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Home > Knowledgebase > Can I get more information on commonly-used technical terms?

Question/Problem
Can I get more information on commonly-used technical terms?

Answer/Solution
Here's a list of common technical terms and what they mean - both in general and at FatCow. Use your browser's "find" command to dig deeper.
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.htaccess file (also known as a distributed configuration file) is a text file that contains commands (directives) that tell Apache and other NCSA compliant Web servers how to behave in certain instances. The file provides a way to make configuration changes on a per-directory basis.

Some of the most common uses of an .htaccess file include restricting access to certain directories through password protection, redirecting URLs and setting custom error pages.
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.htpasswd is used to create and update the flat-files that store usernames and passwords for basic authentication of HTTP users. This file is used with the .htaccess file when you want to password protect a directory to restrict access to authorized users.
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Catch-all is FatCow's term for the handling of email messages that are sent to addresses at your domain names that do not exist. FatCow delivers messages to the mailboxes and forwarding addresses you have created. All other messages sent to your domains are handled by the catch-all option for your plan.

Most of the catch-all messages are spam. Spammers often try to guess the email addresses at a domain. They send messages to commonly used addresses, such as sales@domain.com and john@domain.com.

By default, catch-all messages are bounced (returned to sender). If the email is spam, you won't have to worry about it. If it is legitimate, the sender will be notified that the address is not valid and can resend the email to the correct address.

You can also specify to have the messages deleted or saved in special catch-all mailbox. Review the catch-all settings for your plan on the Set Catch-All Option page.

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DNS record (also known as a zone file) is a small set of instructions for resolving specified Internet domain names to the appropriate number form of an Internet Protocol address (an IP address).

Each domain needs to have a DNS record on the machine controlling the IP address on which a Website is hosted (nameserver). At FatCow, DNS records are located on our nameservers NS1.fatcow.com and NS2.fatcow.com.

A DNS record is basically a list of directions for where to send the Web user. The three main types of requests from the user are:

  • HTTP - Web page requests.

  • FTP - FTP servers can be directed to the same or a different server than the Web requests.

  • Mail - The email can be sent to the same or a different server than the Web requests. The mail entries in a DNS record are also known as MX records.


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Domain name is the unique name that identifies an Internet site. Domain Names always have 2 or more parts, separated by dots. The part on the left is the most specific, and the part on the right is the most general. A given machine may have more than one Domain Name but a given Domain Name points to only one machine. For example, the domain names:


  • matisse.net

  • mail.matisse.net

  • workshop.matisse.net

can all refer to the same machine, but each domain name can refer to no more than one machine.

Usually, all of the machines on a given network will have the same text as the right-hand portion of their Domain Names (matisse.net in the examples above). It is also possible for a Domain Name to exist but not be associated with an actual machine.
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DSN connection is short for Data Source Name. Data Source Name provides connectivity to a database through an ODBC driver. The DSN contains database name, directory, database driver, UserID, password, and other information. Once you create a DSN for a particular database, you can use the DSN in an application to call information from the database.
There are three types of DSNs:

  1. System DSN -- can be used by anyone who has access to the machine. DSN info is stored in the registry.

  2. User DSN -- created for a specific user. Also stored in the registry.

  3. File DSN -- DSN info is stored in a text file with .DSN extension.


DSN is often used by Active Server Pages (ASP) and Visual Basic programs when a query to a database is necessary to retrieve information.


There is also what is known as a "DSN-less connection." Instead of using a DSN to connect to a database, the developer specifies the necessary information right in the application. With a DSN-less connection the developer is free to use connection standards other than ODBC, such as OLE DB.
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Email client is an application that runs on a computer or workstation to send, receive and organize email. It's called a client because email systems are based on a client-server architecture. Mail is sent from many clients to a central server, which re-routes the mail to its intended destination. An email client lets you choose to leave messages on the server or delete them after downloading them.

Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, Netscape Communicator and Eudora are popular email clients.
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Forward is a term that refers to an email address to which messages can be sent. On FatCow, forwards can be configured to route messages to different locations, including external addresses, mailboxes, lists of names, trash, and return to sender.

In effect, when an email is received by FatCow's mailserver, the TO address on the message is compared to the list of forwards FatCow has on file. If it matches, the mailserver follows the directions in the forward. If it doesn't match, the message is routed to the catch-all address, or primary email address on the account.
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FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, the protocol for exchanging files over the Internet. FTP is most commonly used to download a file from a server using the Internet or to upload a file to a server.
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Host name is a text-based name for any computer on a network that is a repository for services available to other computers on the network. It is quite common to have one host machine provide several services, such as SMTP (email) and HTTP (Web). A given host name can only belong to one IP address at a time. The host name mywebserver.com, for example, may refer to machine 116.27.33.128 today and to a different address tomorrow, but there can only be one mywebserver.com at a time.
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IP (Internet Protocol) address (sometimes called a dotted quad) is a unique number consisting of 4 parts separated by dots (e.g. 165.113.245.2). Every machine that is on the Internet - whether it is an industrial-grade Web server or a simple PC - has a unique IP address. Sometimes IP addresses are assigned dynamically to machines when they connect to the Internet, but every address is unique and only refers to one machine at a time.
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Log files list every request made to your Website. Every time a visitor tries to access your Website, certain information is added to your log file. Your log files are updated throughout the day, so you always have access to current information. You can view logs online or download the files for use with offline statistic analysis software, such as WebTrends or FastStats.
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Mailbox refers to the account on a traditional mail server where email messages are received and stored. When a message is delivered to a mailbox, it is written onto the disk of the mail server until retrieved by mail client software. Client software gives you the option of leaving the message on the server or deleting it after downloading it.

Mailboxes require a username and login combination to retrieve stored messages.

Many popular email client applications exist to retrieve messages from mailboxes, including Netscape Communicator, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and Eudora.
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Mail server is a machine which receives, processes, and stores email messages. Each user traditionally has an account on a mail server, into which his/her mail is deposited. Mail servers can be accessed directly or by email clients to retrieve mail.
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Merchant account is an account that accepts and holds funds from credit card transactions. These accounts can be established through merchant service providers (MSPs) like banks or via independent service organizations such as CardService International.
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MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a specification for formatting non-ASCII messages so that they can be sent over the Internet or displayed by a Web browser.

Many email clients now support MIME, which enables them to send and receive graphics, audio and video files via the Internet mail system. Web browsers also support various MIME types, which enables them to display or output files that are not in HTML format.

There are many predefined MIME types, such as GIF graphics files and PostScript files. It is also possible to define your own MIME types.
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MX records refer to the mail settings in a DNS record. These records tell the sending mail server the name of the receiving mail server to which email should be directed. A DNS record can list multiple mail servers for a given domain, and these can be prioritized in order of importance. If one receiving mail server is not available, the sending mail server will try the next in order of priority, and so on until the message is delivered. Low priorities come before high priorities.
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Name server is a machine which processes requests for domain names from Web browsers. When one types yahoo.com into the address window of a Web browser (like Internet Explorer or Netscape Communicator), the browser must match that URL with an IP address. It does so by providing the domain name to the name server, which responds with the appropriate IP address. The Web browser then communicates directly with the machine referred to by that IP address.

Name servers must always be kept up-to-date with the constantly changing world of domain name/IP address combinations. They do so by regularly updating their listings by synchronizing their data with other name servers around the world. This is why new domain names or domain name changes take 24-48 hours to propagate throughout the name server network.
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Payment gateway is the technology that processes the credit card transactions from online stores and directs payments to a merchant account.
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SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that transmits your communications over the Internet in an encrypted form. SSL ensures that the information is sent unchanged only to the server you intended to send it to.

A URL that begins with https:// rather than http:// indicates a secure page that is encrypted using SSL. Online shopping sites frequently use SSL technology to safeguard your credit card information.
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Whois is a public directory of domain name and IP address information. When you register a domain name, your name, postal address, email address and phone number are automatically published in the Whois database. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit body responsible for accrediting domain name registrars, requires that this personal information be accurate and available for anybody to view on the Internet.

You can perform Whois searches at various sites, such as NetworkSolutions.

You can protect your personal information in Whois records with Domain Privacy.
Updated 10/23/14


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