Hosting, domains, DNS, SSL, CMS… what does it all mean?

If you have or manage a website, potentially baffling terms such as website hosting, domain names, DNS, SSL certificates, CMS, email addresses and email clients will crop up at one point or another. To help you understand what these terms mean so you can make better decisions about your website and have conversations you can actually understand, we’ve put together a quick guide and infographic that show you how they all work together.

The overview

This infographic explains how all these different systems work together so that visitors can access your website and send you emails. Keep reading for an explanation of each of the key terms. You can also find a downloadable version of the infographic at the bottom of the page.

Domain name

The name of your website

Your domain name is the name of your website – what you type into an address bar to go directly to your website. For example,, You buy domain names from a domain registrar (for example 123Reg,, Go Daddy) but never on a lifetime basis. Typically you can buy a domain name for anywhere between 1 – 10 years, after which you need to pay to renew it. If you don’t, it will be released back into the public and anyone else can buy it.


The system that connects visitors to your website and emails to your business email address

DNS (Domain Name System) is the system that connects your domain name with your hosting. When a visitor types in, the DNS connects them with your website. It does this through sending them to the unique IP address of your website host. Your DNS also enables emails to be sent to your business email address e.g. by sending them to the unique IP address of your email host.

Website hosting

Where your website lives

Website hosting refers to the server (a computer connected to the internet) where your website lives. Every website needs hosting so your customers can find you online. Every host or server (the terms are interchangeable) has an IP address; this is a string of unique numbers which the DNS uses to connect visitors to your website when they type in your domain name.

Your website

Your website is made up of three main parts:

  • Your design and functionality – this is the overall look-and-feel of your website (colours, fonts etc.) as well as all the features and functionality your website contains e.g. the ability to send a contact form, search for team members, buy something, subscribe to your newsletter, view the website from a desktop, tablet or mobile.
  • Your database – this is where all your content and data is saved. For example, the words and images on your various pages; records of any enquiries or orders; a list of users for the membership portal.
  • Your Content Management System (CMS) – this is the tool that enables you to manage your website content, i.e. add a news article, change the images on your home page slider, edit some text on one of your existing pages.

SSL Certificate

The certificate that secures and encrypts your website data

An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate means that at the start of your domain name, you’ll see https:// (note the ‘s’, which stands for secure) and a padlock symbol. This secures and encrypts any data your website processes; for example, if a customer sends an enquiry contact form or purchases something from your store. All websites (even non e-commerce websites) should have an SSL, because Google warns people visiting sites without SSL that their personal information may be stolen.

Business email address

An email that ends with your domain name

A business email is one that ends with your domain name, e.g. as When someone emails you, it’s your DNS that sends it to the right place (your email hosting).

Email hosting

Where your emails live

Like your website, emails need to live on a server (a computer connected to the internet). This can sometimes be the same server as your website hosting, but more frequently, emails are hosted on a different server optimised for email hosting specifically.

Email client

The system you use to send/ receive emails

An email client is whatever system or application you use to login to in order to send and receive emails. Popular businesses email clients include Outlook 365, GSuite (gmail for business) and various webmail services.

Download the infographic

You can download a copy of the infographic here.

Any questions?

If so, feel free to get in touch and we’d be happy to help. Six Two specialise in web design in Kent.

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