50 Common Web Hosting Terms, And What They Really Mean

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  • Hosting Guides
  • Jan 04, 2014

Unless you’re familiar with the world of web hosting, some of the terms websites and providers use when talking about this topic might leave you wondering if they’re speaking another language. Understanding web hosting jargon is crucial so you can make sure you’re getting the correct hosting package for your site.

If you think that the Cloud is something in the sky, and C+ is a grade, here is a list of common web hosting terms to help you decode common web hosting terms that explains what they really mean.



A separate domain name that sends visitors to your website.

Active Server Pages (ASP)

A type of page that enables web developers to create sites with dynamic and interactive content. ASP scripting can help produce web pages that aren’t affected by the type of browser a visitor is using.

Audio and video streaming

Audio and video that is stored on your website’s server, rather than downloaded onto the watcher’s computer. Audio and video clips take up more bandwidth.

Auto Responder

An email feature that allows you to prepare email responses in advance, then sends them automatically whenever you receive an email.



A copy of your website’s data that allows you to restore your website should anything go wrong.

Bandwidth (Data Transfer)

The amount of data that can be transferred between your website’s server and the computers visiting your site. The bandwidth for a basic website should be between 1 and 5 GB; the more website visitors you have, the bandwidth you need.


Software on a visitor’s computer that displays HTML code as a website. All browsers work slightly different and if a website uses code that was developed especially for one browser, another browser might not display it properly. Popular browsers include Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari and Firefox.



Programming languages used to create websites.

CGI (Common Gateway Interface)

A program that translates data from a web server and then displays that data on a web page or in an email. A CGI program is called a script and enables developers to make a web page interactive using forms or visitor counters.


A number showing the proportion of clicks compared to impressions of an advertisement. For example, if an advert is shown 100 times and 5 people click on it, it has a 5% clickthrough rate.


A computer or program that accesses a service online.


A decentralized data storage method. When data is saved to the Cloud, it is stored across several global notes, rather than in just one place. Hosting data in the cloud provides a more reliable service and makes it easier to share and install updates and programs.


Housing your own web server in facilities owned by the hosting provider. With co-location, you can run your website on your own server, but don’t have to store or maintain that server yourself.

CMS(Content Management System)

An interface that allows you to manage your website content, for example add and edit pages.

Control Panel

An interface used by some web hosting companies that enables you to manage your website.


Information a web server gives a browser. Cookies are used to save information about individual web users and gather information about their browsing habits.

Crawler / Spider

Software used by search engines to identify and index websites.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets)

Code that adds more detail and functionality to HTML-based web pages.



Used to store information you collect from your website on the hosting server. Not all websites need database support.

Dedicated Server

A type of hosting where the hosting company gives you your own server. Websites hosted on a dedicated server usually load faster, and hosting costs are more expensive.

Disk space

The amount of disk space you will get to store your website files on the host’s server. The amount of space you need depends on how many HTML pages you have, whether you’re hosting larger video or audio files, and whether your website has a database.

Domain Name

A unique name that people use to find your website, for example www.mydomain.com. Domain names can also end in .net, .org, .co.uk and .biz.

DNS (Domain Name System)

A record that connects domain names with their IP address. Each domain name is assigned an IP address from its hosting company.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

A program that enables you to upload and download files to and from the internet. You can use an FTP client to upload files from your computer to your web hosting provider.


Gigabytes (GB)

A large measure of data. Most small and medium websites don’t need more than 5GB of disk space.



A computer that acts as a home to your website. When users type in your website’s URL or click on a link to your site, the host sends your website’s information to the user’s computer.


A file that allows you to control permissions associated with your website, such as password-protecting certain areas and blocking users by IP address.

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)

The code used for web pages, which your browser then translates into a website.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

The most important way to transfer hypertext files across the internet. Each web address begins with “http://”.


IP Address

A unique number assigned to each machine that connects to the internet. The IP address an be used to identify the location of the user.

IMAP(Internet Message Access Protocol)

A way to retrieve mail that creates a copy of the mail on the host server until the message is deleted.

Internet Service Provider (ISP)

An organization that provides access to the internet, usually through a modem, DSL, or cable connection.



A scripting language that enables developers to create interactive, dynamic web pages.


Linux Server

A server that runs on Linux, a free, open source operating system. Linux servers are used by most companies offering free web hosting.



A common database system.



A server that translates domain names into IP addresses using the DNS record.



A scripting language whose commands are contained in a web page’s HTML.

Post Office Protocol (POP)

A way of retrieving e-mail from an e-mail server. Most web hosts use POP 3, which might or might not require SMTP. You can set up several email accounts, which take the format “ yourname@yourdomain.com”.


Reseller Hosting

When a certain amount of server resources is sold to an individual so they can host multiple domains under their own name.


SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

A process that helps raise the ranking of your website in search engine results listings.


A computer, or software package, that controls network resources, delivering information to other computers.

Shell Account

A type of account that allows you to edit your files online, rather than edit your site offline, then upload your changes afterwards.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

The main method for sending and receiving email.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

Technology that enables you to send encrypted information securely across the internet. SSL connections are usually used for online payments, or when handling sensitive data like login information.


Uniform Resource Location (URL)

The format of a web address, for example www.urlexample.com.

Unique IP Address

A unique IP address associates your domain name with its own IP address. With most hosting packages, you share an IP address with other websites, and can only view your website through your domain name.


The act of transferring files from your computer to a server or website.


A percentage that displays how much time a company’s hosted websites are fully functional. If your hosting company has 99% uptime, this means your website will be functional 99% of the time. The closer to 100% this figure is, the better.


Virtual Server

A web server that hosts sites for multiple users, where system resources are shared between all websites assigned to that server. If you don’t have your own dedicated server, this is usually how your website will be hosted.

VPS Hosting

Virtual Private Server, is a server that is partitioned with each section acting as its own server. Typically this is less expensive than a dedicated server but has more flexibility and functionality than shared hosting.

Additional: More on Web Hosting Basics.

Article by Guest Poster

This article was written by a guest contributor. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of WHSR.

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