There seems to be an endless amount of jargon in the hosting industry and if you’re anything like me, terminology can be intimidating. When I joined the 34SP.com team over 3 years ago I didn’t have much knowledge about servers, web design or web development. I started as an inbound salesperson and came from a non technical background. I had a short space of time and a large amount of terminology to get to grips with. Needless to say, it was quite the challenge.
As 34SP.com are always looking at how we can better communicate what we do, with the minimum of fuss, I put together the following jargon busting guide. Hopefully some of the things I’ve learned along the way will serve as a handy bookmark for you in the future.
Let’s start with:
1. What is ‘web hosting’?
You’ve been told by your designer or developer that you need to purchase web hosting and you are not sure where to start. I’ve been asked to explain this many times and I’m still refining my own way of explaining it.
To use an analogy, web hosting is much like creating your home. You’ve bought furniture, you’ve decorated, secured it with an alarm and now you want to get your post to your address and invite visitors over to see you. People need to be able to see your address and find you to come over.
That’s what web hosting is. You have your website already there and you’ve bought your domain name (website address) – web hosting is the bricks and mortar, the foundations that will put you online for the world to see.
We operate powerful computers that provide a place for you to put your website files. They in turn allow your website to be accessed on the internet and for your visitors to see your website. We secure that space for you and we provide the tools to help you manage it, through our 34SP.com control panel.
2. Accessing your website through ‘FTP’
Just like the files you have on your desktop of laptop, your website is made up of many of these files too. And much like moving your files on your computer, from Documents to Desktop, your website files need to be moved or copied from your computer to our servers.
This is what FTP does; it provides a way of transferring and uploading your website files to our servers. There are many popular FTP programs (sometimes called clients) you can use such as WinSCP, FileZilla or Cyberduck for Mac.
At 34SP.com we recommend you use SFTP, a secure version of FTP; SFTP encrypts both your password and files when you connect to our servers.
3. Free ‘Migrations’
When you’re looking to move to a new web hosting company, some will offer to move your website over for you free of charge. That’s all a website migration is, fancier terminology for copying your website files and moving them from one hosting company to another. We offer free migrations if you’re moving your site to us. We’re also happy to migrate your emails over from your current hosting company too; we offer email hosting with all of our managed hosting plans.
4. Upgrading to ‘VPS’
We may have mentioned VPS to you in a support ticket or phone call, or you may have spotted it on our site. Sometimes we use the word ‘containerised’ as well. VPS is a type of containerised hosting that we encourage all of our clients to use where possible. In some cases people outgrow our entry level hosting plan and are asked to upgrade to VPS hosting. VPS stands for Virtual Private Server and it means giving you your own personal server space. It’s much better for performance and security. Our WordPress Hosting, Business Hosting and Reseller Hosting are all VPS based.
5. Web hosting with daily ‘backups’
Backups are a necessity when it comes to web hosting and something you should always ask about. They are usually advertised as daily or weekly. Backups can be performed in many different ways but essentially involve taking a copy of your site and moving it to another location for safe keeping.
The more frequent your backups, the better your backups, as more of the changes you make to your site will be saved in the event of an emergency. To find out about the backups on your plan visit the 34SP.com backups page.
6. Free ‘SSL Certificate’
That little green padlock you see next to the website address when you visit a website… it’s more important than you think. As of this year anyone who visits your website using the Google Chrome browser will be hit with an ‘insecure website’ warning if the website doesn’t have an SSL certificate installed.
Not to worry though, we supply free SSL certificates (using a service called Let’s Encrypt) as standard on all our plans, and they require just one click to enable through our control panel. It’s also proven that having an SSL certificate (HTTPS) will help with your SEO.
7. ‘SSD’ based web hosting
You may already know the term HDD which is an abbreviation of hard drive – SSD refers to the newer Solid State Drives. So why do we market the words SSD based over HDD? That’s quite simple, SSD disks are much faster and much more reliable. They don’t spend as much time loading your files which in turn means your website will load faster.
8. ‘Database’ allowance
Once upon a time, websites comprised mostly static pages with simple text and images, but these days that’s very rare. Many websites require actions to be taken: commenting on a blog, placing an order or filling in a form. If you want to do this you’ll need a database to store this information.
Most website builders come with a database. Website builders such as WordPress normally need one database per installation of WordPress, which is why you are generally given a database allowance with your hosting. We can label this as MySQL or MariaDB databases on our site.
9. Register a ‘domain’ name
It can be hard to understand the difference between a domain name and a website unless someone explains it to you. Your domain name is your website address, it’s what people type into their browser to find your website. You can’t have a website or email without a domain name and it’s important to choose wisely. We have an article on ‘choosing a website address‘ that should help.
In our case, our domain name is 34SP.com. We also have other domain names such as 34SP.co.uk. These domain names forward on to our main website, which you can do too!
10. Own ‘IP address’
Most budget types of hosting are known as ‘shared hosting’ which means you share an IP address with lots of other websites. Our VPS based hosting plans listed above have their own IP addresses, effectively giving your hosting it’s own, unique identity.
11. ‘Plesk’ control panel
We believe in supplying hosting with an easy to use control panel, and most of our hosting plans come with our in house control panel. However our Reseller Hosting comes with the Plesk control panel. This has many features such as a WordPress toolkit and a popular migration tool. The Plesk migration tool will move websites in bulk from other popular control panels such as cPanel.
Our own control panel is built for ease of use and we try to ensure you’re not blinded with options and settings. When it comes to changing bulk settings for sites on your Reseller Hosting we’re happy to advise you on using Plesk. We have a handy Plesk guide which will help you with the most common Plesk queries.
12. Web hosting with ‘PCI compliance’
If you are taking sensitive information through your website, such as credit card details, personal information and passwords, PCI compliance can be required by law. You’ll need to undergo independent checks on your hosting too. We currently offer PCI compliant WordPress hosting and PCI compliant e-commerce Business Hosting as well.
13. Unlimited ‘bandwidth’
Bandwidth in web hosting refers to how many people can visit your site. Bandwidth means putting a number on the amount of visitors you can have to your website each month. Some hosting companies limit page views or limit the amount of bandwidth you can use. We prefer you and your site to be able to grow happily with us, so we give you unlimited bandwidth with 34SP.com managed hosting.
14. ‘Snapshots’ feature
Snapshots was a feature widely requested by our users; simply put, it’s a way to take a copy of your website at the click of a button and have the option to restore it or download it offline to do as you please. Much like taking a backup. Snapshots are available on our WordPress Hosting plan right now and will be available shortly on our Reseller Hosting too.
When we talk to you about SMTP, we’re actually talking about the system we use for you to able to send emails. It gives you freedom to send email from one server to another and it can also be set up with limitations by your host to control how many mails you can send per day and size etc. With that in mind we lead into…
16. IMAP / POP
IMAP and POP refer to incoming email. They have different setups and shape the way your email reaches you as the end user. We prefer to recommend IMAP over POP for the simple reason that IMAP can detect mail changes in real time. IMAP lets you setup your email to come through to your home computer, your tablet and your mobile phone. You can then open your email on your mobile phone and your other devices will recognise that it’s been read.
POP on the other hand downloads your mail to just one device. This can be good for you if mail is something you don’t check or use often and generally only do so through a single device such as your home computer.
17. Nameservers / DNS
DNS or nameservers are the online equivalent of a phone book. When you pop in your domain name to the address bar of your browser and search for it, the nameservers (phone book) look the domain up and see which server it needs to connect to, to load your website. When you migrate your website to a new provider you usually need to change the nameserver settings so your domain name will point to the correct place.
18. One click ‘staging area’
What is a staging area and why is it good to have one? Everybody knows someone or can think of someone who has their own website, but are not necessarily technically minded. That person may need decide they want to add a new photo or maybe a bit of news information to their site and think that it’s okay to make changes to their live site. NO no no. Never edit your live site! That’s why we have many people using our inbuilt staging area on our WordPress Hosting plan. It features a once click button to pull a copy of your live site to the staging area so you can edit it. Then after it’s been edited you can preview it. If you’re happy click once again and push it to live.
This means you can update your website safely and avoid the risks of potentially breaking your website or taking it offline. We cannot stress the importance of having a separate staging area.
19. WHOIS opt out
The WHOIS database is a public record of who owns each domain name and lists their contact details. Unfortunately, that means it can be a great resource for unsolicited mailers out who want to sell you their latest, greatest product. While spam filters are getting better, they can’t eliminate everything.
We often get requests from users looking to hide their information to avoid or lessen this type of unsolicited mail. WHOIS opt out is something you can activate to give yourself a better chance of avoiding these nuisances. It works with .com domain names and many others to hide your personal details on your publicly accessible WHOIS record.
You’ll see us talk about this a lot, especially on our blog posts about WordPress Hosting. Server side caching is something we use to help make your website run really fast. When you get a large amount of traffic to your website, most visitors are viewing the same set of pages. Normally, that page has to be created from scratch for each visitor, putting strain on your hosting service.
The most common form of caching means identifying the page receiving the most attention, storing a copy of that page once it’s been created the first time, and then showing that copy to your new visitors. This way the page doesn’t have to be created over and over and your website can perform speedily.
Caching can also sometimes interfere with the changes you’ve made on your site, so if you’ve made a change to your site and pushed it live, don’t be upset if you don’t see the changes straight away. Give it a few minutes or ten and check again. The chances are caching could be doing its job and you’ll be seeing an older copy.
These are just a few of the items I’ve become familiar with over the years by learning from my colleagues. There are many more but we’re always happy to help you cut through the jargon. I’m the type of person who learns by asking other people directly, I find it much easier than Googling and being overwhelmed by too much information. If you’re the same, then web hosting with phone support is a necessity; having the option to speak to another human being can be of tremendous benefit.