Does it sound like your web host is speaking Greek to you? It shouldn’t—because a good web host will break down the jargon and terminology. Still, there are a lot of terms hosts will use with their colleagues that can be really confusing to clients. You deserve a host who uses laymen’s terms (unless you’re a techie yourself), but if you want in on the “secret language” of the industry, there are a few key terms to know:
- VPS: The acronym for “virtual private server,” this is a type of hosting where you share a physical server with other customers, but it’s split into a number of “virtual” servers—so it’s basically like having one server that’s just for you.
- Bandwidth: This is a measurement of the allotted data which can be transmitted from a server at any given time. The more bandwidth you have, the more traffic your website can manage. However, the vast majority of sites don’t need much bandwidth (so “unlimited bandwidth” isn’t really much of a bonus).
- CGI: This doesn’t mean computer graphic images in the web hosting world. It’s the acronym for Common Gateway Interface, which is any small script that processes user data (like when someone fills out a form on your website).
- Application Infrastructure: Any software or set of software that you depend on for your site to function. For example, database servers, web servers, etc.
- DDoS: The acronym for Distributed Denial of Service. This is the most popular attack hackers and cybercriminals inflict. It works by bum-rushing a network, taking over all the bandwidth, and overwhelming it with information from a bunch of hosts. Ultimately, the legit traffic can’t get through.
- Firewall: Any software that’s meant to safeguard web servers, usually from hackers.
- Grid computing: Architecture that’s designed for server networking. The computer(s)’s cycles are put into a grid that’s then earmarked for a specific application. Unlike other types of architecture, integration happens in hardware so the grid looks like one big resource and not a lot of shared resources.
- IDS: The acronym for Intrusion Detection System, the IDS “sees” bad network traffic and other attempts to use your site that isn’t otherwise seen by your firewall.
- LAMP: The acronym for free software programs that are usually used together, including Linux, Apache, MySQL, and Perl/PHP/Python.
- Name Server: The server who translates IP addresses and domains.
- Load balancing: When data is distributed over many servers so that not just one server is doing all the work (thus being less vulnerable).
- NOC: The acronym for Network Operations Center, or a host’s home base. This is where the bulk of tech support, storage for the physical server, and administration happens.
- Packet Switching: How the majority of data gets exchanged online. Usually, information is turned into little packages that make transferring easier, and then gets re-assembled when they arrive.
Remember, if there’s anything you don’t understand when talking to your web host, ask for clarification. Sometimes techies get caught up in their own world. If you’re still not getting clarification, it might be time to switch to a host who’s more transparent.