Web hosting can be a confusing topic!
We put together this glossary to help provide simple explanations to some of the most common phrases you’ll come across!
Types of Web Hosting
Let’s start by talking about common types of web hosting solutions, including shared, VPS, cloud, and dedicated servers.
1.) Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the most basic of hosting types and is usually the cheapest option. This makes shared hosting perfect for when you’re just starting out and looking for an affordable hosting solution for WordPress, Joomla, or static HTML websites. When using shared hosting, your website is stored on a server that also powers the websites of hundreds of other businesses. A few companies that offer shared hosting at a low price include WebCitz, WPEngine, and SiteGround.
The low cost of shared hosting may seem appealing, but there are downsides to consider as well. Most shared hosting providers overcrowd their servers, leaving your website’s performance and email deliverability at risk of the actions of others on the same server. We utilize CloudLinux to help contain each hosting customer on the server to their own resource pools to minimize server-wide issues.
Another consideration to keep in mind with shared hosting is your access to helpful support. While it may seem like a no-brainer at first to pick a $5-10/month hosting service, you’ll likely regret that decision when you spend an hour on a support call explaining a simple issue to multiple support representatives. We typically have developers answer support questions, so phone and email support are often more enjoyable.
Interested in learning what other costs are associated with the creation of a website? Check out our blog post How Much Does It Cost To Host A Website to find out!
2.) VPS Hosting
VPS hosting is a popular choice when looking to scale up from shared hosting. A physical server is virtually separated into containers, so you are still sharing a server with others but you have complete control over your own container. This allows you to install your own operating system, applications, security rules and more. Because you’re isolated from other businesses sharing other containers, you won’t be as easily affected by their actions.
While VPS typically gives you greater customizability, security, and performance it does come at a higher cost. Hosting companies will offer unmanaged or managed VPS. With the unmanaged plan, you are responsible for everything and is only recommended if you are comfortable managing a web server. The managed plan is a more hands-off approach for you, since a hosting expert would be taking care of managing and backing up the VPS solution.
We doesn’t offer VPS hosting. We do recommend DigitalOcean though if you are looking for this type of hosting, and we are happy to offer server management for your droplet.
3.) Cloud Hosting
There are many benefits to choosing cloud hosting. The way cloud hosting works is you get your own server environment, like a VPS solution, but it is powered by a network of servers that can lend additional resources to you on-demand. This is popular for ecommerce websites that have intermittent or periodic traffic spikes. For example, if you knew you needed the resources of 5 dedicated servers during the holiday shopping season, but only 1 dedicated server at other high-traffic times of the year, and perhaps just 1/20th of a dedicated server at 3am, you could benefit greatly from a cloud hosting solution.
Management of the cloud hosting service is still something to consider. The most popular cloud hosting providers, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, don’t offer management of the server environment, which means you’d need a server management company like AdminGeekz to help with the initial configuration and ongoing support.
4.) Dedicated Server Hosting
Dedicated hosting provides you complete access to an entire web server. You are able to choose a low-end or a high-end web server, and utilize all of its resources for your own purposes. The benefit of a dedicated server over a VPS solution is you typically can get greater amounts of CPU and memory allocations at a better price. The downside of dedicated servers to a cloud hosting solution is you only get a fixed amount of server resources that can’t be easily changed when needed. We often recommend Hivelocity for dedicated servers.
Common Web Hosting Terms
We’ve compiled a list of common hosting phrases and a brief explanation of each for your reference.
Apache is a popular open-source web server software that is widely used for hosting websites. It is developed and maintained by the Apache Foundation and is known for its flexibility and performance. WebCitz has Apache installed on its dedicated servers used for its shared hosting services, but we actually utilize LiteSpeed instead.
An addon domain is a separate domain that is added to a web hosting account and configured to point to a subdirectory within the hosting account. This allows you to host multiple websites on a single web hosting account, with each website having its own unique domain name and directory.
A hosting account backup is a copy of all the files, databases, and other information associated with a hosting account. It is typically used as a safeguard to protect against data loss due to factors such as server crashes, malware, or human error.
Bandwidth is often used as a measure of the amount of data that a hosting account can transfer in a given month. Web hosting plans usually include a certain amount of bandwidth, and if a website exceeds this limit, it may be subject to additional fees or may be shut down temporarily until the next billing period.
Caching is used to store frequently accessed data in a temporary storage area to speed up the retrieval of that data. This can be particularly useful for websites, as it can reduce the time it takes to load pages and improve the user experience.
There are several types of caching that can be used to improve website performance:
- Server-side caching stores frequently accessed data on the server, so it can be retrieved quickly when requested by a user. Common types of server-side caching come from LiteSpeed Web Server, Redis, Varnish, and others.
- Client-side caching stores data in the user’s web browser, so it can be accessed more quickly when the user revisits the website.
- Content delivery network (CDN) caching is used to deliver content to users based on their geographical location. CDN caching stores copies of frequently accessed content on servers located around the world, so it can be delivered to users more quickly. Don’t worry though, this typically just stores copies of static JS, CSS, and image assets, not private data.
A content delivery network (CDN) is a network of servers that are distributed across multiple geographical locations. This is used to deliver content to users based on their location, with the goal of improving the performance and availability of the content.
CDNs are commonly used to deliver static content, such as images, JS / CSS files, videos, and HTML. When a user requests content from a website, the CDN redirects the request to the server that is close to the user’s location, which can help to reduce the time it takes to transfer the content.
A content management system (CMS) is a web application that is used to create, edit, and publish website content. It is designed to make it easier for non-technical users to manage and maintain a website.
Some examples of popular content management systems include WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. These systems are used by a wide variety of organizations, including businesses, bloggers, and non-profits, to create and maintain websites.
A web hosting control panel is a web-based interface that allows a hosting client to manage various aspects of their hosting account and website. It provides a central location where you can perform tasks such as creating and managing email accounts, uploading and managing files, and setting up databases.
CRON is a time-based job scheduling system used in Unix-based operating systems. It allows users to schedule recurring tasks or commands to run automatically at specified intervals, such as hourly, twice-a-day, daily, weekly, or monthly.
Common uses include tasks like data backups, system maintenance, or website updates.
Related Tip: How to Prevent a Cron from Creating Empty files in Root.
A distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack is designed to disrupt the normal functioning of a website or online service by overwhelming it with traffic. These attacks work by flooding the target website or service with traffic from multiple sources, such as compromised computers, servers, or other devices that are connected to the internet. You can learn more here.
Disk space refers to the amount of storage space that is allocated to a hosting account for storing website files, such as HTML, CSS, JS, images, and other media.
A domain name is a unique address that is used to identify a website or other online resource on the internet. Domain names are an important aspect of the internet, as they provide a human-readable and easy-to-remember way of accessing websites. They are also a key part of a website’s branding.
A domain registrar is a company that is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to register and manage domain names.
When you want to register a domain name, you can do so through a domain registrar. The registrar will check to see if the domain name you want is available, and if it is, they will register it on your behalf and assign it to you. When you register a domain name through a web designer or web developer, they are often acting as a reseller. In fact, we are a reseller of domains through eNom, which is owned by Tucows.
The Domain Name System (DNS) is a network of servers that is used to translate domain names into IP addresses, which are numerical labels that are assigned to devices connected to the internet.
When you enter a domain name into your web browser, the DNS system is used to locate the corresponding IP address and connect you to the correct website. This process happens in the background, and it allows users to access websites using easy-to-remember domain names rather than having to remember an IP address.
A firewall is a security system that is designed to protect a network or device from unauthorized access. They come in hardware and software versions, depending how the protection needs to be put in place. Firewalls monitor and control incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. Most cPanel-based web servers, which are common in shared web hosting environments, utilize the ConfigServer Firewall.
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a standard network protocol that is used to transfer files between computers over a network. FTP allows users to transfer files between a local computer and a remote server, or between two remote servers. It is commonly used to upload and download files to and from a web server. A common FTP client is Filezilla.
An .htaccess file is a configuration file that is used to specify server configuration options for a website that is hosted on an Apache web server. It is a plain text file that can be used to adjust a wide range of server and website settings, including setting redirects, password protecting directories, and enabling or disabling certain functionality.
HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is a markup language used for creating and structuring content on the internet. HTML uses a set of markup tags to define the various elements of a webpage, such as headings, paragraphs, images, and links. These tags provide a way for web browsers to interpret and display the content in a structured and organized manner.
Here’s an example of HTML code:
<!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <title>Example Page</title> </head> <body> <h1>Heading</h1> <p>This is a paragraph</p> </body> </html>
HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is a networking protocol (on port 80) used for transferring data over the internet. It defines the rules and standards for how data is formatted and transmitted between web servers and web browsers.
You’ll often see displayed HTTP status codes when your browser is unable to load the page you clicked on. The most common codes are:
- 404 File Not Found: Displayed when the requested file couldn’t be found on the server.
- 403 Forbidden: Displayed when you don’t have permission to access a page.
- 500 Internal Server Error: Displayed when there’s an unexpected server error, such as a service being offline or configured incorrectly.
- 503 Service Unavailable: Displayed when there’s an issue with the web hosting service, such as a resource limitation.
HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure is the secure version of HTTP, running on port 443 instead of port 80. This means the communication between your browser and the website is encrypted. To be routed through HTTPS you must have a valid SSL certificate for your website.
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit organization that oversees the global coordination of the Domain Name System (DNS), including the creation and management of top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .org, and .net. It also manages the assignment of IP addresses to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other organizations.
An IP (Internet Protocol) address is a unique numerical identifier assigned to each device connected to the internet. It serves as a means for devices to communicate and identify each other across the globe. An IP address consists of four sets of numbers separated by dots (for example, 192.168.0.1), and it can be either static or dynamic, meaning it can either remain the same or change over time. IP addresses are essential for accessing websites, sending and receiving emails, and other internet-related activities. Internal networks, such as those within a small business or home office, also utilize what is called private IP addresses that are only exposed within their limited network.
MySQL is a popular open-source Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) used for storing, organizing, and retrieving data. It is commonly used in web applications to store and manage data related to users, products, orders, and other types of information. MySQL is known for its scalability, reliability, and ease of use, making it a popular choice for many web developers and businesses.
MySQL uses the SQL (Structured Query Language) programming language to interact with the database, allowing developers to easily insert, update, and query data.
WordPress is a popular content management system that relies on MySQL databases to store pages, posts, users, and settings.
PaaS (Platform as a Service) is a cloud computing model where a third-party provider offers a platform for developers to build, deploy, and manage web applications.
A PaaS provider offers a preconfigured environment that includes tools and services such as databases, middleware, and development frameworks. This allows developers to focus on building their application instead of managing infrastructure.
A parked domain is a registered domain name that is not actively being used for a website or email hosting. When a domain is parked, visitors to the domain will see a default page provided by the domain registrar or web hosting provider, which typically includes a message indicating that the domain is parked and not in use. A parked domain can be used to reserve a domain name for future use, prevent competitors from registering a similar domain, or generate revenue through paid advertising.
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a popular open-source server-side programming language used primarily for web development. PHP can be used to interact with databases, manipulate files, handle form data, and perform various other tasks. PHP is executed on the server-side, meaning it runs on the web server before the output is sent to the client’s web browser. PHP is widely used in web development and is compatible with many popular databases and web servers, making it a versatile and powerful tool for building web applications.
The most common platforms and applications that run on PHP include Wikipedia, WordPress, Yahoo, Flickr, and MailChimp. Facebook uses a fork of PHP called Hack.
Python is a high-level, interpreted programming language that is widely used for software development, web development, data analysis, and artificial intelligence applications. It is known for its clear and concise syntax, as well as its ease of use and versatility.
Python supports multiple programming paradigms, including object-oriented, imperative, and functional programming styles, and has a large and active community of developers who contribute to its development and support.
SLA (Service Level Agreement) is a contractual agreement between a service provider and a customer that outlines the level of service that the provider will deliver. An SLA typically includes specific performance metrics such as uptime, response time, and service availability, as well as penalties or compensation for failing to meet the agreed-upon standards.
SLAs are commonly used in the IT industry for services such as web hosting, cloud computing, and software as a service (SaaS) providers.
A subdomain is an extension of a domain name. For example, for support.webcitz.com to exist, the domain name webcitz.com has to be purchased and then a subdomain of support has to be created. You can create an infinite number of subdomains to a domain name, and even multiple levels of subdomains.
Subdomains are often used to separate multiple websites or services into organizational units. For example, www.webcitz.com is a corporate website with service pages and a blog. However, billing.webcitz.com and support.webcitz.com are two separate website services to offer a client billing portal and support ticket system.
SSH (Secure Shell) is a network protocol used for secure remote communication between two computers. It provides a secure channel for data exchange over an unsecured network, such as the internet.
SSH is commonly used for remote access to servers, allowing users to securely log in and perform tasks without physically being present at the server location. It also allows for secure file transfers and remote management of computer systems.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security protocol used to establish a secure and encrypted connection between a web server and a web browser. It ensures that data transmitted between the server and the browser is protected and cannot be intercepted or read by third parties.
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is a digital certificate that verifies the identity of a website and establishes an encrypted connection between the web server and a web browser. SSL certificates contain information about the website owner, such as the domain name, owner’s name, and location, as well as a public key that is used to encrypt data transmitted between the server and the browser.
When a website has an SSL certificate installed, visitors can access the site using the HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) protocol, which indicates that the connection is secure.
Ideally, every website on the internet should have an SSL certificate installed. We offer free SSL certificates through Let’s Encrypt on our shared hosting solutions.
TLD (Top-Level Domain) is the highest level of the domain name system (DNS) hierarchy, which is used to categorize and identify websites on the internet. It is the last part of a domain name, following the final dot, and is used to identify the website’s purpose or location.
For example, in the domain name “webcitz.com“, the “.com” is the TLD, indicating that the website is a commercial entity. Other commonly used TLDs include “.org” for non-profit organizations (though not enforced), “.gov” for government websites, and “.edu” for educational institutions. There are also country-specific TLDs, such as “.uk” for websites located in the United Kingdom. Most country-specific TLDs require verification of your presence in that country before the registration is approved.
TLDs are regulated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages the DNS and ensures that TLDs are used appropriately and are not duplicated.
Uptime refers to the amount of time a website or web server is operational and available for traffic. It is typically expressed as a percentage of the total time the system should be available. For example, a website with 99% uptime should be available to users for 99% of the time. While this seems like a lot, it would still equate to 3.65 days of downtime per year.
This is an important measure of the reliability and performance of a website or hosting service. It is often used as a key performance indicator (KPI) for web hosting providers.
Email Hosting Terms
We’ve compiled a list of common email hosting phrases and a brief explanation of each for your reference.
An email autoresponder is a pre-written email response to incoming messages. It is commonly used to send out an automated reply to emails when the recipient is out of the office, or to acknowledge that a message has been received.
An email catch-all is an email account that is set up to receive all messages sent to a domain name, regardless of the intended recipient. For example, if a domain name is webcitz.com, an email catchall would receive all emails sent to any address with the domain name, such as info@, test@, sales@, support@, etc.
The catchall email account is used to ensure that no emails are lost due to misspelled email addresses or other errors. However, catchall email accounts can also attract a large amount of spam or unwanted email, as they receive all messages sent to the domain.
DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is an email authentication method used to verify that an email message has been sent from a trusted source and has not been modified during transit.
It works by adding a digital signature to the header of the email message that verifies the sender’s domain and ensures that the message has not been tampered with. The recipient’s email server can then use the DKIM signature to verify that the message is legitimate and has not been spoofed or modified.
IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a protocol used to access and manage email messages on a remote email server.
It allows users to read, organize, and delete email messages from a remote server using an email client or webmail interface, without having to download the messages to their local device. IMAP also allows multiple devices to access and synchronize the same email account, ensuring that all messages are up-to-date and consistent across all devices. IMAP supports advanced features such as folder management, message flags, and search capabilities, making it a popular choice for professional email users who need to manage large volumes of email messages.
MX (Mail Exchange) records are a type of DNS (Domain Name System) record that specifies which mail servers are responsible for accepting email messages sent to a particular domain name. When an email message is sent to an email address at a specific domain name, the sender’s email server looks up the MX record for that domain name to determine which server to deliver the message to. The MX record specifies the hostname and priority of the email servers responsible for accepting incoming email messages. The priority determines the order in which email servers are contacted, in case the primary server is unavailable.
The most common online tool for checking MX records is MXToolbox.
A mailing list is a collection of email addresses that are used to send messages or newsletters to a group of people who have subscribed to receive them.
POP (Post Office Protocol) is an email retrieval protocol used to download email messages from a remote email server to a local device. When a user connects to a POP server, it downloads all of the messages stored on the server and deletes them from the server, unless the user specifies otherwise in their mail client.
POP is a simple and widely used protocol for accessing email messages, but it is limited in its functionality compared to newer protocols such as IMAP.
SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is a protocol used for sending email messages between email servers on the internet. When a user sends an email message, it is first sent to an outgoing email server, which then uses SMTP to deliver the message to the recipient’s incoming email server. SMTP is responsible for the transmission of email messages, but it does not handle the retrieval or management of email messages.
Webmail is an email service that allows users to access their email account using a web browser, rather than a dedicated email client software.