renew, CRON jobs didn’t run, backup status, new accounts/domains added or deleted, and hundreds.
- I’m not even kidding, there’s hundreds of possible notifications. And you can check which ones you want or not.
- The other great benefit of this granular resource tracking, is that it allows you to bill by these resources (depending on your billing system, of course).
- On a basic level, you can decide which icons and features will show for users. You can also allow different features for different users.
- On an advanced level, you can reskin and redesign the end user interface…or purchase a 3rd-party theme. That’s super cool!
- Again, how many control panels out there can do this? Not very many.
- Not many panels allow it, and some of the ones that do don’t necessarily have the language packs ready (you have to write it yourself).
- It’s a nice touch if you have users all over the world.
- Tons of enterprise features most people would never use. But nonetheless, the possibility is there.
- Remote DB, clustering, DB repair, server configurations done right from a GUI (since it’s an in-the-stack panel).
- There are so many little things I won’t bother listing. CPanel really lets you get to many tiny granular settings that other panels didn’t account for. They simply point to your the CLI with some (often outdated) list of commands.
- Let’s say you’re a super busy admin doing full server backups regularly. Do it on enough servers and your S3 bill actually gets pretty high in TB-usage.
- Wouldn’t it be great to exclude certain wildcard directories from backup? Well with WHM, you can!
- For example, you can exclude the “updraft” or “shortpixel-backup” directories from all backups. (This would save a ton of space and storage costs. Also speed up backup time.)
- Do I know of any other server panel that does that? NOPE!
- WHM/cPanel easily allows you to change the logo and design, sure.
- But I think its real whitelabel capacity is to allow a wide variety of underlying hardware and software stack. Even more so is that customers instinctively know that not all cPanel webhosting are the same.
- What about other panels. Most don’t have much white-labeling capability or any customization at all. Especially the new ones, they’re sold on the strength that you DON’T (meaning “CAN’T”) have to configure any settings.
- So it’s hard to resell a webhosting business off of Cloudways, RunCloud, GridPane…don’t you think?
- WHM/cPanel lets you have sub-user account so clients can have their own logins. Great for selling hosting services.
- CPanel allows 3 levels of users… ADMIN, RESELLER, and USER.
- Other panels may not even have this functionality. Even some that have separation between ADMIN and USER, don’t have RESELLER users.
- This capability makes it possible to put multiple clients on the same server and still allow each of them access to their own account.
- Having multiple clients on one server can be better use of resources, providing not only better performance at lower cost but also with less management.
Billing integration (WHMCS, Blesta, etc):
- WHMCS itself can be considered the cPanel of webhosting billing software. Yes, many years of complaints (and outdated coding practices). But also many years of enterprise reliability.
- Look around at all the fancy cloud panels you see today and tell me how many of them offer WHMCS integration or customer-billing capability. (Last I checked, the answer is ZERO.)
- Do you want to run a webhosting business with automated billing system? One that sends automatic invoices, accepts payments, calculates late fees, creates and deletes client accounts, shows reports, and overseas clients across many servers? (If you answered YES, then you should find a panel that has WHMCS integration like cPanel.)
Many access channels:
- If you’re running a webhosting business, you’ll need many ways for other staff to get into your server.
- SSH key, token API, integration with other software (like WHMCS), multiple team logins, and root pass.
- Most other panels (especially the new ones) nowadays are quite limited in how you get into them and the also limited in the degree to which you can configure them. Any limitation here will be a massive obstacle to your growth.
- WHM/cPanel has the best support of any control panel company out there. No surprise really since it’s the biggest control panel company out there.
- The support is fast, available 24/7 (yes even on chat), and can fix ANY problem you have. And I do feel I’m getting a LEVEL 3 TECH on every single support request.
- For sure, you will not be left hanging in the middle of the night with a server on fire and nobody to cry to for help.
- How are other control panel companies? Not always available, not always skilled. Some can fix only the easy problems. Others only fix critical problems and leave you hanging for small bugs.
- WHM/cPanel support is by far the most professional. Attitude, friendliness, English fluency, always helpful. When you have many licenses with them, you’re treated like a high roller at the casino.
Yes, WHM/cPanel is overkill for many people.
Not everyone switches between 4 personality types and manages hundreds of clients across the world. For you, it’s like using a fire hose to fill a cup of water. I get it. There’s a good chance YOU don’t need cPanel and I don’t blame you.
Things that cPanel sucks (or isn’t so great at) at:
Writing this to entertain the cPanel-haters on my blog. This one’s for you! <3
- Too many features – many that aren’t used in a day-to-to basic and take up more space than necessary. Also means more unnecessary documentation to dig through. Lol, their documentation feels more like a search engine than a knowledgebase.
- Not so modern UI – even with cPanel’s updated theme design, its layout is designed more from an admin POV than a user POV. Newer panels do a better job of minimalism not giving so much visual space to less common webhosting tasks. I thought of making my own theme to get around this but then got scared about my hosting not looking as familiar to all cPanel guides out there.
- Isn’t WordPress-centric – this is both a pro and a con. Pro being it can host many other web applications outside of WordPress. Con being that it doesn’t cater so closely to WordPress-specific functions like some other panels (but the WP Toolkit changes this a lot).
- Certain simple tasks are unintuitive – for example, the SSL. Unless you have a 3rd-party addon, the built-in SSL installer is not clear on how to use. It takes only a minute to learn but I wish it was easy to understand from just looking at it.
- Can’t invite users to your account – since cPanel isn’t built on a cloud-based management system, you just give access to another existing cPanel user. You either have to create an account for them. Or give them access to your own. This can be cumbersome and feel un-secure when you lose track of who has access or not.
- Lacking isolation within 1 account – if one site gets infected, the hacker may access all other sites within the same account. Of course…if you’re following best security practices like keeping things updated and not using the same weak password for everything, much of that risk is negated.
- cPanel is not cheap – IMO, it’s cheap for all that it offers (hosting, email, file manager, terminal, reliability). But I understand many people don’t care for all those things and want the cheapest thing possible. Indeed cPanel licensing is per server, which costs much more than free panels or ones that allow you to manage many servers for one fixed price.
- cPanel is not easy to install for regular people – you have to jump into the command line. And maybe even open firewalls or edit config files in some cases. It’s not as easy as other panels that have only one command or a tutorial for each major cloud provider (AWS, DO, VULTR, Linode, etc).
- cPanel has bad reputation with some clients – unfortunately, some people think cPanel is synonymous with slow, buggy, insecure, or outdated webhosting. The name has also been around a long time and doesn’t sound as cool as a new flashy panel with “cloud” in its name.
Who should use cPanel?
- Those who like it – DUH! Many people just like it. They don’t want anything different.
- You like the email hosting capability – or just don’t want to pay and configure 3rd-party email host (like G-Suite).
- You want to manage many clients or sites – cPanel does it easier than anything else IMO. Keep in mind, I said “manage”. If you only need to host and don’t care too much for managing…that can be done with any panel, really.
- You want a specific server stack that other panels don’t have – for many years, cPanel’s LiteSpeed compatibility was one of the big deal-makers for me. Other panels that I really liked still weren’t useable because they didn’t have LiteSpeed.
- You want to run a webhosting business – cPanel makes it so easy with all its granular features, ability to customize different plans (based on resource limits), and most of all…the billing integration and sub-user account capability.
So if you’re not running a ton of sites, don’t need to host your own emails, happy with Nginx or OpenLiteSpeed, and not running a large webhosting business….you can use any of the free/cheaper control panels out there.