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Web Hosting Terms You Should Know

When it comes to web hosting or anything to do with putting your content on the Internet, there’s a variety of components needed to make the site hosting your content run smoothly. As a result, there’s a fair amount of technical jargon involved, some of which can seem really over your head.

This guide can be used as a general reference page to help you decipher what a hosting or technology term means.

Let’s dive in!


  • Web Hosting – This is a service needed to make a website or application accessible to other people on the internet. Hosting can comprise multiple services which work together to make the “hosting” work, such as a domain registration, web server hosting, email hosting, and even DNS Hosting.
  • Hosting Provider – A company like ChemiCloud, who offers web hosting or web application hosting services, like email, WordPress/Magento/Drupal/Ghost Hosting, and Virtual Private Server Hosting.
  • Server Administrator – an individual or team of individuals who work on the servers and maintain their technical security and health to ensure your website or web application stays online.
  • Web Developer – a person who writes code and creates websites or applications, even databases.
  • IT Tech- A person who manages or fixes pieces of information technology, which include devices like laptops, desktops, servers, smartphones, VoIP devices, and more.
  • DNS (Domain Name System): The internet’s phone book. This is the tech that translates an IP address, such as into a domain name, like Google.com.
    • Domain name: This is an alphanumeric label used to identify an IP address, like chemicloud.com, or myawesomeblog.com. A single IP address can host many, many domains.
    • Zone file: This is a text file that describes the DNS Zone. Creating/Updating/Managing these DNS zones are how you point your domain and related subdomains to the IP address assigned to your web hosting account.
    • Name Server: this determines which company is hosting your DNS and where you will go to edit your DNS Zone Files.
    • IP address: this is a numeric label assigned to a device that is connected to the internet.
    • TLD: Top Level Domain. This term indicates the highest level in a DNS system, such asĀ  .COM, but can also be used to casually refer to the part that comes after your domain name.
  • Domain registration: A service used to register a domain to a particular user.
  • Domain registrar: A company who sells and manages domain registrations for the public.
  • WHOIS: This is a server that hosts ownership information on domain names, which people can query to determine who owns a domain. Many registrars offer privacy to protect the privacy of individuals and corporations who own domains as their private information can appear in the WHOIS details.
  • Email Client: A program used to access your email, such as Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook.
    • Outgoing / Incoming Mail Server: this is the IP address or full hostname of your mail server, such as mail.mydomain.com.
  • Webmail: An application that runs in a browser with an interface to the server hosting your email, allowing you to send, receive, and otherwise interact with your email.
  • Server: a machine that is used to host websites or applications. These can include database servers, email servers, image and video servers, or FTP servers. Servers can be physical computers or virtualized machines running inside of a larger physical server.
    • Shared Server: This is a server that shares it’s resources, such as Memory and CPU, with multiple users or websites.
    • Dedicated Server: This is a server who’s resources, such as Memory and CPU, are dedicated to the client who is renting or leasing the server.
    • Memory: Hardware installed in a computer that helps it store information temporarily and read/write information faster, as a cache.
    • Disk Space: The amount of storage space available to you for documents, programs, and files on your server.
    • Bandwidth: The amount of data you can transfer over a network. This can be measured in speed or transfer amount.
  • Logging/Logs: A record of events that occur within the server. These can include error logs, access logs, email logs, and more.
  • Databases: A collection of data, organized into various linked tables, which can be used to run a website or application.
  • Control panel: This is a web application or web site that provides a GUI user interface a user utilizes to administer various functions on their web hosting account, like creating and deleting email or FTP users. A major control panel is cPanel, another is Plesk.
  • File Manager: An application used to browse directories on a server and list the files within these directories to the user. There are often user interface options allowing you to view or edit the files.
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol): This protocol establishes a method you can use to access and transfer large files from your computer to your web server via the internet or a network connection.
    • FTP Client: This is the application the user installs and runs on their computer to connect to the FTP Server and upload / download files.
    • FTP Server: This is an application, technically, running on a server that brokers connections from FTP Clients for the purpose of transferring files to/from the server.
  • SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol): This is the same as FTP, but the connection is encrypted and private.
  • SSH (Secure SHell): This is another method of connecting to a server from a SSH Client for the purpose of transferring files or issuing commands to the server. This is also referred to as the command line.
  • Firewall: An application or hardware appliance placed in between the internet and a server which allows only authorized communication in or out.
  • Malware: Software used to disrupt, damage, or gain unauthorized access to a system. These are often referred to as trojans or viruses.
  • Spam: Unsolicited or unwanted email.
  • Phishing: A form of a spam email designed to look legitimate in an attempt to acquire personal or company information from a user.
  • Spoofing: When a false user imitates a legitimate email address, usually with the intent to spam or hack another person or user.
  • Bug: An error, flaw, or failure that occurs or occurred in a system. A bug can be temporary or permanent, depending on how long it takes a developer to fix.
  • Reboot: A restart of the server and all applications or processes running on it.
  • Proxy: A gateway that acts between a local network and a larger network, or the Internet. Proxy websites can be used to troubleshoot local networks or cache related issues, but can also be used to filter internet content or act as a secure tunnel to bypass internet censorship.
  • Cache: Data that is stored on your computer and called for again when needed so it can be served to you much faster than being downloaded via the internet again. This may need to be cleared if it becomes outdated or corrupted.
  • Traceroute: A tool that shows the route of networks your computer must traverse to access a specific network resource, like google.com.
  • Bad neighbor effect: This is a term that describes the result when one or more users on a shared server begin to abuse the resources allocated to the server and may need to be throttled by a system administrator.

Miscellaneous Terminology

  • CMS (Content Management System): A software application, typically ran in a browser, which is used to create and distribute digital content. Popular CMS’ include WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
  • Plugins: Software or Service add ons to a CMS that are installed to perform certain tasks. For example, an additional plugin may be needed for a contact form to work properly.
  • Them: A template that affects the visual appearance of a website or application.
  • Programming language: A set of written instructions to instruct a computing device to perform a specific tasks. Popular programming languages on the web include, HTML, PHP, CSS, Javascript, Perl, Python, and more.
  • Web browser: An application used to browse the internet, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge.
  • Search engine: A website that is used to look up information based on a search query. Popular search engines include Google and Duck Duck Go.
  • ISP (Internet Service Provider): A company who provides customers with access to the internet, such as Comcast or AT&T.
Updated on March 18, 2022

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