We explained the difference between domains and hosting in an earlier post, and how your website “lives” on your web host’s server.
Next up: CMS and website file management.
What is a CMS (Content Management System)?
CMS is software that enables you to build websites and publish content without writing or learning code.
While there are tons of CMS platforms to choose from, 43% of all websites are built on WordPress. The most powerful and flexible open-source CMS out there, WordPress doesn’t require any coding or technical skills, supports thousands of free themes and plugins, is designed for search engine optimization (SEO) and its extensibility is ideal for developers.
Oh, and it’s free.
Though CMS platforms like WordPress are great for beginners, they’re also a valuable and time-saving tool for web developers.
What is an FTP (File Transfer Protocol)?
Every website is made up of files that contain all of the site’s content. In addition to using CMS, web developers usually build parts of websites locally (i.e. on their computers) and then upload the site’s files to the web host. These files then “live” on your web host’s server, making your website accessible to the world.
How, exactly, do developers upload files to a web host? Through file transfer protocol (FTP).
FTP is the method used to transfer, send and receive files between computers and between computers and servers.
FTP clients, like FileZilla and Transmit, are desktop apps that connect a computer to a web hosting server, allowing for the transfer of files.
As the owner of a website, you most likely will never need to use FTP. Your website developer, however, may ask you for access to your files to build, fix, update or change something on your site.
Website File Management
Website files – whether uploaded via FTP or created on a CMS – all live on a web host server within the domain’s document root.
A website’s document root, also called the home folder, is the main folder on a web server that contains all of the files for a domain (or subdomain). The document root is typically named public_html and contains all of the site’s files for the pages that are visible to the public.
Why do you need to know this as a website owner? You most likely don’t if you’re working with a developer. More often than not, you’ll usually access and edit your site through your CMS (e.g. WordPress). Your developer, however, will need to have access to your website files from time to time. For this, you will need to provide your developer with login credentials to your web hosting control panel.
Web Hosting Control Panel Software
Also known as web hosting account management interfaces, web hosting control panel software is a graphical (i.e. visual) user interface accessible online that allows you to manage domains, organize and edit web files, publish websites, create email accounts and more, all in one place.
Nearly every web host has a control panel and some even offer you a choice of different control panel software. While there are many different online user interfaces, including Plesk, Webmin and hPanel, cPanel is the most widely-used web hosting control panel and the go-to control panel for beginners thanks to its simple interface.
Web hosting control panel software varies in form and function, but there are nine main task-related features your control panel facilitates:
- Account Administration
- Domain Management
- One-Click Installation
- Email Management
- Database Management
- File Management
Depending on your level of involvement in site management, you may use your control panel daily or never. The same goes for updating your website through its CMS or managing files via FTP or CMS.
Ultimately, websites aren’t static — they’re living things that require routine maintenance and site management is an important part of owning a website. Thankfully, there are WordPress support services that can do all of the behind-the-scenes work to keep your site up-to-date and running smoothly for you.