Beginning Web Developer Course: Putting Your Content Online

By David Fiedler

In this series, we've shown you how to get started in selecting and registering a domain, getting a shared hosting account, configuring it, and installing software on it. But there's something missing...there's nothing there. That is to say, all the top-quality software in the world is useless without content. So our goal in this article is to show you ways of uploading content that you already have.

So far, cPanel has proved very helpful in managing all the tricky stuff for us, and it doesn't let us down here either. What you're looking for is the Files subpanel, which looks like this:

The easiest way to manage your files on the server is to set up a Web Disk, which uses some Visual Basic magic to create a secure, encrypted connection between your desktop and the server. The exact procedure is slightly different for each operating system and release, but it's straightforward and well-documented. Once that's set up, you can drag and drop files or folders from your desktop and they will be copied to the server (or vice-versa) and you can update them anytime. This works just like Windows Explorer on your own computer, only much slower (and it's very slow if you're uploading lots of files or large directories).

The standard way to manage files on the server is actually with the File Manager, which launches in a new tab or window from your main cPanel. While it may seem slower in some ways, it is safer because you are less likely to make a mistake and wipe out the wrong thing inadvertently. And we'll show you a trick that will make uploading even large directories a snap!

Managing Files Doesn't Have To Be a Nightmare

When you open File Manager, you get a dual-pane display of high-level directories/folders on the left and files/subdirectories on the right, which is fairly generic and intuitive across operating systems:

Note that almost every action requires checking a box to specify the file or directory to be processed. It may frustrate power users a bit, but it's done for clarity, ease of use, and general protection against making errors while working across the network. In any case, most of this is self-explanatory, but since there's a great amount of overhead in uploading many files to or from a server, the best way is to just upload a single file.

Let's say you have a website built and tested locally in a directory, possibly with subdirectories and many files therein, and you're ready to upload everything to your server. Just zip up that directory and everything in it, and then let's upload the zip file to your server. First select (on the left side) where you want that directory to end up, then click the Upload icon and you'll get a file selection dialog in a new tab/window:

Then select the uploaded ZIP file on the right side, and click the Extract icon:

You get a dialog here that lets you change the destination for the extracted files, then hit the magic button and it goes to work:

Here's the final result: all your files neatly arranged in the File Manager on your server. And you can use the Compress icon to zip files up for download to your local machine, too.

Never Forget To Run Backups

Now that you've got all this content and other data on your server, some of which you've made careful and hard-to-remember changes to, you'll want to protect it from what the British call “misadventure”: anything that can possibly happen to it! An off-site backup of your server data is the safest way, your own computer qualifies as off-site (as far as the server is concerned), and cPanel can do it for you easily.

Just find the Backup or Backup Wizard icon (it's so simple, it barely matters). There are two types of backups available. The “full” backup comprises literally everything on your cPanel account in one special file, but the disadvantage is that it can only be restored to a new cPanel account. It's a good idea to take a full backup on a regular basis, especially if you have many accounts that would be annoying to back up individually.

Partial backups are actually quite comprehensive; you can choose your entire home directory (and everything underneath), or any of your MySQL databases. You can also back up any of your email forwarders or filters. The best part is that you can also restore any of these yourself; no remote administrators (or fees!) necessary. No, actually the best part is that when you merely click on any of these, cPanel automatically zips them up and downloads it for that's easy!

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