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Simple DNS Guide for cPanel Web Hosting Service


Note: This is a very simple DNS guide and explanation for easy understanding of DNS use for web hosting customers. It does not go into advanced terminologies to avoid confusion.

Name Servers

For a domain name to work for website and email, it requires properly configured DNS (Domain Name System). Without that Internet users cannot load the website from the correct server or send you email. When you register a domain, you have to configure DNS servers (also called name servers) at the domain registrar. These are typically two hostnames in the format of ns1.yourhostingservice.com and ns2.yourhostingservice.com. This basically delegates the DNS service for your domain to those name servers from where every aspect of domain, subdomains, and email can be controlled.

DNS ZoneDNS Zone File

Those name servers keep records of your domain in a DNS Zone file. The DNS Zone can tell which server hosts yourdomain.com or a subdomain xyz.yourdomain.com etc.

When someone tries to load your website in the browser, the browser first asks the root name servers about the delegated name servers so it can find where it is hosted. The root name servers provide your hosting company’s name servers that you have configured at the domain registrar. Then your browser asks one of the name servers, where is the website hosted? If it cannot reach one, it will try and ask the second one. Once the response is received, the browser will connect to your web hosting server and request it to send web page.

Record Types

There are different types of records in a DNS Zone file. The following three are most common that you may encounter, especially if you move your website or email from one server to another.

A: This record points the domain or subdomain to an IP address of server.

CNAME: This record points the domain or subdomain to another hostname as an alias. This way if the original hostname’s IP changes, you do not have to change any record in your DNS Zone. There is a restriction on how you can use CNAME. CNAME cannot be used for your domain that also needs A record and MX record. Example: you can create CNAME record for xyz.domain.com but you cannot create CNAME for domain.com because you have to create MX and A record for it as well. This is why typically CNAME records are used for subdomains only.

MX: This is called mail exchanger record and tells which server can receive email. This cannot have an IP address. It must be a fully qualified hostname. There can be multiple MX records with different priority settings.

cPanel Web Hosting

When your account is created on a cPanel web hosting service, your domain’s DNS Zone file is created automatically with all the necessary records in DNS Zone file that resides in your web hosting company’s name servers. Typically your website and email is hosted on the same server, therefore the records are setup like this:

  • A record is setup for the domain using the web hosting server IP.
  • www (subdomain) is setup using CNAME of your domain. Which means that www.yourdomain.com will point to same as yourdomain.com hosting server.
  • Another A record is setup for mail.yourdomain.com using your web hosting server IP (which also hosts your email). And then that subdomain is used as MX record (because an MX cannot use direct IP address). Here’s a screen shot showing these records in cPanel’s Advanced DNS Zone Editor.
  • DNS Records

    The MX record is not shown here. It is listed under Mail > MX Entry in cPanel.

    Moving Website

    If you need to move your website away from your hosting company’s website, the other company will provide you IP address of the new web hosting server. You can simply change the A record of your domain (first record shown in the above screen shot). This will automatically update www.yourdomain.com because of CNAME (alias). After making this change, and allowing a couple of hours for DNS propagation, your website will start pointing to the new IP while your email will stay on the current hosting server. Make sure your MX record points to mail.yourdomain.com and mail.yourdomain.com is set as an A record for your hosting server IP where you want to receive email.

    Moving Email Server

    When you need to move your email to another provider, they will typically give you one or more MX records. You can change the MX Records of your domain by going to cPanel > Mail > MX Entry. Here’s a screen shot how this is setup:

    MX Record

    You can edit the record and also add more MX records on this screen. If they provide you with the IP address instead of fully qualified hostname, then you must first create an A record with that IP in Advanced DNS Zone Editor and then use that for the MX. MX record cannot use IP address. It must always use a hostname. Once you configure the MX, also make sure Email Routing shows that now you are using Remote Mail Exchanger. This is important because it will update the necessary configuration on the local mail server on your cPanel web hosting service to either receive mail or send it to remote server for the domain.

    Spam Filtering Service

    If you are using a third party email filtering service that requires you to change your MX record but still receive email on your cPanel web hosting server after they process your email, then you can change the MX records in MX Entry screen but keep Email Routing to Local Mail Exchanger by selecting the radio button and forcing that setting. Otherwise when you change the MX, cPanel will automatically change it to Remote Mail Exchanger, which will disable any incoming email for your domain.

    Hope this is useful. Please leave a comment below and feel free to ask any question you may have.

    cPanel Email Settings in Outlook 2013


    This short tutorial provides the settings for cPanel email account in Microsoft Outlook 2013. Follow these simple steps to configure your email account in Outlook 2013. You must first log into your cPanel to create the email account. Once you have created the email account, you can follow the steps below. These settings are similar in older versions of Outlook as well if you are familiar with the interface to add new account.

    Step 1: Click FILE on the menu

    Click File

    Step 2: Click on the button [+ Add Account]

    Add Account Outlook 2013

    Step 3: Select (o) Manual setup or additional server types and click [ Next > ] button.

    Manual Setup of Outlook 2013

    Step 4: Select (o) POP or IMAP and click [ Next > ] button.

    POP or IMAP in Microsoft Outlook 2013

    Step 5:  Enter the following information for your email account that you created in cPanel:

    User Information

    Your Name: This is the name you want to use for yourself

    Email Address: This is the email address that you created in cPanel. It is in a format like user@yourdomain.com

    Server Information

    Account Type: POP3 (select POP3 if you want to download email to your computer, select IMAP if you want to keep emails on the server and want to access it from other computers as well. Using IMAP will use more disk space and it will keep growing as more emails are stored on the server).

    Incoming mail server: you can find this in your cPanel under Configure Email Account screen.

    Outgoing mail server (SMTP): same as incoming mail server above from Configure Email Account screen in cPanel

    Logon Information

    User Name: Your email address again in the format of user@yourdomain.com

    Password: Your email password

    Email Settings in Microsoft Outlook 2013

    Step 6: Click [ More Settings … ] button and continue

    You can change the email to an easy to remember identity e.g. Work Email etc.

    More Settings in MS Outlook

    Step 7: Click on Outgoing Server tab

    Select the check box [v] My outgoing server (SMTP) requires authentication

    And select (o) Use same settings as my incoming mail server.

    Outgoing Server in Outlook 2013

    Step 8: Click Advanced tab and enter the following values:

    Incoming server(POP3): 995

    Select [v] This server requires an encrypted connection (SSL)

    Outgoing server (SMTP): 465

    Use the following type of encrypted connection: SSL

    Advanced Settings in Outlook 2013

    Click  [ OK ] and Click [ Next ] and this will test incoming/outgoing server for email and finish setting up the account in Outlook 2013.

    We hope you like this “how to” and are able to setup your cPanel email settings in Outlook 2013. Happy emailing around the world.

    Disk Usage in cPanel


    The cPanel Disk Usage Viewer provides an overview of the disk space that your account is using. It shows disk usage totals for your account’s directories and all of its databases rather than for individual files or databases.

    To view the disk usage, please login to your cPanel account and click on Disk Space Usage icon in Files section:

    Disk Space Usage in cPanel

    The bars in the graph represent disk usage figures relative to the largest directory, not according to a fixed scale:

    Listing of Folders with Disk Usage

    You can use the File Manager to see disk usage data for individual files, and the MySQL main page to see data usage for individual databases.

    Some other import folders to keep in mind are:

    /tmp for stat reports (AWStats, Webalizer)
    /logs for raw web server logs
    /mail for email data for all domains in this account
    /etc for email login/passwords

    Due to the nature of how files are stored electronically, most files occupy slightly more disk space than their actual size. For example, a 300 byte file may occupy 4 kB of actual disk space. This may cause discrepancies between the data you see in the File Manager versus the information you find in Disk Usage page.

    Disk Space Usage Table

    Moreover, the disk space usage in the table above indicates how much space the directories’ contents use, not how much space the directory itself uses. Directories themselves usually use a negligible amount of disk space unless they contain a large number of files or subdirectories.

    We hope this is helpful information. If you need any assistance, please contact support.

    File Manager in cPanel


    File manager allows you to manage and edit the files right inside the cPanel interface. You do not need to download/upload the files or require any special software on your computer to edit them. Although this method can be used to create entire website however it is meant for quick fixes or edits on the fly. Normally you would want to keep a local copy of files that you maintain and edit in a developer environment such as Adobe Dreamweaver.

    You can access the File Manager under Files section as shown in the screen shot below:

    cPanel File Manager

    When you click the icon, a small popup window will show to select a folder to open in File Manager. You can choose Home Directory which contains all other files and folders, or you can go directly to web root (i.e. public_html) folder which contains your main website files. Or if you have multiple websites hosted, you can go to any particular document root.

    File Manager Directory Selection

    You also have the option to Show Hidden Files (files that start with dot) and you can skip this popup in future if you want to open a particular folder every time you go into File Manager.

    Show Hidden Files

    Once you have made the selection, a new tab or window will open with the File Manager.

    File Manager in Action

    You will have the folders in a tree structure on the left and files in the selected folder in the right pane. You can do many functions such as Create New File, Copy, Move, Upload, Download, Delete, Rename, Edit, Change Permissions, and View files. For example to rename the file, highlight it and click Rename icon on top menu and you’ll get a popup window to enter new name:

    Renaming File in cPanel File Manager

    Similarly other functions can be performed. While editing you have the option to edit as text or HTML Editor:

    HTML Editor

    You can also do code highlighting when editing code files using Code Editor:

    Code Editor

    We hope the File Manager can be a handy tool. If you need any assistance, please contact support or you can post your comment/question on this blog.

    Horde Address Book Showing NULL


    Horde is a popular webmail software and comes installed with cPanel. We had a situation where accounts were moved across servers using WHM on a cPanel server. After the upgrade customers reported that in their horde address book entries, they see NULL with the names of their contacts.

    Horde Address Book Showing NULL

    We have removed the names for privacy from the screen shot above. We investigated the issue and found that the table turba_objects in horde database is holding literal NULL text instead of NULL datatype. We had to run multiple SQL queries like the following to get all the records updated:

    Once all the columns were updated, there were no more NULL text displaying in customer’s contacts. It looks like when cPanel/WHM did the data transfer across servers, it somehow enclosed the NULL in quotes making them literal text.

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