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Explained: what are cPanel and Softaculous and why you would need them

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In choosing a good basic shared hosting plan, I strongly recommend you pick one that comes with cPanel and Softaculous. This is true whether you have one site or multiple sites, but if you’re developing multiple sites it’s even more important to have cPanel and Softaculous. With so many hosts bundling both of these standard into the cost of the plan – yes, even the low-cost plans – you shouldn’t even consider a plan without cPanel and Softaculous.

What are these and why are they important? Here are the answers:


cPanel, as its name suggests, is a control panel that lets you manage pretty much everything about the domains you are hosting, other than the CMS (content management software) you install (Wordpress, Joomla, etc). Your cPanel is a level above that. It’s basically the back end of your site.

You won’t use cPanel ultra-frequently, but whenever you do use it you’ll really need it. Once you have your site software set up you’ll mostly just be working within that CMS (e.g. WordPress, Drupal, OpenCart, etc). But you’ll use cPanel whenever you’re doing any of these things regardless of your software:

  • setting up a new domain
  • installing your CMS of choice on a domain
  • making a subdomain
  • setting up domain redirecting
  • uploading files outside of your CMS (e.g. uploading your site’s favicon graphic or an xml site map)
  • creating and managing the email accounts for your domains
  • …and much more.

Without cPanel, you’d have to use an ftp client. Everything would be a lot slower, harder and more cumbersome to do. Yes it’s possible to manage without a cPanel, but you wouldn’t really want to have to be in that position when developing a bunch of sites. cPanel is a point-and-click interface, making it easy for you to manage everything at a glance. Uploading files is point-and-click, too. Besides, the majority of online tutorials out there (including ours) assume that you have cPanel – many even include step-by-step pictures of the cPanel interface for whatever you’re doing. Why pass up a golden opportunity to make your site development faster and easier?


Softaculous is basically a one-click software installer for your CMS of choice for each of your domains. Softaculous is a fairly sizeable collection of various different open-source software packages, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, social network software, various e-commerce store packages, and much much more.

At this point you might be wondering “Since the software is open-source, why do I need Softaculous? Couldn’t I just get it for free without Softaculous?” True, you could, and you could install it in your directory and unzip it yourself, etc etc etc. But the whole point of Softaculous is that it takes just one click to install any package you pick. It’s designed to make the process easy and you just fill in the fields it asks you about. No mess, no fuss. You can use Softaculous as many times as you want on your sites. For example, you could use Softaculous to install WordPress on every single one of your sites. Or you could have a forum site, a WordPress site and an entirely e-commerce site with X-Cart – the choice is yours. Softaculous makes it fast and easy to do the install.

One of my sites has two different CMS’s within the main domain – although in different directories obviously. It was easy to set that up with Softaculous; everything I needed was right there. Simple.

Backups that can be a lifesaver!

An often-overlooked feature of Softaculous is its ability to create automatic rotating backups. You can set this up when you install. Or, you can use Softaculous to do a 1-click manual backup of your site. Why are these so great, you may ask? It’s because you can restore your site from a backup in just one click! This is incredibly useful if you have somehow managed to do some really big damage to your site (I did this one time trying to update my e-commerce site). Luckily, I was able to restore to my last backup to 100% full functionality in just one click. It’s even easier than a cPanel backup to restore. So, you might think you don’t need Softaculous… but if you want your site to be up and running again 5 minutes after being irreparably damaged, then you’ll be so glad you had it. For that reason, I only install my CMS via Softaculous – so that I can be assured of the extra ease of backups. With so many hosts bundling it free in the plan, there’s no need to even consider a host that doesn’t offer Softaculous.


cPanel is an absolute must. It comes standard in so many of the reputable low-cost plans that you shouldn’t even consider a plan without it. Softaculous is another helpful tool when it comes to installation and backups of your sites. Like cPanel, Softaculous comes standard in so many of the low-cost plans that you shouldn’t consider one without it.

Tip: Get on Live Chat with any web host you’re considering, and ask if the plan you’re interest in includes cPanel and Softaculous. Curiously enough, not all web hosts list this info on their plan features even when they include it. That’s probably because it’s standard on the majority of plans these days, so hosts who have it don’t always bother listing it any more. Still, check in with the provider that cPanel and Softaculous are included before signing up for any plan.

We have safe hosting recommendations for you whose shared hosting plans come with cPanel and Softaculous at the time of writing this post (see right sidebar or below if on mobile).

Ultimately, when developing multiple sites you want to allow yourself the fastest ease and speed of doing things – and the most flexibility, too. cPanel and Softaculous let you do this.

Safe cheap web hosts with cPanel and Softaculous

At the time of writing this post, the Shared Hosting plans of the 3 web hosts we recommend all come with cPanel and Softaculous, starting at well under $10 a month total. These safe cheap web hosts are SiteGround, People's Host and A2 Hosting.

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