Common Web Hosting Definitions and Server Hosting Terms

Web hosting has its own language, terms and abbreviations. The following glossary lists some commonly used web hosting definitions of terms that may be helpful.

Apache web server

A web server delivers web content to users (usually on their web browsers). Apache is a popular, feature-rich, and stable web server that a lot of hosting providers use for their hosting packages. For information about configuring Apache, please see these articles.

Auto responder

As its name implies, an auto responder automatically sends an e-mail response to the message sender. One of the most common and well-known examples of an auto responder is the “Out of Office” message reply. Similarly, you could configure your web site to automatically respond to e-mails sent to a particular address, such as


A backup is a copy of files or data. In the event of data loss or corruption, you can use a backup to restore data.


Bandwidth is the rate of data transfer. It is usually expressed as the amount of data transferred in a second, such as kilobits per second or gigabits per second.


A browser (or “web browser”) is a client application that parses HTML from a web server and displays it as a human-readable page. Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and Apple Safari are all commonly used web browsers.


cPanel is a web hosting control panel that enables you to quickly and easily configure many account settings. cPanel is included with many hosting packages.

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)

A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack occurs when multiple computers flood a target system with network traffic. Depending on the target system’s configuration, it may be unable to handle the increased traffic, and site performance may suffer.

Dedicated server

A dedicated server is a separate physical server that hosts a single account. A dedicated server gives you complete control over the operating system, resource usage, and more. Because the server only hosts one dedicated account (as opposed to a shared hosting server, which hosts many accounts), web site performance is usually significantly faster. Dedicated servers are intended for customers who need a server with high availability and performance.

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail)

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is a method for verifying that an incoming e-mail message is actually from the stated sender, and that the message has not been altered during transit. When DKIM is enabled, the sender digitally signs a message using a private key. The recipient uses DNS to retrieve the sender’s public key and verifies the message’s signature. If the signature is invalid, then the message is assumed to be forged and therefore spam. DKIM is frequently used in conjunction with SPF.

Domain name

A domain name is a unique, human-readable identifier for a site, such as or The domain name actually represents a numerical string (the IP address) that instructs a client where to access the actual server.

DNS (Domain Name System)

DNS (Domain Name System) is the service that translates human-readable domain names (such as into numerical IP addresses that computers can understand (such as 93.184.813.229). When you buy a domain name, either you or the hosting company creates a DNS record that associates the domain name with a numerical IP address.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a service for transferring files over the internet. By using an FTP client application such as FileZilla, you can upload (send) and download (receive) files from a remote server.

Green hosting

Green hosting or eco-friendly hosting is internet hosting which involves green technologies to reduce the environmental impact. Green hosting focuses on green consumers and their concern about the environment.

Shared hosting

On a shared hosting package, the account shares server resources with other hosting accounts. It is an inexpensive way to run a web site, and includes all of the benefits of managed hosting.

Managed hosting

Managed hosting is a type of web hosting where the provider handles configuration changes, software upgrades, and other system administration tasks for the server. Shared hosting, reseller hosting, and managed VPS accounts are all managed packages. Managed hosting packages typically include cPanel access. Managed hosting is a good choice if you do not feel comfortable administering an entire server yourself.

Unmanaged hosting

Unmanaged hosting is a type of web hosting where you handle all configuration changes, software upgrades, and other system administration tasks for the server. Unmanaged hosting packages often do not include cPanel (though you can install it yourself). If you do not feel comfortable administering an entire server, managed hosting is a good choice.

Reseller hosting

On a reseller hosting package, the account owner hosts websites for other users. It is an easy way to start a company or provide hosting services for others, because reseller hosting often includes many of the benefits of managed hosting.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language)

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is the standard language used to create web pages. A web browser receives raw HTML from a web server, parses it, and displays a human-readable web page.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol)

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is the protocol used to transfer hypermedia (text, images, video, and more) across the internet. It is the basis for the World Wide Web (WWW), an inter-connected collection of hypertext documents.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol)

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is a protocol for authenticating to and retrieving messages from an e-mail server. With IMAP, you can use a client e-mail application such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird to retrieve and view your e-mail messages.

IP address

An IP address is a unique number (for example, 93.184.813.229) assigned to a device on a network. A domain name is a human-readable label (such as that points to the actual numeric IP address that computers can understand.


JavaScript is a client-side scripting language that enables developers to add dynamic content to a web site. Because it is a client-side technology, it runs in the user’s web browser, not on the web server. Most web sites use at least some JavaScript.


Linux is a free and open source operating system similar in functionality to Unix. It is known for its stability and reliability, and is used in many computers around the world, particularly servers.

Mailing list

A mailing list enables you to send an e-mail message to multiple recipients at once. Mailing lists are commonly used to send announcements or to hold online discussions.


MySQL is a popular database system included in all many hosting packages. It is often used in conjunction with PHP to build a wide variety of web applications, from WordPress to MediaWiki.


PHP is a free and open source scripting language that enables you to generate dynamic content by embedding code directly into the HTML of a web page.

POP (Post Office Protocol)

POP (Post Office Protocol) is a protocol for authenticating to and retrieving messages from an e-mail server. With POP, you can use a client e-mail application such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird to retrieve and view your e-mail messages.

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) is the standard protocol for sending and receiving e-mail messages.


The Softaculous Auto Installer enables you to install many popular web applications, such as WordPress and Drupal, with just a few clicks.


“Spam” is a common term for unsolicited bulk (junk) e-mail messages. There are various methods and techniques for trying to reduce the amount of spam in user inboxes, but currently none of them are 100% effective at blocking all spam and permitting all legitimate messages.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) helps prevent spammers from forging messages that impersonate users from another domain. SPF uses DNS records that specify the mail servers and IP addresses on a domain that are authorized to send e-mail messages. SPF is often used in conjunction with DKIM.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a mechanism for providing secure and authenticated communications across a network. It is often used by web servers and web browsers, but it can also be used by mail servers and clients, and other applications.

Top-level domain

The top-level domain is the right-most portion of a domain name. For example, in the domain name, .com is the top-level domain. Other examples of top-level domains are .org, .net, .gov, and .edu, and there are many others.

Virtual Private Server

A virtual private server is a virtual machine that runs on a physical server with other virtual machines. Because the virtual machine functions as an independent computer, you have complete control over the operating system configuration, and you have root access (unless you are using a managed VPS). A virtual private server is less expensive than a dedicated server, and provides more flexibility and functionality than a shared hosting account.


Webmail enables you to view and send e-mail messages from your web browser. This removes the need to install and configure a dedicated e-mail client application, such as Microsoft Outlook or Mozilla Thunderbird. It also means you can access your e-mail account from any internet-connected computer that has a web browser.


WordPress is a popular open source blogging platform that is free and highly customizable. You can install WordPress on most hosting packages, either by manual installation or automatic installation (e.g. Softaculous through cPanel access).