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cPanel is a Unix based web hosting control panel that provides a graphical interface and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site. cPanel utilizes a 3 tier structure that provides functionality for administrators, resellers, and end-user website owners to control the various aspects of website and server administration through a standard web browser.
In addition to the GUI interface cPanel also has command line and API based access that allows third party software vendors, web hosting organizations, and developers to automate standard system administration processes.
Application-based support includes Apache, PHP, MySQL, Postgres, Perl, and BIND (DNS). Email based support includes POP3, IMAP, SMTP services. cPanel is commonly accessed on port 2082, with an SSL-secured server operating on port 2083.
cPanel was originally designed as the control panel for Speed Hosting , a now-defunct web hosting company. The original author of cPanel, J. Nicholas Koston, had a stake in Speed Hosting. Web King quickly began using cPanel after their merger with Speed Hosting. After Speed Hosting and Webking merged, the new company moved their servers to Virtual Development Inc. (VDI), a now-defunct hosting facility. Following an agreement between J. Nick Koston and VDI, cPanel was only available to customers hosted directly at VDI. At the time there was little competition in the control panel market with the main choices being VDI and Alabanza. cPanel 3 was released in 1999; its main features over cPanel 2 were an automatic upgrade and the Web Host Manager.
cPanel 3 tended to be buggy and did not have a good user interface. The interface improved when Carlos Rego of WizardsHosting made what became the default theme of cPanel. Eventually due to internal problems between VDI and J. Nick Koston, cPanel split into two separate programs called cPanel and WebPanel. WebPanel was the version run by VDI. Without the lead programmer, VDI was not able to continue any work on cPanel and eventually stopped supporting it completely. J. Nick Koston kept working on cPanel while also working at BurstNET. Eventually Nick left BurstNET on good terms to focus fully on cPanel. cPanel has been updated and improved over the years. It is now a stable and reliable control panel.
Several add-ons exist for an additional fee, the most notable being Auto Installers like Fantastico, Softaculous and Installatron. Auto Installers are a bundle of scripts which automate the installation and update of, web applications such as WordPress, Soholaunch, SMF, phpBB, Drupal, Joomla!, TikiWiki CMS/Groupware, Moodle, WHMCS and over 100 others. Fantastico is the most popular Auto Installer but is losing market fast because of lack of updates (see article) and fewer number of scripts.
cPanel manages some software packages separately from the underlying operating system, applying upgrades to Apache, PHP, MySQL, and related software packages automatically. This ensures that these packages are kept up-to-date and compatible with cPanel, but makes it more difficult to install newer versions of these packages.
WHM (Web Host Manager)
As well as being accessible by the root admin, WHM is also accessible to users with reseller privileges. Reseller users of cPanel have a smaller set of features than the root user, generally limited by the server administrator, to features which they determine will affect their customers' accounts rather than the server as a whole. From WHM, the server administrator can perform maintenance operations such as compile Apache and upgrade RPMs installed on the system.