Website Hosting Terminology

This web hosting vocabulary might be helpful if you get confused by all the technical terminology that is used on this website, as well as on the websites of different hosts.


Adwords: Google’s advertising channel where advertisers bid for specific keywords. The ad appears when a user performs a search with the particular keyword. Payment is based on actual clicks on the ads.

Application installer: A special software product that automates installation of website applications. Hosting companies use different installers, including Fantastico, Installatron, Softaculous, and their own custom developed products.

Backup: Making a copy of website’s data files and archiving it safely so that it would be possible later to restore everything to this point if something unexpected and disastrous happens.

CGI: Common Gateway Interface, server side scripting that was largely used before ASP, PHP and other today’s common web scripts.

CMS: Content Management System, web-based software product that allows entering, modifying and editing of website’s content from an online interface. Most common PHP-based CMS-s are WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and Xoops.

Colocation: (or co-location) is a special service of a data center, where physical space in a climate controlled and secure environment, bandwidth and electrical supply is rented out to customers who prefer this to keeping the web server in their own office facilities.

Control Panel:  A graphical web-based interface that allows customers of a web host to manage the services they have purchased, such as addon- and subdomains, databases and email accounts. Without a control panel it would have to be done through command line. Some of the most popular control panels are cPanel, DirectAdmin and Plesk. Kloxo is one of the best free panels. Many hosting companies have developed their own custom control panels.

Cpanel: A web hosting control panel.

Database: Is a collection of data, organized by a specific database system design. In a dynamic website, a database holds all texts, user information, logs and various settings. The most common website database system is by far MySQL, followed by PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL.

Data center: A facility where web servers are physically located. It usually consists of climate-controlled server rooms, rooms for redundant power supply (UPS systems, batteries, and diesel generators), and a control room.

Dedicated server: (or dedicated hosting) is a service in which the customer rents a whole (physical) server. The service may have different management levels. An unmanaged server is only provided with electricity and Internet connection, whereas a fully managed server that costs considerably more, is taken care of in every aspect, including installing the software, daily backups and virus protection.

DirectAdmin: A web hosting control panel.

Domain: Usually refers to the second level domain (domain name) that is below (to the left) of the top level domain (like .com or .eu): is a domain.

Drupal: Free PHP based content management system.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol, used to send files from a local computer to a web server or vice versa. SFTP is a secure version of file transfer.

GB: Gigabyte is a data storage unit, equals 1024 megabytes or 0.00098 terabytes.

GD: GD Graphics Library is free web software to manipulate images. Its main use is to resize JPG, PNG and GIF files after uploading the files to the server. Another similar softwares are ImageMagick and Netpbm.

HDD: Hard Disk Drive is a device that stores computer data. Its capacity is measured in gigabytes or terabytes.

.htaccess: Hypertext Access files are configuration files that override the server’s overall configuration for the directory that they are in.

ImageMagick: Web software to manipulate images. It’s similar to GD, but has more features, and gives slightly better quality. If compared to GD, it also uses more CPU and memory.

IP: Internet Protocol address is a unique number that all computer technology devices use to identify and communicate with each other. The old version that we still mostly use today is IPv4, which consists of a 32-bit number. Due to the depletion of available numbers in this system, a new IP version, IPv6, has been developed. IPv6 consists of a 128-bit number.

Joomla: Free PHP based content management system.

Linux: Free and open source operating system. It is the number one server operating system today.

Magento: A popular e-commerce application that is suitable for both small online stores, as well as large corporate businesses.

Managed server: Dedicated server plan that includes both hardware and software management, as well as daily upkeep. Suitable for customers who do not have the time or knowledge required to manage a web server.

MB: Megabyte, data storage unit, equals 1024 kilobytes or 0.00098 gigabytes

Mbit/s: Megabit per second, data transfer rate, allows 125 kilobytes of data to be transferred in one second.

MS SQL: Database system developed by Microsoft.

MySOL: Most widely used web database system.

Perl: Practical Extraction and Reporting Language, a programming language that is used for web application development.

PHP: Scripting language for web development that enables to produce dynamic pages.

PhpBB: PHP Bulletin Board, one of the most popular free forum scripts.

php.ini: PHP settings file to override the default settings of the server for one hosting account.

phpMyAdmin: Free online tool to manage MySQL databases.

Plesk: A web hosting control panel.

PostgreSQL: A database system.

Python: A programming language, primarily used to develop web applications.

RAM: Random Access Memory, volatile (data is lost when the computer is turned off) computer memory that allows random and fast usage of data. Data being stored in RAM is accessible much faster than from a hard disk, thus having more of it improves performance.

Ruby: An object-oriented programming language.

Ruby on Rails: A web application framework that uses Ruby programming language.

Server: A physical device that serves some specific needs in a computer network like the Internet. In the hosting industry there are primarily four types of servers: file server, database server, mail server, and backup server. All these functions may also exist in one physical device.

Shared hosting: (or virtual hosting) is a service where many websites are kept in one physical server. Each has it own virtual section, and they all share the resources (CPU power, RAM, and hard disk) of the server, as well as the bandwidth given to it. It is the task of the provider to make sure that no one would abuse the service at the expense of others, as well as keeping the amount of customers in one server within reasonable limits.

SSH: Secure Shell, A network protocol for secure communication of data.

Subdomain: A domain that is below the main (second level) domain. Typical subdomains are or (“forum” and “blog” are subdomains)

TB: Terabyte, a data storage unit, equals 1024 gigabytes.

Traffic: The number of visitors a website gets, and the number of pages they open. Each page load increases the amount of transferred data that is measured in gigabytes and terabytes.

Unix: A computer operating system that was widely used before Linux.

Unmetered: Unmetered refers to the situation where the resource in question is not metered. However, some other properties still restrict the usage. For example, bandwidth may be unmetered, but the connection speed and the CPU power still limits it.

Uptime: The amount of time a server has been running and available. 99% uptime means that it has not been unavailable more than 7.2 hours a month. Better hosts offer uptime guarantees up to 99.99%, which means that downtime is limited to only 4.32 minutes a month.

VPS: Virtual Private Server, a shared hosting environment that has most of the functionalities of a dedicated server like privacy or the ability to run own server software.

WordPress: The most popular content management system, originally developed for blogging, but now also used for wide variety of different websites.