One of the things that confused me the most when I was learning how to set up a VPS was the documentation. It would talk about WHM and cPanel as if they’re the same thing, which makes life incredibly difficult.
So, for your reading pleasure, here’s what I figured out.
WHM is the Web Host Manager. It’s the main control panel for setting up a VPS – not the sites on the server, but the server itself.
It’s still a control panel and is still referred to as cPanel but it’s WHM in my book and life’s a lot easier if you think of it as something totally different.
WHM has options for setting up accounts (of which you’ll need one for each domain you host) and also houses all the information for setting up a VPS itself: the overall host name, your contact details, DNS zone info and other incredibly complicated geek-stuff.
You’ll use WHM when you’re initially setting up a VPS but, after that, you’ll probably only use it to create an account for each new domain name you point to your server.
cPanel is the control panel which is for each individual site you run on the server. When you’re learning how to set up a VPS, confusing this with WHM makes life ten times more difficult, so think of cPanel as the little domain control interface, while WHM is the big server control interface.
Each domain you point to your IP when you’re setting up a VPS will have its own cPanel login, from where you can do stuff like set up databases, create mail accounts and so on.
You’ll use cPanel mostly to set up email and databases for your sites.
There are alternatives to cPanel but that’s the one I use, so it’s the one I talk about. It’s still the best, even if it’s a bit expensive.
If you’d like a simple analogy, think of a big box with lots of little boxes inside it. Setting up a VPS (the big box) uses WHM; setting up stuff in domains housed on a VPS (the little boxes inside) uses cPanel.