Web Hosting Glossary

Web hosting terms can be confusing. If you’re shopping for a web host, you’ll need to know the jargon used to describe different options available to you to make the choice that’s best for your needs and budget. Below is a breakdown of the common terms you will see when looking for a web host:

Types of Hosting

Dedicated Hosting – A web host account where one web host has control of the entire server. All server resources are allocated to one account. Usually the most costly form of web host account.

Reseller Hosting – A web host account where a block of server resources is leased to an individual who intends to use it to host multiple domains that they retain ownership of.

Shared Hosting – A web host account hosted on a server where resources are shared between several other accounts. Most sites that don’t get a lot of traffic can use this type of hosting with little to no problems. This is often the cheapest type of web host account. If you end up with issues where your site keeps going down or slowing to a crawl, you might want to look at your traffic and consider moving your site to dedicated hosting or ask to be moved to another web server if you believe the issue is someone else’s site taking up all the server resources.

VPS Hosting – Virtual Private Server. This is a web host account where the server is partitioned. You don’t have to lease an entire server in order to retain full rights to the server resources as you would in a dedicated server, and you have more flexibility and functionality available to you than you would in a shared plan.

Types of Servers

Linux Server – This is a server option provided to you by your web host. It runs the Linux OS and usually has Apache Server already installed. Depending on your web host, you will have differing levels of control of settings for this type of set-up. This is the most common type of web server available because Linux is free and open source.

Windows Server – A server that uses the Windows OS. Types of plans with IIS (Internet Information Services) are often more expensive but necessary to accommodate specific applications. Websites built in ASP.NET, among other types of sites and applications, will need to run on IIS.

Common Plan Terms

Add on Domain – A separate website that is included in your account sharing the resources of whatever plan you were on. If you own several domains but one web host account, this is a term you’re looking for in order to host other sites with your site.

Bandwidth – The amount of data transfer allotted to your account. If you exceed your plan’s bandwidth you can often be charged for the extra data. Every time data is sent or received, either by someone visiting your website or downloading files, or every time you send email, you get use up some of your data. Data is usually allotted by month.

Dedicated IP – an IP address that is used solely by your website. This is necessary if you’re using SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to accept payments on your website.

Disk Space – the amount of space on your server dedicated to your files and storage. It stores your websites, images, videos, emails, and everything else stored on your host.

Parked Domain – A separate domain that points to your existing website. Examples of this might be purchasing both a .com and .net version of your website, and having the .net version forward to the .com version. People do this to protect their brand and website name.

SSL – Secure Socket Layer. This is a form of encryption usually used for E-Commerce to protect sensitive information like names, addresses, and credit card numbers. When you see “https://” in the address bar, you are using a secure page.

Uptime – The amount of time a server is active and your site is accessible. You want a high uptime (99%+) to make sure that people always have access to your website.

Site Building Terms

.htaccess – When using an Apache server, this file allows you to set parameters on specific files like websites. It’s where you control permissions and determine what access is allowed to particular files, as well as doing redirects and canonicalization.

FTP – File Transfer Protocol. A means of accessing your server to upload and download files to edit or otherwise share them. Most hosts allow FTP access to the server space you’re leasing. You will need FTP software in many cases in order to use this feature.

SSH – Secure Shell. A means of file transfer similar to FTP. Some FTP software will allow you to connect via SSH. Most shared hosts restrict this form of access.

Email Terms

Auto Responder – A way to automatically send an email in response to emails received. Good times to use an auto responder include when you are out of the office or on vacation and normal response time is expected to be delayed, or when you are currently using a different email account and someone ended up with the wrong email address.

Catch All – An email address that will receive any message sent to your domain account even if that email address isn’t assigned. For example, if you were sending an email to [email protected] but that email address didn’t exist on your site, it would go to the catch all.

IMAP – Internet Message Access Protocol. A way to retrieve mail. It leaves a copy on the server until it’s deleted. This is convenient for people trying to maintain a virtual paper trail or who use multiple computers and email clients.

Mailing List – A list of email addresses, usually a subscribers list, that allows you to email all people at once. Useful for things like sales notifications, company newsletters, etc.

Pop 3 – An email protocol that allows you to retrieve emails from a server.

SMTP – An email protocol allowing you to send emails. Most web hosts will let you use their server to send email but some ISP’s require that you use their servers to send email as opposed to your web host.

Spam – Unsolicited, unwanted bulk mail that usually attempts to sell services or products. It’s sometimes a way to spread viruses and malware as well. Many hosts provide ways to control spam.

Webmail – A way to receive and send email messages via internet with no need for separate email software.


Blog – A website or portion of a website that has individual entries that can be tagged and categorized. Designed for regular updating. Usually contains things like news, links, commentary, pictures, and other forms of media. They’re used as a tool to drive business. Search engines pay particular attention to business sites with a blog because of the regular new content.

CMS – Content Management System. CMSes are a way to organize and manage the look and content of a website to make it easier to build and maintain. Examples of CMSes are WordPress and Joomla!.

Control Panel – The control panel is the central location for a web hosting account. This is where you will access email, spawn subdomains, see your files, update webpages, install server applications, and more. Some control panels have ways for you to see traffic and issues as well.

Error Pages – These come up when a person tries to access something on a site that either doesn’t exist, isn’t available, or can’t be located. A 404 error happens when someone attempts to go to a website that isn’t there. A 500 error happens when your server goes down.

Forum – Web based message board. These are ubiquitous across the internet and provide an easy way for people with similar interests or in the same group to communicate and share files, as well as providing a way for people to ask questions and receive information and assistance from other members of the forum or the board moderators or host.

Guestbook – A web page for someone to elave their contact information and comments about the site, or for them to request more information. Guestbooks are falling out of fashion and are being replaced by contact forms.

Language Support – The types of programming languages that will work with your hosting account. Most servers support HTML/CSS, Javascript, PHP/MySQL, and Perl. If you’re building a site in another web language, you’ll want to make sure your host supports it.

MySQL – A database system that works well with PHP. It is included in most hosting packages. It is open source so it’s in very common usage.

WordPress – Popular, easy to use blogging software that can also be used as a CMS to build entire websites, which may or may not include a blog. It’s extremely customizable. Many hosts provide this as a one click installation.