What Is a Control Panel? Definition, Top Features, & Best Options

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Website control panels are extremely useful interfaces for controlling web server options.

When working with web servers, whether it be Windows or Linux, you may find yourself lost in the limitless possibilities of your web server applications. Control panels are designed and implemented so that making changes on web servers becomes simpler and easier for users of all skill levels to work with.

Let's take a look at how website control panels can work for you.

What Is the Control Panel?

Control panels are an online interface that allows you to control different aspects of your web server.

Web control panels are designed to be as easy to use as possible and limit your need as a tech to run scripts and codes on the server level. For example, if you wanted to install an SSL certificate on a Windows or Linux server, the process would be much more involved in working directly on the operating system than going through the setup processes on a website control panel.

If you want to set up FTP, make changes to your DNS servers, or make changes to your mail server, you can do this all through the control panel associated with your web server.

Typically you will access your control panel through a URL provided during the installation.

  • If you are using Plesk, for example, the URL you will be accessing will look something like this: https://example.com:8443.
  • If you are utilizing cPanel, for example, the website you access will be similar to: https://example.com/cpanel or https://example.com:2083.
  • If you are using InterWorx, you can log in to NodeWorx at https://yourdomain.com:2443.

These websites are created and configured during the installation of your control panel.

If you are hosting through a managed hosting solution like Liquid Web, this is all done behind the scenes before you receive your server and this information will be provided to you directly.

Control Panels Help with Server Management

What Does the Control Panel Do?

Your website control panel helps you manage almost anything you would need to configure on your web server and allows you to do it with one easy interface.

Control panels will manage web server functions including:

  • DNS Management.
  • IP Address Management.
  • SSL Certificates and Bindings.
  • Creating and Modifying FTP and Email.
  • Database Management.
  • File Management.

Simply put, control panels make web server management easy.

Why Do I Need a Control Panel?

The primary reason for having a control panel is to put the management of any of your web server(s) functionalities in one place that is accessible over the internet.

The control panel makes managing and configuring these very functions much easier. When modifying DNS records on a Windows server, for example, you will have to go through several local DNS applications on your web server and make modifications in a few different places.

With a control panel, you can modify DNS information on a single page, accessed remotely via a web URL, instead of having to RDP or Putty into the server. This puts information for handling DNS for all websites in a few pages that are well documented and on the same management portal as all of your other functions that you will need to maintain.

Now instead of managing an application for SSL, an application for FTP, and an SQL server application, you can have control of all of these features in one place in a much less confusing atmosphere.

Choosing the best control panel for your server

Which Control Panel is Right for Me?

Let's take a look at the three most popular options for web servers.


cPanel is the industry standard for control panels for web servers. It is used by over 1 million websites to manage their web server and site infrastructure. It is most popularly and efficiently used for Linux web servers.

Originally released in 1996, cPanel is at the forefront of web server management and has been for a long time. There are an enormous amount of features available to you and years of community and official documentation and discussion available to help you do what you need to do.

If you are running a Linux-based web server and are looking for a control panel to help manage your web server, cPanel may be the right choice for you. It is well-supported and often offered when purchasing a web server. The additional cost of having cPanel is extremely worth it, especially if you are not an advanced user with strong terminal or command line skills. cPanel will save you hours of time and headaches as they are constantly perfecting the simplification of Linux server management.


If you are running a Windows Server, utilizing Plesk is one of the best options available. Released in 2001, Plesk is running on over 380,000 servers worldwide and has become a front-runner in control panels for both Windows and Linux, though it is designed primarily with the Windows Server operating system in mind.

Plesk is complete with every feature you would need in a web server control panel. From managing DNS entries and IP address allocations to file management and FTP user creation, Plesk has been developed over time to be a handy tool for managing your web server. Plesk has a very easy-to-use interface and makes it really simple for beginner and intermediate users to manage their web server.

One of the most useful features of Plesk is the site migration tool which lets you move websites and resellers from one Plesk installation to another, provided the destination server is on the same or more recent version of the Plesk software.

Plesk runs particularly great on IIS and Windows, though it does run with Linux and Apache. Keep this in mind when deciding which control panel is right for you.


InterWorx, featuring SiteWorx and NodeWorx, is a feature-rich control panel built to be scalable and easy to use. Created in early 2000, InterWorx is especially used by growing agencies and resellers that require the ability to create unlimited accounts as they scale. This is due to the simple pricing structure that InterWorx employs with per-server licensing.

InterWorx provides all of the tools users will expect:

  • Mobile-friendly design for a clear interface.
  • Actively maintained API, CLI, and support for plugins.
  • Configure FTP, SSH NFS, MySQL, or DNS with ease.
  • Determine firewall and IP address rules.
  • Create hosting accounts and determine resource limits.
  • Ability to create clustered environments for scalable applications or websites.
  • Configure domains and email, install software, and choose web content.
  • Simple interface for full or partial backups and scheduling backups.

For those still wondering how to choose the best control panel, here are the best use cases for each:

  • Plesk runs most efficiently on Windows Servers utilizing IIS to serve web pages.
  • cPanel runs most efficiently on Linux servers using Apache.
  • InterWorx also runs best on Linux servers using Apache.

Everyone from beginner to advanced technical skills will benefit from having a control panel available to manage their servers. If you have the option to have a control panel added to your web server, it is almost always a good idea to pursue. Our dedicated servers are compatible with InterWorx, Plesk, or cPanel.

In most cases, you can do everything you would like outside of the control panel as well, so by having the control panel available you are giving yourself and your organization more options. Keep this in mind when purchasing your web server.

If there are any advanced use cases necessary for your server that may interfere with your control panel, your technical team will usually be aware of this beforehand, and both options have great documentation to plan your server moving forward.

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About the Author

Melanie Purkis

Melanie Purkis is the Director of Liquid Web's Managed Hosting Products & Services. Melanie has more than 25 years of experience with professional leadership, project management, process development, and technical support experience in the IT industry.

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