I'm stuck with cPanel - please explain

I hope this explanation is not too garbled. I have been going around in circles trying to figure this one out. I am used to using commercial hosting providers with sophisticated user interfaces where I can easily create my databases, and then I just FTP all my files to the server to get my sites up and running. This situation I describe below is new to me.

I am working on a site redesign. I think the contact person is using a reseller hosting account (not sure, though, because I don’t know much about it). He does everything with cgi scripts. I was given access to a generic cPanel via an IP address and I am trying to set up a plain index.html page for testing (later to be replaced by a WordPress install).

I do not understand the directory structure that shows. There is a public_html folder, a www folder and other various folders and .files.
Inside the public_html folder, and the www folder, is a folder named with the site’s domain name (ie mydomain.com). What is the purpose of the directory named mydomain.com?

This domain name is still pointing to the old site in a different hosting account. We have registered a new domain (mydomain.ca) for the hosting account I have access to so we don’t have to take the old site down yet, but I do not know how to point the new domain name to this new hosting account (using its DNS?).

I uploaded the index.html and stylesheet to the public_html directory, but get nothing by an error message when I type the IP address into the address bar of the browser. Did I upload the files to the correct directory? If so, is there anything else I should be doing to have the test webpage show up?

Thanks in advance for your help.

The www folder is just an alias for public_html that is needed for some older scripts that expect the content to be in www.

Unless you have a dedicated server or VPS server for your hosting the IP address you have been given will be to a server that contains lots of other sites as well. Which of them to actually access is determined by the supplied domain name. To access your site via a domain name before the domain is set up to point to it you can exit the hosts file on your own computer to point the domain to the IP address.

Okay that makes sense in this situation.

… you can exit the hosts file on your own computer to point the domain to the IP address
How would I do this?

I used cPanel to make the mydomain.ca (the second name) an addon name. Can I point that domain name to the IP address, because we really don’t want to move the original domain name to point to this hosting yet. Don’t I need the host’s nameservers to change on the domain name to do this?

You don’t need the host’s name servers to do the change. You just need to park the domain.

Sorry for my lack of knowledge here - park the domain name where? It is currently parked with company that registered it for us.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosts_(file) for where to find the hosts file depending on what operating system you are running on your computer.

You then simply add a line to that file that has the IP address you were given as to where to upload your files to the hosting, followed by your domain name.

Once you save the file with that line added then subsequent requests for the domain name will be directed to the IP address with the server receiving the domain name as well as the IP address and so will know which account to redirect to.

Parking the domain has nothing to do with it - except that if the domain is already set up to point to the hosting then the update to the hosts file will not be needed.