The web hosting industry, like any specialized industry, has its own unique set of terminology, definitions, and abbreviations.
This Hosting glossary contains some of the most common terms you are likely to need to know when managing your web hosting account.
What is an Addon Domain?
An addon domain is an additional domain that you can add via your web hosting control panel. The addon domain will share the hosting account’s resources with the primary domain.
Apache Web Server
What is an Apache Web Server?
Apache is the most widely used web server software to deliver web pages on the Internet. It is open-source software developed and maintained by the Apache Software Foundation.
What is an Autoresponder?
An email Autoresponder enables you to automatically send responses to emails if you are unavailable for any reason. They are often used to set up away messages when you are on holiday.
What is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is the amount of data transferred to and from your web server. Hosting companies will either set a monthly bandwidth limit or make it unlimited (subject to fair use, so it’s not unlimited).
What is a Blog?
A blog is a website featuring a list of articles, journals, or other informational posts in date order, with the newest at the top. In the beginning, most blogs were written by one person. Today, many blogs are written by whole teams, usually based around a single topic or theme, such as technology or politics.
The most popular blogging platform is WordPress.
Catch-all Email Address
What is a Catch-all Email Address?
A catch-all email address is a default address designated to receive any emails not sent to a valid email address on your domain. Some control panels, such as cPanel, refer to this as the “default address.”
You can only set up one catch-all email address per domain. If you wish for multiple people to receive emails from this address, you can always set up email forwarding.
What is Cloud Hosting?
Cloud hosting is a cluster of servers that uses virtualization technology to partition it into multiple sections. Unlike shared hosting, access to resources is fenced in, providing total access. Cloud hosting is more reliable than VPS or Dedicated servers as your data is distributed over multiple servers.
Where the cluster of servers is on a massive scale, it is referred to as Hyperscale Cloud Hosting. Such Hyperscale providers include Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
What is a CMS?
CMS is short for Content Management System and is software that lets users create, manage, and modify content on their website via a simple graphical interface. The most popular CMS is WordPress. Most web hosts provide a one-click install from the control panel many different types of CMS.
What is a Control Panel?
A web hosting Control Panel is a graphical interface used to manage all aspects of your web hosting account. You can manage your files, email addresses, domains, backups, and databases through the control panel. The most popular control panels are cPanel, Plesk, and DirectAdmin.
What is cPanel?
cPanel is a popular control panel used for managing web hosting. It features a graphical user-friendly interface so you do not need any technical knowledge to manage your hosting.
Because it is easy to use, it is very popular with many web hosting providers. You can manage your files, email addresses, domains, backups, and databases through the cPanel control panel.
You can view a screenshot of the cPanel admin area below:
What is a Datacenter?
A datacenter is a secure facility that houses web hosting servers. It includes physical servers and other components such as firewalls, switches, and routers to ensure reliable and resilient external network connectivity. Web hosts will usually have servers in multiple datacenter locations so that you can choose a server nearer your or your users’ location for decreased network latency.
What is a DDOS Attack?
DDOS stands for Distributed Denial of Service. A DDOS attack is a malicious attack designed to overwhelm a web server or network (like a traffic jam) with significant external requests. With enough requests, the web server or network will slow or even go offline. A DDOS attack will often use hijacked computers or servers as the source of the attack traffic.
These attacks can be devastating as a simple (computationally cheap) request to load a web page might cause the server to load several files, execute PHP, and run database queries. This is computationally expensive and can easily overwhelm a server’s resources.
What is Dedicated Hosting?
Dedicated hosting is where you have complete control over the whole server. All the resources on the server are solely for your use.
What is a Dedicated IP?
A dedicated IP address (Internet Protocol address) is a unique internet address assigned to a single domain. It is not shared by multiple domains. There are a few minor benefits to using a dedicated IP address. These include visiting your website via the IP address, accessing your FTP address if your Domain Name is still propagating, and helps prevent your IP from getting blacklisted. For most webmasters, a shared IP is perfectly fine.
A dedicated IP used to be a requirement to install an SSL certificate, but most hosting providers now support SNI (Server Name Indication). SNI allows multiple SSL certificates on a single IP address.
What is Disk Space?
Disk space is the amount of storage space available in your hosting plan. Disk space will be used for your website files and databases, as well as emails and cached website files.
There are different types of disk space, including SATA (traditional) and SSD, and these may be arranged in various configurations. For example, RAID 1 mirrors multiple disks for redundancy, RAID 0 creates an array for faster performance, and RAID 10 combines both methods. RAID 10 storage is the best.
What is DNS?
DNS, short for Domain Name System, is said to be the phonebook of the Internet. Each device, such as a web server, on the Internet, has an IP address. To access a device, you need to know the IP address of that device. The problem is that IP addresses are not easy to remember. This is where the DNS comes in. When you request a website in a web browser, the DNS translates the domain name to IP addresses to retrieve the web page from your server.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is your website’s equivalent of a physical address. Where you would use a company’s street address to find their offices, a domain name is how you would find a company’s website.
Without a domain name, you would need to remember the server you wish to visit the specific IP address. This could either be in an IPv4 format or the newer IPv6 format, which look as follows:
- IPv4 - 172.16.254.1
- IPv6 - 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1
As you can see, it is much easier to remember www.thewebmaster.com than one of the IP addresses above.
A domain name consists of two main elements; the website’s name and the domain name extension. Using our website as an example, “thewebmaster” is the website name, and “.com” is the domain name extension.
The www part is the subdomain. Historically, people used www to symbolize the World Wide Web. Today, people use various subdomains; for example, the blog subdomain may host a companies blog or staging may be used by developers to host a development version of your website.
What is Email Spam?
Email spam, otherwise known as junk mail, is the unsolicited emails sent out on mass to email recipients. It is usually sent out by an automated system with commercial or nefarious intent.
What is an Error Page?
An error page with a status code is displayed when there is an error with the page you are trying to access. Status codes are divided into classes and subclasses, with the error codes starting with 4xx and 5xx. These are as follows:
- 4xx: client errors - the page can’t be found or reached.
- 5xx: server errors - the request can not be completed.
What is Fantastico?
Fantastico is an auto-installer allowing for the easy installation of hundreds of web applications, including WordPress. It is popular with shared web hosting providers who offer it to their customers via the control panel.
What is a File Permission?
File permissions are the rights given to a user to view, edit, or have complete access to files. File permissions can sometimes cause issues with WordPress or other software if not correctly configured. Although if you install software through an auto-installer, you should rarely have a problem with file permissions.
What is FTP?
FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol. It is a means of uploading and downloading files from the hosting server to your computer. The original FTP protocol does not encrypt data, so we recommend using SFTP (Secure Shell File Transfer Protocol) for Linux and FTPS (FTP over SSL) for Windows Hosting.
What is .htaccess?
The .htaccess file is a configuration file that allows you to control how your webserver deals with specific requests. It is used on Apache web servers, but not NGINX servers. You can use .htaccess files to specify error documents, set passwords to directories or your entire site, blacklist or whitelist IPs, and add redirects. WordPress even has a default .htaccess file configuration.
What is IMAP?
IMAP is the acronym for Internet Message Access Protocol. IMAP is a protocol used for the processing of the transfer of emails between an email server and email client. All changes made with the IMAP protocol will be mirrored to your email server. IMAP won’t delete the email from the server after downloading it. It will keep any replies you make, read status, and record all other actions.
You can see the IMAP retrieval process in the following diagram:
IMAP differs from POP 3, which deletes mail from the server after download and does not mirror actions taken in your email client.
What is a Linux Server?
A Linux server is a server powered by the Linux Operating system. It is open-source and the most popular operating system among web hosting providers. If you have a WordPress blog or simple website, then you should choose Linux.
What is Malware?
Malware, short for malicious software, is a general term to describe viruses, worms, trojans, and other harmful programs used to infect, take over, or otherwise harm your website or server software.
What is an MX Record?
An MX record is short for Mail Exchange Record. An MX record forms part of your DNS records is used to designate which mail servers are to be used to accept and send emails on your domain.
If your domain is registered with your hosting provider, this should be set up automatically. Otherwise, you will need to manually add your MX record with your domain registrar or third-party DNS provider.
What is MySQL?
MySQL is an open-source relational database management system that uses a Structured Query Language (SQL). It is the most popular database management system and used in many software applications, such as WordPress.
What is an Operating System?
The Operating System, or OS for short, is the software that supports the essential functions of the webserver. Most hosting providers offer Linux operating system, with many of those (but not all) also offering the Windows operating system. Unless you have a specific reason to choose Windows (for example, MS-SQL databases or ASP.NET), you should choose Linux. Linux works well for most purposes, including WordPress.
What is a Parked Domain?
A parked domain is a domain name that you own that does not point to a hosting, email service or anything else. Like a parked car, a parked domain is not being used and does nothing.
Unless you setup a redirect or alias for your parked domain, many domain registrars will display a default parking page. For example, Namecheap displays the following:
What is phpMyAdmin?
phpMyAdmin is one of the most popular database management tools for MySQL. It is a free tool provided in most control panels, such as cPanel or Plesk. It allows you to create, alter, drop, delete, import, and export MySQL tables, as well as run queries and other commands.
What is Plesk?
Plesk is a popular control panel used for managing web hosting. It features a user-friendly graphical interface, so you do not need any technical knowledge to manage your hosting.
Because it is easy to use, it is very popular with many web hosting providers. You can manage your files, email addresses, domains, backups, and databases through the Plesk control panel. Optional extras include a WordPress toolkit, including staging, security, backups, SEO optimization options, and more.
You can view a screenshot of the Plesk admin area below:
What is POP 3?
POP is the acronym for Post Office Protocol. POP 3 is a protocol created in 1988 that is used to process the transfer of emails between an email server and email client. POP 3 will download any message from your mail server, but any changes you make to the downloaded message will only exist on your local computer. The default behavior of POP 3 is to delete the messages from the server once downloaded. If you or anyone else accesses your emails from another computer or device will not know what you have done or even know the emails you accessed exist.
You can see the IMAP retrieval process in the following diagram:
POP 3 differs from IMAP, as IMAP won’t delete the email from the server after downloading it. It will also keep any replies you make, read status, and record all other actions.
What is Reseller Hosting?
Reseller hosting is where the user can resell web hosting accounts to their customers. These accounts are popular with developers who host client sites or people looking to start a web hosting business. The reseller can sell them for profit.
What is Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting is a type of web hosting where multiple users share a single server’s resources, although some hosting providers now use a hyperscale cloud such as Google or Amazon. Shared hosting is suitable for those with low-traffic websites.
What is SLA?
SLA is short for Service Level Agreement. An SLA is an agreement you will have with your hosting company. It sets out the rules related to the service, rights, responsibilities, uptime guarantee (along with exclusions), and other conditions for your hosting product.
What is Softaculous?
Softaculous is an auto-installer allowing for the easy installation of up to 421 various web applications, including WordPress. It is popular with shared web hosting providers who offer it to their customers via the control panel.
What is a Spam Filter?
A Spam Filter is a filter you can apply to emails to help identify spam. These can take the form of simple keyword-based filters, or more sophisticated systems such as SpamAssassin that use a variety of different detection methods, such as whitelists, DNS-based spam detection, sender reputation systems, and more.
What is SSH?
SSH, also known as Secure Socket Shell, is a network protocol that enables remote control of your server’s operating system. The communication between your computer and the remote server is encrypted.
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. It is a means of encryption used to make the traffic to and from a website secure and allow a website to use the HTTPS prefix. Utilizing an SSL certificate is essential for security and because it is a Google Ranking Factor.
What is Uptime?
Uptime is the amount of time your website or server is working correctly without interruption. Most hosting providers advertise their uptime as a percentage and supported by a guarantee.
What is an Uptime Guarantee?
An uptime guarantee is the level of uptime provided for your website as part of the web host’s service level agreement. The level of uptime is usually guaranteed for between 99% and 99.9%, with refunds paid for any breach. The amount of compensation paid is abysmal, so these guarantees are not worth much.
What is VPS Hosting?
VPS hosting is short for Virtual Private Server. A VPS is a single server that uses virtualization technology to partition it into multiple sections, with each acting as its own web server. The VPS is usually more powerful than shared hosting, and the resources will often be shared between fewer users. They are generally seen as a stepping stone between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
What is a Web Server?
A Web Server is a server that runs software that stores and delivers content for a website in response to an HTTP request. While Apache is the most common web server software, others such as NGINX and LiteSpeed are also popular.
What is Webmail?
Webmail is when you can access your emails directly via the web browser without the need to separate email software. Gmail and Hotmail are prime examples, although cPanel and Plesk come with free webmail software such as Horde and Roundcube. Webhosting companies also usually offer professional email services that you can access via webmail as well.
What is a Windows Server?
A Windows server is powered by the Windows operating system. If you need ASP.Net or MS-SQL databases, you should opt for Windows hosting.
What is WordPress Hosting?
WordPress hosting is hosting that has been optimized for WordPress. It often includes optimized hosting, including caching, extra security, site staging, and is usually managed. By managed, we mean that they may automatically update your WordPress plugins and core, provide backups, malware scanning, and more specialized support.