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Hosting Terms

Web hosting has a terminology all its own. Listed below you'll find definitions of many common web hosting terms so you'll better understand the features included in hosting packages.

Browse the descriptions at your leisure or click one of the links to jump to that description.

Add-on Domains
The ability to host more than one domain under one account. Many hosts advertise multiple domains or unlimited domains under one hosting account. In your control panel, when you want to add a domain it's listed as Add-on Domains.
Anonymous FTP
Some hosts offer anonymous FTP, which enables your website visitors to download or upload files to your website without a password. Unless you have a specific reason to allow it, make sure that feature is turned off if your web host offers it. It's a huge security risk. See also, FTP Access.
An autoresponder is a server script that automatically sends an email to someone who requests it. Typically, a business or Internet marketer will set up an autoresponder to provide information to a visitor who fills out a form. This information can be many things, from an e-course to a price list. The autoresponder may be set to send one email or a series of emails. Subscribing to an autoresponder usually means you're added to a mailing list.
See Data Transfer
Control Panel
Control panels are a hosting feature to help you to manage details like password protection, manage domains and subdomains, create and delete email accounts, check site statistics, and manage many other site functions. Control panel features vary from host to host because many different brands are available, but cPanel is the most common and my favorite for it's many functions and ease of use.
Data Transfer
Data Transfer, commonly called Bandwidth is the amount of data that is transferred from your site to your website visitors. Most sites use way less than a Gigabyte per month, so many hosts offer an unlimited amount. This means you'll get a LOT of data transfer, most likely all that you'll ever need, but no host has an unlimited amount.
Disk Space
Disk Space is the measurement of how much storage space your allowed on the server for your files. Most hosts offer hundreds to thousands of megabytes of space, while most site use less than ten. The main exceptions include sites that offer large downloads, like video sites, software sites, and music sites. Unless you have special needs, a hundred megabytes or more is probably all the disk space you'll ever need.
Domain Name
A domain name is a name (like BoogieJack, Microsoft, Google) that is an alias for a numerical web address. All web addresses are numerical, but words are easier to remember than a sequence of numbers, so words are used as an alias to help us get around on the Internet.
Domain Transfer
Some host offer domain tranfer or domain migration. You have to get the details from each host, as this can be anything from the host adding however much time you have left on your old host to your new account with, to the host actually moving your site from your old host to them for you.
E-commerce (or Ecommerce)
The process of selling products and services online.
Instead of having an email account like you can usually have several emails accounts using your own domain name:,, and so forth. If you have employees this means each can have their own email account for business purposes, up to the number allowed.
Email Forwarding
Email forwarding simply means you can have any of your email accounts forwarded (sent to) another account. For example, if you have,, and you can have the sales and support accounts both sent to the so you don't have to set up extra accounts in your email software. Also called email alias by some.
Fantastico is usually included with any hosting account that uses cPanel for the client's control panel. Fantastico offers automated installation of many open source software programs such as forums, shopping carts, content management systems, blogs and more.
FTP Access
FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol. FTP software is used to transfer files from your computer to your web hosting account. Many hosts offer online file transfer, but FTP is much faster and handier to use. I would never have a site on a host that didn't offer FTP access.
Mailing Lists
A mailing list allows you to collect the names and email addresses of people in a database to send them mass email, such as sending a newsletter, product updates, discount coupons, or for many other reasons.

If you plan on maintaining a mailing for the long haul, it's much better to go with a professional mailing list host for a variety of reasons, including better deliverability, more automation, and many more features than a host's mailing list offers. I recommend aWeber or Get Response.

MySQL is the world's most popular open source database. It's a relational database management system which is fast and easy to customize if you know how to use it. Databases are used for many things, such as registering forum users and forum comments, member information in membership sites, and much more. If you needed to read this to know what it is, you probably don't have to worry about using one right now. :)
Password Protection
Password protection makes it easy to protect a directory and its contents from unauthorized access by required a user enter the correct user name and password to gain access. With cPanel it's just a matter of clicking a couple links and enter the user name and password to protect a directory.
Shared SSL
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a security technology used to secure server to browser transactions. A secured connection means a user's information (such as a customer's credit card number or password) is encrypted as it's passed from the browser to the server so even if someone intercepted the data it would be useless to them because it's encrypted. A shared certificate is one provided by the host that multiple clients can use, as opposed to requiring each client to buy their own certificate.
Shopping Cart
A shopping cart is software that enables you to have an e-commerce web store. Visitors can add products to their 'virtual' shopping cart to buy them safely online. The shopping carts that come with hosting are usually open source and often have fewer features than their commercial counterparts.
Site Builders
Site Builders are akin to HTML editors, only they are installed on the server instead of your computer. They serve the same purpose, that of allowing you to build a website without having to learn HTML code. Site Builders often come with anywhere from 500 to 2,000 templates to help you quickly create a nice looking site.
Spam Filtering
Spam, junk email, can be greatly filtered out by your web host, reducing the amount of spam you get. Spam Assassin is one of the most popular, and it's fairly easy to enable and configure using a cPanel control panel.
Site Statistics
When someone visits your website their browsing activities are recorded in a server log file. Raw log files are difficult to analyze, so most hosts offer one or more website statistics analysis tools. Some of the most common are Webalizer, Advance Web Statistics (AWStats), FastStats, HitList and WebTrends. Website statistic software allow you to quickly see:
  • How many unique visitors your site gets by hour, day, week, month and yearly breakdowns.
  • Which web sites your visitors were at before they came to yours. This tells you which external links are sending you the most traffic.
  • Which search engines are sending you the most traffic. This helps you figure out how well your site is doing in the search engines.
  • Which web pages are the most popular. This helps you build on your popular content and tells you which areas need work . . . or could be abandoned without causing much regret with your visitors.
  • Which browsers your visitors are using, what their screen resolution is, what their operating system is and much more.
A subdomain is basically a keyword prefix that is appended before the main domain name. For example, if your website URL is "" and you have a directory (folder) in your site called poetry, the web address for that directory would be "". With a subdomain instead of a directory, your web address would be "" ...notice there is no "www" in the subdomain address. Subdomains help organize your web site content, create shorter URLs, and help with search engine optmization if you know how to use them strategically. Not all hosts offer the automatic creation of subdomains.
Unlimited Anything
Many hosts offer unlimited bandwidth, unlimited disk space, unlimited domains, unlimited email accounts, etc. Even though they advertise unlimited, they really aren't unlimited because no host has unlimited resources of anything. What it really means, for most people, is that you'll get all you need of whatever feature is unlimited. In effect then, it is unlimited. For a more in-depth discussion of unlimited features see my article, Unlimited Domains.
I hope that helps!
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