The Ultimate Web Hosting Glossary

Like many areas of the Web, perhaps even more than others, Web hosting features a slew of technical terms that can appear intimidating, at best, to the casual listener. For most people in the business world, even the online business world, understanding hosting slang can feel like trying to learn a new language altogether. But, that's why there's Website Magazine, right?

You may never fully understand the jargon that your IT staff and hosting provider routinely toss about, but it doesn't mean you at least can't follow along. Check out this handy Web hosting glossary that our editorial staff has compiled.

Active Channel: A channel hosted on a Web server that features frequently updated information

Active Server Pages: Special pages that allow Web developers to create dynamic by using database-driven content. Content is generally produced on the server-side.

Apache: A popular open source public-domain Web server that provides users with CGI, SSL and virtual domains. Apache's open source code allows users to adapt the server to suit their unique needs, which provides them with strong performance, security and reliability. This is the most widely used Web server on the Internet.

Applet: A small Java-based program that runs in a sandbox and is embedded into a website to allow users to create virtual objects that can move or interact with the site.

Archive: Large files that contain valuable data

Auto Responder: A program that automatically detects the receipt of an email and replies to the sender with a prepared response letting them know of their message's reception. These programs can be set up in a user's control panel.

Availability: See Uptime

Backups: Data from customers that Web hosts copy (typically once a day) in case of a loss of data situation. Backups allow hosts to easily restore lost data.

Bandwidth: The amount of information transferred both to and from a website or server during a prescribed period of time, usually measured in bytes. Hosting companies generally offer packages that come with different bandwidth transfer limits (typically on a monthly basis).

Bit Rate: The speed that bits, the smallest units of digital information, are transferred over a communication link

Blog Hosting: Hosting scripts that let users automatically post new information to a website

Browser (or Web browser): A computer program used to view and interact with the content of Web pages

C+/C++: Programming languages used to created server-side programs that run after compilation. C++ includes objects.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): Rules that determine how an HTML document is displayed by a browser and adds functionality to and controls all design elements of simple HTML pages.

Co-Location: When a user owns his/her own Web server, but houses it in the hosting provider's facilities for easy management, a high-speed connection, security, backup power and technical support.

Common Gateway Interface (CGI): A program that helps servers and scripts communicate, enabling interaction between HTML documents and applications

Control Panel: A Web-based application that allows users to manage various aspects of their hosting account, including uploading data and files, adding email accounts, changing contact information, installing shopping carts and/or databases and viewing statistics

Cookie: A message sent from a Web server to a browser, where it is then stored in a text file and sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from that server. This helps sites identify users and prepare customized Web pages for them.

Cron: The ability to run programs based on a server's clock

Data Transfer: See Bandwidth

Database: Data stored on a Web server in a structured format

Dedicated Hosting: When a user rents or leases his/her own Web server that is housed a hosting provider's facilities for easy management, a high-speed connection, security, backup power and technical support

Dedicated IP: See Static IP

Disk Space: The amount of space available for users to house their website files on a host's server. Also a reference to the amount of storage space allocated to a user or the user's website.

Domain Name: An address assigned to a website for identification purposes that can be translated by a DNS into a server's IP address that includes a TLD

Domain Name System (DNS): Keeps a database of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses, so that when a user searches for a domain name, the request can be routed to the server where the website resides

Domain Parking: The ability to hold a domain name on a hosting server without the service provider requiring that users have the corresponding website up and running

Domain Registrar: A company responsible for managing domain names and helping users secure the rights to a specific domain name

Downtime: A period of time when a website, or an entire server system, is unavailable

Email Forwarder: A program that will automatically forward a received email message to a specified remote email address

Encryption: Encoding data with a cryptographic cipher so that only authorized entities can view it

Extensible Markup Language (XML): A meta-programming language used to specify other document types being used on the Web

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): A commonly used method for exchanging files over the Internet by uploading or downloading files to a server

Filename Extension: A tag that appears at the end of each file name consisting of a dot and then three or four letters that signify the type of file and format

Formmail: An application that lets users create interactive forms and include them on their websites to let visitors submit information

Frontpage: A server-side, HTML editor for website creation from Microsoft

Frontpage Extension: Scripts and programs installed on a server that allow sites, or features of sites, created with Microsoft Frontpage to operate smoothly

FTP Client: A software that lets two computers transfer files over the Internet

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML): The cross-platform language in which the majority of Web pages are written. Codes are interpreted by browsers to be properly formatted for visitors.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP): The primary protocol for transferring and receiving data on the Web that involves a browser connecting to a server, sending a request that specifies its capabilities and then receiving the appropriate data from the server in return

Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP): A protocol that allows a client's email program that receives and holds email message on a hosting service. It allows for access to remote messages stored on a mail server that features operations for creating, deleting and renaming mailboxes, checking new messages and searching and parsing old ones.

Internet Protocol (IP) Address: A unique, numerical address assigned to a computer or Web page

IP Filtering: Limiting access to a website by excluding a single IP or a block of addresses

Java: A platform-independent, crash-protected, object-oriented programming language for writing servlets that can run server-side, in browsers and on independent programs

Java Servlet: Java-based programs written to produce dynamic pages that run on servers

JavaScript: A client-side programming language supported by all popular browsers that can be embedded into HTML pages to create interactive features and perform tasks

Log Files: Text documents that chronicle activity about each visit to a website or server, including IP, time, data and other relevant information

Mailbox: Unique accounts for each individual who receives mail at a specific domain

Mailing List: Groups of email accounts that make it simple to send a single email to any number of recipients (all of those included in the list)

Managed Hosting: A system wherein a user owns or leases a server that is located with the service provider, where all of its management needs are taken care of by on-site personnel

Mirror Site: An FTP site that stores that exists to store the exact some content as another site to minimize the load placed on a particular server and increase reliability

MySQL: An open source relational database that is a subset of ANSI SQL

Open Database Connectivity (ODBC): A generic standard that allows applications to connect with databases that interprets information between the two. ODBC sources allow sites to point to the correct database located on a server.

Open PGP/GPG Encryption: An email encryption standard used for signing, encrypting and de-crypting emails

Open SSL: A (required) application for users that want to use their own SSL certificates. It requires a dedicated IP address and allows users to equip their sites with SSL security.

Operating System (OS): A program that manages computer and/or server hardware, providing common services for application software

PHP: An open source scripting language whose cammonds are embedded in the HTML of a Web page and executed by a server. It is browser-independent, and browsers only see the resulting HTML output.

Post Office Protocol (POP): An email retrieval standard with which all messages are downloaded at once and can only be manipulated on a client machine

Practical Extraction and Report Language (Perl): Open source CGI scripting programming language optimized for scanning text files and extracting the information from them

Protocol: Rules that govern the ways in which two parties can communication and share information

Python: An interpreted, interactive, object-oriented and extensible programming language usually used for server-side scripting

Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID): A method used to store data on multiple hard disks and then link the information so an OS sees all of them as a single entity. RAID can be configured in various forms using both hardware and software.

Relational Database: A collection of data organized as a set of formalized tables that allow said data to be accessed or reassembled in many different ways

Root Server: Machines with the software and data necessary for locating name servers containing authoritative data for TLDs

Secure HTTP (SHTTP): An HTTP protocol that uses encryption to protect the traffic between the server and browser

Secure Shell (SSH): A command interface and protocol that allows for secure access to a remote computers by providing strong authentication and encrypted communications

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL): Protocol (developed by Netscape Communications) that provides encryption for commercial transactions between browsers and servers containing data that absolutely must be protected. Websites that wish to use SSL will need to get a certificate from an official Certificate Authority.

Server: Special networked computers that handle client requests including Web pages, data, email, file transfers and more

Server-Side Includes (SSI): Files that can be included when Web pages are parsed that instruct servers to add dynamic information (i.e. dates, polling data) to the page before it's sent to the client

Shared Hosting: A system in which multiple clients and websites share a single server, with each account having specific limits as to how much space they get and data they can transfer. This is the most basic and affordable type of hosting.

Shopping Cart: Software that lets website visitors select, add and remove products and pay for them online. The software automatically calculates extra price considerations, such as tax and shipping, and then sends all of the information to the merchant once the transaction is complete.

Site Builder: An application offered by hosting service providers that allows users to create a website from scratch based on predesigned templates without requiring knowledge of HTML. The finished sites then run the hosts' servers and can be accessed and used through a Web browser.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): A protocol used for transferring email messages across servers

Static IP: A unique and unchanging IP address given to a website by the hosting provider

Streaming: When visitors play (generally compressed) audio or video multimedia files without requiring a full download. This usually requires a lot of bandwidth.

Structured Query Language (SQL): A programming language used to update and perform queries on relational databases, which all share a common subset of SQL

Subdomains: Third-level domains, meaning addresses that replace the typical WWW. And send visitors so a special URL (i.e. that requests from a different directory within the original website 

Support: Technical help provided by Web hosting companies, usually via phone or email, to correct any problems that customers may encounter

Telnet: Standard Internet protocol for accessing remote systems, such as Web servers

Top-Level Domain (TLD): The domain name element to the far right of the address (i.e. .com, .net or .org)

Traffic: The data being transferred over a network, typically between the browser and server

Uniform Resource Locator (URL): The standard for giving the address of a resource on the World Wide Web that makes up a Web pages full unique address using alphanumeric characters

UNIX: A powerful, flexible OS designed for multi-user applications and the most frequently used OS for servers on the World Wide Web

Unmanaged Hosting: A system wherein a user owns or leases his/her own server and is fully responsible for the management of it, including troubleshooting, maintenance, applications and security

Uptime: The amount of time in a 24-hour period in which a system is active and able to service requests

Web Hosting: Service that provides a physical location, space and storage, connectivity and services for websites that allow their files to be accessed and viewed by users on the World Wide Web. Sites are created and then uploaded to a Web hosting service provider's server. Some of the services providers offer are email addresses, free site builders and databases, among many other things.

Webmail: Service used to access email through a browser that is accessible on almost any computer. Instead of downloading email messages straight to a computer, webmail services allow for the sending, receiving and storing of emails on a mail server.

Wiki: Wikis are a type of online content, usually in the form of collaborative websites, which can be edited by any users who have been given access to it. They also provide an easy way to link from one wiki page to another.