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Pro SharePoint 2010 Governance by Corey Erkes, Steve Wright

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Types of SharePoint Content Containers

A SharePoint server farm may contain many thousands of sites and millions of individual pieces of content. This content is logically organized from the user's perspective into sites, lists, and libraries. However, to effectively manage content, it is necessary to understand the physical layout as well.

The highest-level container within a SharePoint farm is the web application. A web application maps directly to an Internet Information Services (IIS) web site and indirectly to one or more Uniform Resource Locators (URLs). Web applications expose content through their URLs and control features such as the authentication of users to the site.

Each web application is associated with one or more content database. ...

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