Long gone are the days a user must contact his Internet service provider or domain hosting company to make changes to an account, add an email address, renew a domain or inquire about bandwidth usage. The advent of the control panel has placed immediate control in the hands of the account holder.
The control panel manages a full spate of options for a web domain and it can all be done at the fingertips and desktop of the domain administrator. A control panel is an online package of tools permitting easy site management and editing. By having your own control panel, you can maintain basic information about your site without having to ask your domain host to make the changes. The domain host provides this control panel with a protected user name and password and the features are controlled by the owner/administrator.
A typical control panel will allow a customer to update his contact address, change his domain login features and order new domains. A customer can also alter his billing information and check his payment history. Customers can also issue support requests online through control panels, check bandwidth usage and mail disk usage.
A control panel will usually allow an administrator to adjust the parameters of his site (Will you have email related to this site? Will you use a database? Do you need any special extensions activated related to the software you’re using to design your site?). A user can also usually manage its FTP site from the control panel.
A word of caution – it’s possible for a novice site administrator to get “click happy” in a site administration area and dramatically alter or possibly take down a site. Since most domain hosts do regular backups for their customers and a site restore feature is likely part of your control panel, if a site is put out of commission by the wrong click of a button it can be pretty easily brought back to life.
This is the area where a domain owner or administrator may spend most of his time. A mail management function allows for easy setup of new email users at the server level. Setting up new email (or deleting unused addresses) is very easy with a control panel and the process is very intuitive. With most services, it’s as easy as clicking “add user”, typing in a new user name (firstname.lastname@example.org) and a password.
In addition, an administrator has the ability to “lock” the password so a user can change his information. An administrator at the control panel can limit the size of a mailbox, have the user’s email forwarded to another account and establish a myriad of additional rules and parameters. If your email client software (Outlook, Outlook Express, etc.) doesn’t allow you to establish an auto-responder, many control panels can help you do that in the email administration. An auto-responder would be a message automatically sent as a reply to every email you receive. If you’re on vacation, for instance, you might set up an autoresponder to initiate an email that would state, “Thank you for your email. I’m on vacation for the week of May 14-20 and I’ll respond to your note when I return. If you need immediate help, contact Bob at email@example.com.”
Most domain hosts also have a control panel that will aid an administrator in setting spam filtering either at the individual email address level, so every email address can have different levels of protection, or at the server level, so the spam rules apply equally to all addresses associated with the site.
Marketing Aids and Reports
A final popular area is the analytics or marketing component. A good control panel will not only allow you check site views, unique visits and top referring sites, it will provide you an array of data and charts to help you check traffic patterns, key phrases being used to access your site, how long a user is accessing your site and what pages are viewed most.
If you’re selling ads on your site and a business owner wants to know how many unique viewers used your site on a certain day, week or month, the control panel statistics reports can tell you that. If the business owner wants to know what were the most popular pages viewed and what was the length of the visit by an average user, you can easily provide that information by printing reports from your control panel. The information is frequently displayed in an easy-to-understand manner using charts, graphs and lists of information.
If your ecommerce business has an international presence, many control panels will also track visitors from each continent and allow you to see how many page views, unique visitors and hits were from any country on that continent. If you’re tracking visitors from Malaysia, chances are your control panel can help you.
The control panel has become and essential online tool for a site owner or administrator. Whether you want to manage your current site’s services or develop custom marketing reports to use in a pitch to a potential advertiser, a state-of-the-art control panel can give you 100 percent online management to your site.