cPanel is a web hosting control panel software developed by cPanel, LLC. It provides a graphical interface (GUI) and automation tools designed to simplify the process of hosting a web site to the website owner or the “end user”. It enables administration through a standard web browser using a three-tier structure. While cPanel is limited to managing a single hosting account, cPanel & WHM allows the administration of the entire server.
In addition to the GUI, 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. cPanel & WHM is designed to function either as a dedicated server or virtual private server. The latest cPanel & WHM version supports installation on CentOS, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CloudLinux OS, and Ubuntu. cPanel 11.30 is the last major version to support FreeBSD.
cPanel provides front-ends for a number of common operations, including the management of PGP keys, crontab tasks, mail and FTP accounts, and mailing lists. Several add-ons exist, some for an additional fee, including auto installers such as Installatron, Fantastico, Softaculous, and WHMSonic (SHOUTcast/radio Control Panel Add-on). The add-ons need to be enabled by the server administrator in WHM to be accessible to the cPanel user.
WHM manages some software packages separately from the underlying operating system, applying upgrades to Apache, PHP, MySQL, Exim, FTP, and related software packages automatically. This ensures that these packages are kept up-to-date and compatible with WHM, but makes it more difficult to install newer versions of these packages. It also makes it difficult to verify that the packages have not been tampered with, since the operating system’s package management verification system cannot be used to do so.
WHM, short for WebHost Manager, is a web-based tool which is used for server administration. There are at least two tiers of WHM, often referred to as “root WHM“, and non-root WHM (or Reseller WHM). Root WHM is used by server administrators and non-root WHM (with fewer privileges) is used by others, like entity departments, and resellers to manage hosting accounts often referred to as cPanel accounts on a web server. WHM is also used to manage SSL certificates (both server self generated and CA provided SSL certificates), cPanel users, hosting packages, DNS zones, themes, and authentication methods. The default automatic SSL (AutoSSL) provided by cPanel is powered by Sectigo (formerly Comodo CA). Additionally, WHM can also be used to manage FTP, Mail (POP, IMAP, and SMTP) and SSH services on the server.
As well as being accessible by the root administrator, 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 root WHM, the server administrator can perform maintenance operations such as upgrading and recompiling Apache and PHP, installing Perl modules, and upgrading RPMs installed on the system.