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Common Web Hosting Terminology

Many people who are new to web hosting may became a little confused with all of the different phrases and acronyms used to describe a hosting account's features. This is a list of definitions to help you understand those features of a hosting account that are important when deciding which one to buy:

  • Anonymous FTP allows the public to log into an FTP server with a common login. Anonymous FTP is beneficial for the distribution of large files to the public, avoiding the need to assign large numbers of login and password combinations for FTP access. You'll only need this if you want large numbers of people to be able to download files directly from your website.
  • ASP (Active Server Pages) -- Regular HTML webpages with embedded scripts that deliver dynamic content; see ASP Web Hosting.
  • Autoresponders -- see our article on "Email Autoresponders".
  • Bandwidth (or Data Transfer) -- see our article on "Bandwidth Explained".
  • CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is a set of rules that describe how a web server communicates with another piece of software on the same machine, and how the other piece of software (the 'CGI script') talks to the web server. CGI scripts are small programs that takes data from a web server and do something with it, like putting the content of a form into an e-mail message, or turning the data into a database query. Just about every hosting provider will support CGI.
  • ColdFusion is a scripting language for designers that want wish to do advanced development and/or database interfacing; see ColdFusion Hosting.
  • Colocation Servers are web servers owned by the customer, but located at the hosting company's data center and maintained by their staff; see Colocation Hosting.
  • Control Panels are web-based administrative features that allow you to manage various aspects of your hosting account from your web browser; see our article on "Account Control Panels."
  • Dedicated Servers are web hosting servers that are owned by the hosting company, but rented out and used by a single customer per server; see Dedicated Server.
  • Disk Space is the amount of hard drive space on a web server provided for your website's files. Your files can include HTML pages, images, audio and video files, log files, data from online forms, and any other data files. Most small websites that are under 10 pages in size won't ever exceed a single MB (megabyte) in size.
  • Domain Name is the unique Internet address that identifies where a web server is located; see our article on "Registering Domain Names."
  • Email Forwarding is a feature that you can set for an email address to have emails that are sent to it automatically forwarded to another email address.
  • FrontPage Extensions -- see our article on "FrontPage Extensions" and FrontPage Web Hosting.
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a very common method of moving files between two Internet sites. FTP is a special way to login to another Internet site for the purposes of retrieving and/or sending files. Unless you use FrontPage extensions, or have some other software for publishing your HTML files directly to your hosting account, you will probably need to have FTP access to your web site. Nearly all hosts provide this.
  • JSP (Java Server Pages) -- Regular HTML webpages with embedded scripts that deliver dynamic content; see JSP Web Hosting.
  • Linux is a subcategory of the popular Unix hosting platform best known for being open source (free) software; see Linux Web Hosting.
  • Maillist (or Mailing List) is an automated system that allows people to send e-mail to one address, whereupon their message is copied and sent to all of the other subscribers to the maillist. In this way, people who have many different kinds of e-mail access can participate in discussions together.
  • Perl is the most widely used language for programming CGI applications.
  • PHP -- A server-side, cross-platform, HTML embedded scripting language; see PHP Web Hosting.
  • POP3 Email Accounts are standard email addresses that you can use with your domain name. For example, [email protected]. These are not web-based email addresses, like Hotmail or Yahoo! mail, but standard email addresses that you can use with any email software, such as Outlook Express, MS Outlook, etc. If a host gives you 100 or so POP3 email addresses with a hosting account, you could provide an email address to each member of a small business or other organization.
  • Server Side Includes (SSI) are data files that are added into a page on the web server. They make Web site management much easier. For example, if you had a 100-page site and used the same top menu on every page of the site, you could create a file called and use SSI to write that header onto the top of every page. When its time to change something on that header, you just change the file and you've just updated the header on every page of your site. Make sure your host provides SSI if you want to use this great function.
  • SQL (Structured Query Language) is a specialized programming language for sending queries to databases. This is another feature which applies mainly to developers or those individuals who's site has some database function attached to it. Most won't need it, but it comes with just about any hosting account.
  • SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol designed to enable encrypted, authenticated communications across the Internet. SSL used mostly in communications between web browsers and web servers. URL's that begin with 'https' indicate that an SSL connection will be used. SSL provides privacy, authentication, and message integrity. If you are going to run forms on your website that gather personal information, or e-commerce data such as credit cards and product orders, you will want SSL capability.
  • Subdomains are a formal Internet address within a domain, such as
  • Telnet Access -- A method of logging onto remote computer systems using a terminal program or other applications using the Telnet protocol. You can use the Telnet application to run commands and programs on a remote computer.
  • Unix is the most widely-used hosting platform; see Unix Web Hosting.
  • Virtual Hosting -- Hosting multiple sites on a single physical web server; see Shared Web Hosting.
  • Virtual Private Servers are shared hosting web servers in which each hosting space is alloted its own amount of dedicated resources; see Virtual Private Server.
  • Web-based Email allows you to read email anywhere in the world from any PC that has an Internet connection and a web browser.
  • Windows Hosting -- Just as there is Microsoft Windows software that allows you to operate your PC at home, there is Windows server software for operating web servers. Hosting on a web server that uses Windows as it's operating platform is referred to as Windows Web Hosting.
  • Web Statistics are comprehensive daily graphical reports on your website visitor demographics.

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