Hosting Terminology

It is vital that you understand the terms that hosting companies use when promoting their hosting plans. This will help you make an informed decision when choosing what hosting plan is right for you.

This page lists the terminology that you will come across when choosing a web hosting plan.

Number of Domains

Some hosting plans restrict the number of websites (domains) that you can host on your hosting plan. This is particularly common with cheap shared hosting plans that cost under $10 per month. Restricting the number of websites that can be hosted is also common with WordPress hosting services such as WP Engine.

Most VPS and dedicated hosting plans allow you to host an unlimited number of websites and domains.

Number of Databases

Cheaper hosting plans sometimes restrict the number of MySQL databases that you can use. One MySQL database is sufficient if you are only installing one platform such as a blog. It can be restricting if you need to extend your website.

Whilst it is possible to install as many platforms as you want on a single database, you will see better performance if additional platforms are installed on separate databases. For example, one database for your blog, another for your discussion forum, and a third for your help desk support script.

Most hosting plans offer an unlimited number of databases, so it probably will not be an issue. If you are considering choosing a hosting plan with a limited number of databases, make sure you review your requirements before clicking on the buy button.

Disk Space

Disk space refers to the amount of storage that your hosting company will allocate to your hosting account. The more disk space you are allocated, the more files you can host online. Be sure to choose a hosting plan that accommodates your existing storage requirements with a little room for growth.

Do not believe any hosting company that advises you that their hosting package offers unlimited storage. Unlimited storage does not exist. If you start using up a lot of resources, the hosting company will close your account, regardless of whether the plan offers unlimited disk space.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that is consumed by visitors and search engine robots that visit your website. For example, let us say that your home page file size is 2MB. Every time someone visits your home page uses up 2MB of data. So 500 visitors a day to your home page would use up approximately 1GB of data.

The amount of bandwidth that your website uses depends on factors such as page size and number of page impressions. If you host lots of images on your website, your bandwidth consumption will be greater.

Just like disk storage, hosting companies occasionally sell cheap shared hosting packages with the promise of unlimited bandwidth. No hosting company in the world can offer unlimited bandwidth. If you start using too much bandwidth, the hosting company will close your account.

Most good shared hosting plans and all VPS and dedicated hosting plans are clear about the bandwidth and storage space your hosting plan offers. If you go over these limits, the hosting company will either place your website offline or charge you for the additional resources you use.

CPU

In every computer, the central processing unit controls the number of operations per second that can be performed. This is why the CPU is sometimes referred to as the heart of a computer. The servers (computers) that host websites range in power. Some have powerful CPUs, some have weak CPUs.

Shared hosting plans rarely state the CPU of the server. There is a reason for this. With hundreds of websites being hosted on the same server, the CPU of the server is kind of irrelevant to customers as shared hosting plans are specifically created for small websites that take up little resources (i.e. no point in promoting the CPU of a server if the customer is not using much CPU). Any website that takes up too much CPU time on a shared hosting plan will simply be closed down.

Many people do not realise that CPU overload is one of the main reasons that website owners need to upgrade their hosting package. If a CPU overloads the server, all websites that are hosted on the server will go offline. Many scripts, such as WordPress plugins, can cause high CPU spikes. You should therefore try not to use resources that use too much CPU. Regardless, always make sure that the hosting plan you pay for can handle your CPU load. Like personal computers, servers can come in single, dual and quad core configurations. Better CPU's should give you a superior performance in general and can handle CPU spikes better too.

IP Addresses

Every server on the internet has at least one IP address that identifies it from all other computers on the internet. Shared hosting plans usually have dozens or even hundreds of websites using the same IP address. VPS and dedicated hosting plans usually offer at least two dedicated IP addresses per account. More IP addresses can be purchased for an additional monthly fee.

There are benefits to having a unique website for your websites including better SEO, security and performance. For example, if you share the same IP address a website that has been hacked, your own website may be marked as a source of malware.

Operating System

The main operating systems that hosting companies use are Windows and Linux. Linux is by far the most popular option. For a better understanding of the differences of these two operating systems, please refer to my article “The Difference Between Linux and Windows Hosting“.

Control Panel

The control panel is the graphical interface in which you administrate your websites and hosting configuration. Web hosting companies offer a wide range of control panels. All web hosting control panels offer essential functionality such as file and database management, however there are differences in features between control panels. For more information, please refer to my article “Web Hosting Control Panels“.

Backups

Hosting companies normally offer full backups of your websites. Some hosting plans offer this free whilst others charge a fee. Backups are normally stored at the same location (i.e. same building), therefore it is important to perform offsite backups as well. Please read my article “Website Backups” for more information on this issue.

Managed Support

There are a number of hosting companies that offer VPS and dedicated hosting plans with no support. All you get is access to the server. It is then up to you to configure and manage the server yourself.

It is more common to pay slightly more for managed support. This means that the hosting company will not only configure your hosting account for you, they will also provide you support on any other web hosting and website related problems you encounter. This is known as managed support.

Uptime Guarantee

Hosting companies offer a guarantee that their servers will be online for a specified amount of time. Not all companies meet this guarantee, however the guarantee is there nevertheless. Please read my article “Web Hosting Uptime” for more information on web hosting companies uptime guarantees.