5 Important cPanel Settings For Beginners


cPanel control panel is most widely used in the web hosting industry. The main reason behind the popularity of WHM / cPanel is the flexibility and the user friendliness offered. cPanel is easy to manage, easy to customize and it is backed by great quality support. Most of us dealing in the web hosting industry know about the potential of the cPanel control panel. However, if you are new to cPanel, there are a few things that are recommended for you for the initial phase.

Here is an insight on the 5 important cPanel settings for you:

Strong Password

Every user gets a username and password for logging into cPanel. The username and password provided for cPanel is also applicable to the MySQL database user, FTP account, email address and at times the system user login as well. The system user login can be used for accessing the server remotely through SSH (if this feature is enabled by the server administrator). Modifying the cPanel login password is an important action to be done initially. If your password can be easily retrieved or guessed by anyone, that person will also get unwarranted privileges to the server and this is dangerous.

It is important to follow good password practice. Some important tips for password management are mentioned below:

  • Keep changing your password
  • Avoid using dictionary words
  • Avoid using easy things like vehicle registration number, date of birth or phone number as password
  • Use a complex password that is hard to guess
  • Set the length of the password to 8 characters or more
  • Do not use the option of ‘remember password’ in any browser

Server Environment

Make sure that you have complete understanding of the server environment before using it. Some important aspects that you need to know include server operating system, server architecture, kernel version, the versions of the installed applications (Apache, PHP, MySQL, cPanel, Pearl). It is also important to know about the IP address and hosting package limitations. This information is available on the main page; it usually appears on the sidebar of the cPanel interface. A good hosting server should be operated on the updated version of the kernel and applications should be operated under the 64 bit architecture.

It is also crucial to check the cPanel service status. This can be done by logging into cPanel > Stats > Service Status. Here you can see the number of CPUs that are running on the server, memory usage and the disk space status. This feature will provide you with the real time information for the server. All the services should be up and running properly. Ideally, a stable server should run at below 80% of disk usage and below 10% of swap; the server load average should be 2 times below the total number of CPUs.

File & Directory Permissions

By default, with a cPanel hosting account, users get a home directory under /home/{username}. All the files and directories present under the user’s home directory should be operated on the respective permissions and ownership. The most important directory that should run with correct permissions and ownership is public_html. Before we proceed further, it is important for you to know how PHP is managed.

Create a phpinfo page under the public_html directory. Access this page through the browser and check the ‘Server API’. If the value is CGI / FastCGI, then the PHP handler is suPHP, FastCGI or CGI. Most of the web hosting companies use suPHP because of security verification and also because it is the default handler for the cPanel servers. Under suPHP, PHP is executed as a different process along with Apache. All the file permissions should be run under 644 and the directory permissions under 755. Permissions that are higher than this will result in ‘Internal Server Error’ when the PHP script is executed.

If the Server API value is Apache 2.0 handler, then PHP is run under DSO. This handler does not need any strict file permissions or ownership because the PHP file is completely handled by Apache.

You can utilize the cPanel file manager, FTP client or SSH access for fixing the permissions and ownership issues. Make sure to delete the phpinfo page once you have got the necessary information.

Add Protection

Even though the server administrator has the responsibility of managing protection and security, cPanel users can make use of the flexible cPanel interface for adding some protection to the domain, website and cPanel account. Enable the spam assassin (cPanel > Mail > Spam Assassin). This feature is not provided by some web hosting providers as a default because a domain that is newly registered does not receive any spam emails. Discard all the unrouted emails in the default address (cPanel > Mail > Default Address) that contain error to sender at SMTP time. Avoid using the options like ‘blackhole’ or ‘forward to email address’ unless they are actually required. Hackers might take the advantage of these two features for creating a DOS attack on the SMTP service.

If the FrontPage is not used, disable it (cPanel > Advanced > FrontPage Extensions). Check the ‘PHP disabled_function’ through phpinfo page. All the critical functions should be disabled inside the server.

Enable the hotlink protection through (cPanel > Security > Hotlink Protection) for preventing anyone from stealing your bandwidth. People might link your image to their website thus making a part of their content. Enable your website URL to only access static content like .png, .jpeg, .jpg and .bmp.

Notification & Monitoring

It is important to add a secondary email in order to receive notifications through cPanel. By default, the registered email of the user will be the primary contact. Go to the option – Update Contact Info (cPanel > Preferences > Update Contact Info) and add a secondary email that will serve as a backup in case the primary email cannot be reached.

Subscribe to the monitoring tools that are available online for monitoring your website and domain availability. Although this service is offered for free by some of the web hosting companies, it is always good to have another external monitoring source for accurate results. Configure the monitoring system in order to trigger and send notification emails / alerts to your email id.

The information contained in this article is useful for both, new cPanel users and for the users who have been using cPanel. By implementing the essential settings mentioned above, you will get better control over your website and domain name.