Super Simple Guide to cPanel

Super Simple Guide to cPanel

cPanel Quick-Start

Ok, so now you have a Host Africa hosted cPanel server, now what ?

cPanel can be incredibly confusing if you have never worked with a web based control panel before. Most guidelines are written by tech guys and it seems that they are written only for tech guys. If you are not a “tech” person, then this is the guide for you !

This guide is meant as a short, simple guide, not a degree course on cPanel.

cPanel Basics

cPanel is a web-based control panel where you can manage what you need to host a website with all the extra’s like email, ftp accounts and DNS. cPanel is easy to keep up to date as long as you don’t try to modify the way it works or overload it with non-standard plugins.

With cPanel you can:

  • Link domain names to your site
  • Set up emails for your site
  • Install content management systems (CMS) like WordPress or Joomla
  • Back up your website
  • Upload or Download files or images
  • Check your bandwidth usage

and a lot more advanced bells and whistles, plus some nifty security gadgets.

How do I start ?

Once you have bought your cPanel hosting package from Host Africa, you will receive an email with log on details for your cPanel site. This can be in the form of  an ip address (eg. or a domain name (ie. Once you navigate to this address with your browsers, you will get the cPanel login page. Enter your username and password and your cPanel comes up.

Almost every page of cPanel has a documentation link or a help button of some kind.

cPanel also has a few video tutorials here.
cpanel interface

The Interface

The first screen you see after log in normally looks more or less like this:

(I have removed the sidebar on the right as this contains personal information)

At the top of the cPanel  is the search bar – just type in a word or two of what you need and cPanel will bring it up for you.

The same search feature is at the top right in the navy blue login bar and can be accessed from any page. 

iconAny time you need to return to this page, just press the small “icon” 

pad at the top left below the word cPanel. 


cpanel dropdown menu


If you click on your username at the top right, you get a drop-down menu like the image on the right. Here you can reset your password, change language and style of cPanel, add your contact info to receive email about any happening on your cPanel installation and even reset your settings to default.

It is very important to update your contact details so that cPanel can inform you of important events and suspicious activity ( such as someone attempting to log on with your username )


It is best to tick all the options in the “Contact Information” panel.


user iconAdding users

Add users using the user icon on the top left of the page only when you really need to. Add a web-designer, business partner or anyone who has a legitimate reason to log on to your cPanel. Remove users when they leave your employ or have finished the task for which they had access.


Under the user manage, the Envelope enables email, the Delivery Truck indicates FTP access and the Disk-Drive indicates access to web-disk services.

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Choosing a password

This is one of the most important decisions you can make as far as securing your cPanel installation. A secure password is more than just a random combination of characters. It must eb something you can remember, without being easy to guess or crack by computer. The most important single factor which makes a password secure is length. Twelve characters or more is ideal. The challenge is thinking our a password which is long, but easy to remember. My recommendation is simple: use a phrase that you can relate to – if you can make this phrase in a non-English language, even better. Let me show you how to complexify a simple, English phrase.

We start with the phrase:

my dog eats a lot   = 13 characters 

# modify 1 – replace letters with numbers – first “o” becomes “zero”(0)

my d0g eats a lotkey

# modify 2 – replace “s” with $

my d0g eat$ a lot

# modify 3 – every other word starts with a capital letter

My d0g Eat$ a Lot

# modify 4 – add your own “extra” – in this case #75

My d0g Eat$ a Lot #75

# # modify 5 – remove spaces


Now you have an extremely complex, difficult to crack or guess password.

Managing Domains

The “Domains” section is where you add a domain name you have purchased to your hosting account, manage sub-domains or redirect a domain you own to another site.

A “sub” domain is anything that comes BEFORE the domain name, thus ftp, mail and www are all examples of sub-domains.

New Domains

Click on “Addon Domain” to add a completely new domain for which you can create a new website.

Under Addon Domains, you will be asked to enter your new domain name, sub-domain and document root. Your “New Domain” is the domain name without the www part. Sub-domain creates a sub-part for the main domain which automatically redirects to the main domain ie www. Document root is the location on the cPanel server where your domain will reside.

It is usually best to stick to cPanel recommendations.

cPanel File Manager

file managerThis section of cPanel is where you upload the files and images you want to have on your website. A few pointers – the “Home” page is always called “index.htm”, “index.html” or “index.php” depending on your server setup and web programming language. Images should be optimised and try to use only .jpg/.jpeg, .png or .gif. BMP images are in general too big and load slowly. Images can be optimised with Photoshop, GIMP or online tools like optimizilladynamicdrive imageoptimizer or

As far as folder structure is concerned, the main folder which contains your main site files is public_html. Be careful here as any changes WILL change your website.

Files can also be uploaded via FTP (file transfer protocol) but you will have to add an FTP account first. Remember to define the FTP user “home” directory to keep the user from seeing ALL you files and folders. Also define a quota to limit the total size / space used by the FTP users, as going over your total assigned quota can freeze your cPanel account, preventing email access and possibly disabling all your websites as well.

emailEmail Accounts

Here you add email accounts for the domain you have created. You can add accounts, add “Auto-Responders” and set up Anti-Spam measures to lessen junk-mail. 

Be careful when setting up Auto-Responders – only set them up for when you are unable to reply. Also set them to reply only once per week to the same email address. Auto-responders are often abused by spammers and can get your server blacklisted.

You can also access web based email by using 
Setting up anti-spam is done via Apache SpamAssasin in the email section. Enable spamassassin here.The higher the score, the more  spam is allowed through. If you lower the score below 5, you may get some valid mail blocked. You can also choose to have spam deleted or only flagged and sort it with Outlook (Safer).



Regardless of what backup strategies your hosting provider follows, the final responsibility for keeping your data safe lies with you. Luckily, cPanel makes this easy with their “Backup Wizard”. Try to keep at least a monthly backup offsite so that you have the extra redundancy.


cPanel has a number of easy installs via Softaculous Apps Installer. Here you can install CMS software like WordPress. Do not attempt to install everything you “might” need as each module uses space and will slow down your site slightly. Each additional module also introduces new possible vulnerabilities for internet criminals to target. 

Ensure that you run ALL updates regularly to keep your site as safe as possible. Also, get the advice of a cPanel or WordPress expert on securing your site.

Happy Hosting ! 🙂

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