When You Don’t Speak Geek

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Search Definitions

The IT industry is chock full of its own lingo. Below are definitions for some of the common words and terms in today’s technology vocabulary.


Access point: A device that allows wireless-equipped computers and other devices to communicate with a wired network.

Authentication: The process of identifying yourself and the verification that you’re who you say you are. Computers where restricted information is stored may require you to enter your username and password to gain access.

Bandwidth: A measurement of the amount of data that can be transmitted over a network at any given time. The higher the network’s bandwidth, the greater the volume of data that can be transmitted.

Bit: A binary digit (either 0 or 1); it is the most basic unit of data that can be recognized and processed by a computer.

Break/Fix: This is a support model that some companies choose to support their technology.  Typically, this means they will call someone to fix something after it breaks. This is not proactive support and can be more expensive than having a support plan.

Bridge: A device used for connecting two Local Area Networks (LANs) or two segments of the same LAN; bridges forward packets without analyzing or re-routing them.

Broadband Connection: A high-speed Internet connection; at present, cable modems and DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) are the two technologies that are most commonly available to provide such access.

Browser: A program used to access World Wide Web pages. Examples: Edge, Chrome, etc.

Buffer: On a multitasking system, a certain amount of RAM that is allocated as a temporary holding area so that the CPU can manipulate data before transferring it to a particular device.

Business Continuity: Activity performed by an organization to ensure that critical business functions will be available to customers, suppliers, regulators, and other entities that must have access to those functions. Business Continuity is not something implemented at the time of a disaster; Business Continuity refers to those activities performed daily to maintain service, consistency, and recoverability.

BYOD: Bring Your Own Device or “BYOD” is a business and technology policy that allows employees to bring in personal mobile devices and use these devices to access company data, email, etc.

Cable Modem: A special type of modem that connects to a local cable TV line to provide a continuous connection to the Internet. Like an analog modem, a cable modem is used to send and receive data, but the difference is that transfer speeds are much faster.

Cache: A set of files saved on your hard disk that help your browser display pages you have already visited more quickly.

Carrier Services: A carrier is a company like CenturyLink/Lumen or Spectrum that provides internet services and phone lines for a residence or business.  Typically, their services stop at the building and a technology vendor or employee will handle the inside work of the network and phones.

Client: A program or computer that connects to and requests information from a server. A client program also may be referred to as “client software” or “client-server software”.

Cloud: A common shorthand for a provided cloud computing services (or even an aggregation of all existing cloud services) is “The Cloud”. The cloud, simply, refers to software and services that run on the Internet instead of your computer. Apple iCloud, Dropbox, Netflix, Amazon Cloud Drive, Flickr, Google Drive, Microsoft Office 365, Yahoo Mail — those are all cloud services.

Cookie: A small piece of information you may be asked to accept when connecting to certain servers via a web browser. It is used throughout your session as a means of identifying you. A cookie is specific to, and sent only to the server that generated it.

CPU: Central processing unit; the part of a computer that oversees all operations and calculations.

Cross-Platform: Cross-platform (a.k.a. agnostic, agnostic application and agnostic platform) refers to something that is interoperable among different operating systems, systems and platforms. Cross-platform, however, is more focused on software that can run on any operating system and on any processor architecture.

Cybersecurity: Computer security, cybersecurity or information technology security (IT security) is the protection of computer systems and networks from information disclosure, theft of or damage to their hardware, software, or electronic data, as well as from the disruption or misdirection of the services they provide.

Data Center: Facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and storage systems. Generally, includes redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls (e.g., air conditioning, fire suppression) and security devices.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP): A set of tools and processes used to ensure that sensitive data is not lost, misused, or accessed by unauthorized users. Data loss prevention software detects potential data breaches/data exfiltration transmissions and prevents them by monitoring, detecting, and blocking sensitive data while in use, in motion, and at rest.

Database: A collection of information organized so that a computer application can quickly access selected information; it can be thought of as an electronic filing system. Traditional databases are organized by fields, records (a complete set of fields), and files (a collection of records).

Devices: Input devices include things like microphones, keyboards, mouse, touchpads, wheels, joysticks, etc. Output devices include printers, monitors, projectors, and speakers.

DHCP: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol; a protocol that lets a server on a local network assign temporary IP addresses to a computer or other network devices.

Disaster Recovery: Disaster recovery is the process, policies and procedures related to preparing for recovery or continuation of technology infrastructure critical to an organization after a natural or human-induced disaster. Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity. While business continuity involves planning for keeping all aspects of a business functioning in the midst of disruptive events, disaster recovery focuses on the IT or technology systems that support business functions.

Disruptive Technology: New technology that surprisingly displaces an already established one.

DNS: The domain name system (DNS) is how computers convert human-readable domain names and hostnames to numerical IP addresses. When you type www.commwestcorp.com into your web browser’s address bar, your computer contacts its DNS server and the DNS server replies with the numerical IP address of CommWest server, which is what your computer connects to.

Domain Name: The base part of website names like commwestcorp.com or google.com. Note that domain names are just another type of hostname.

Domain: Part of an Internet address. The network hierarchy consists of domains and subdomains. At the top are a number of major categories (e.g., com, edu, gov); next are domains within these categories (e.g., ohio-state); and then there are subdomains.

Download: The process of transferring one or more files from a remote computer to your local computer. The opposite action is upload.

E-mail Archiving: A typically a stand-alone IT application that integrates with an enterprise email server. In addition to simply accumulating email messages, these applications index and provide quick, searchable access to archived messages independent of the users of the system, using different technical methods of implementation.

E-mail: Electronic mail; the exchange of messages between users who have access to either the same system or who are connected via a network (often the Internet). If a user is not logged on when a new message arrives, it is stored for later retrieval.

Encryption: The manipulation of data to prevent accurate interpretation by all but those for whom the data is intended.

Endpoint Security: The practice of securing endpoints or entry points of end-user devices such as desktops, laptops, and mobile devices from being exploited by malicious actors and campaigns.

Ethernet Card: An adapter card that fits into a computer and connects to Ethernet cabling; different types of adaptor cards fit specific computers.

Ethernet: The standard wired network technology in use almost everywhere today. If your computer is connected to a network via a cable, it’s likely using an Ethernet cable. That cable plugs into an Ethernet port on your computer.

Expansion Card: Also, referred to as an expansion board; a circuit board you can insert into a slot inside your computer to give it added functionality. A card can replace an existing one or may be added in an empty slot.

Extension: A suffix preceded by a period at the end of a filename; used to describe the file type. Example: On a Windows computer, the extension “.exe” represents an executable file. This can also refer to the short internal number assigned to an employee (business phone extension).

Filter: Refers to: 1) a program that has the function of translating data into a different format (e.g., a program used to import or export data or a particular file); 2) a pattern that prevents non-matching data from passing through (e.g., email filters); and 3) in paint programs and image editors, a special effect that can be applied to a bit map.

Firewall: A piece of software or hardware that blocks certain types of traffic. For example, a firewall could block incoming traffic on a certain port or block all incoming traffic except traffic coming from a specific IP address.

Flash Drive: A small device that plugs into computer’s USB port and functions as a portable hard drive.

Flash Memory: A type of memory that retains information even after power is turned off; commonly used in memory cards and USB flash drives for storage and transfer of data between computers and other digital products.

Gateway: A device that routes traffic between networks. For example, at home, your router is your gateway. It provides a “gateway” between your LAN and WAN.

Gigabyte (Gig or GB): 1024 x 1024 x 1024 (2 to the 30th power) bytes; it’s usually sufficient to think of a gigabyte as approximately one billion bytes or 1000 megabytes.

Greyware: Greyware (or grayware) refers to a malicious software or code that is considered to fall in the “grey area” between normal software and a virus. Greyware is a term for which all other malicious or annoying software such as adware, spyware, trackware, and other malicious code and malicious shareware fall under.

Handshaking: The initial negotiation period immediately after a connection is established between two modems. This is when the modems agree about how the data will be transmitted (e.g., error correction, packet size, etc.). The set of rules they agree on is called the protocol.

Hard Disk: A storage device that holds large amounts of data, usually in the range of hundreds to thousands of megabytes. Although usually internal to the computer, some types of hard disk devices are attached separately for use as supplemental disk space. “Hard disk” and “hard drive” often are used interchangeably but technically, hard drive refers to the mechanism that reads data from the disk.

Hardware: The physical components of a computer including the keyboard, monitor, disk drive, and internal chips and wiring. Hardware is the counterpart of software.

Help Desk: An information and assistance resource that troubleshoots problems with computers or similar products.

Host: A computer accessed by a user working at a remote location. Also refers to a specific computer connected to a TCP/IP network like the Internet.

Hostnames: A human-readable label that points to a device connected to a network. For example, on your home network, your Windows computer’s hostname may be WINDOWSPC. Your other devices can connect to WINDOWSPC and will be pointed at that computer’s local IP address.

HTML: HyperText Markup Language; a language used for creating web pages. Various instructions and sets of tags are used to define how the document will look.

HTTP: The hypertext transfer protocol is the standard protocol modern web browsers and the web itself uses.

Hyperlink: Connects one piece of information (anchor) to a related piece of information (anchor) in an electronic document. Clicking on a hyperlink takes you to directly to the linked destination which can be within the same document or in an entirely different document. Hyperlinks are commonly found on web pages, word documents and PDF files.

Hypertext: Data that contains one or more links to other data; commonly seen in web pages and in online help files. Key words usually are underlined or highlighted. Example: If you look for information about “Cats” in a reference book and see a note that says “Refer also to Mammals” the two topics are considered to be linked. In a hypertext file, you click on a link to go directly to the related information.

IMAP: Internet Message Access Protcol. A method of accessing e-mail messages on a server without downloading them to your local hard drive; it is the main difference between IMAP and POP3 which requires messages to be downloaded to a user’s hard drive before the message can be read.

Internet of Everything (IoE): Coined by Cisco, the term “Internet of Everything” is defined as the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. The benefit of IoE is derived from the compound impact of connecting people, process, data, and things, and the value this increased connectedness creates as “everything” comes online.

Internet of Things (IoT): The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the billions of physical devices around the world that are now connected to the internet, all collecting and sharing data.

Internet: A worldwide network based on the TCP/IP protocol that can connect almost any make or model of popular computers from micros to supercomputers. Special programs called “clients” enable users with a network connection to do things like process e-mail or browse web sites using the familiar interface of a desktop computer.

IP Address: An Internet Protocol address, or IP address, is a numerical address that corresponds to your computer on a network. When a computer wants to connect to another computer, it connects to that computer’s IP address.

ISP: Your Internet service provider is the company that provides you with your Internet connection. For example, your ISP may be Spectrum, CenturyLink, or whatever other company you’re paying each month.

IT Manager: An individual who does precision guesswork based on unreliable data provided by those of questionable knowledge.

Java: A general purpose programming language commonly used in conjunction with web pages that feature animation. Small Java applications are called Java applets; many can be downloaded and run on your computer by a Java-compatible browser like Firefox or Internet Explorer.

JavaScript: A publicly available scripting language that shares many of the features of Java; it is used to add dynamic content (various types of interactivity) to web pages.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group; a graphics format which compresses an image to save space. Most images imbedded in web pages are GIFs, but sometimes the JPEG format is used (especially for detailed graphics or photographs). In some cases, you can click on the image to display a larger version with better resolution.

LAN: A local area network is a small network that’s confined to a local area. For example, your home network or an office network is a LAN. Connects a group of computers for the purpose of sharing resources such as programs, documents, or printers. Shared files often are stored on a central file server.

Localhost: The hostname “localhost” always corresponds to the device you’re using. This uses the loopback network interface — a network interface implemented in software — to connect directly to your own PC.

MAC Address: Each network interface has a media access control address, or MAC address — also known as a physical address. This is a unique identifier designed to identify different computers on a network. MAC addresses are usually assigned when a manufacturer creates a network device.

Mail Server: A networked computer dedicated to supporting electronic mail. You use a client program like Microsoft Outlook for retrieving new mail from the server and for composing and sending messages.

Main Memory: The amount of memory physically installed in your computer. Also referred to as “RAM”.

Mainframe: A very large computer capable of supporting hundreds of users running a variety of different programs simultaneously. Often the distinction between small mainframes and minicomputers is vague and may depend on how the machine is marketed.

Malware: Software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer; common examples of malware include viruses, worms, trojan horses, and spyware.

Managed Antivirus: A centrally managed software option that protects all of the computers at a business from virus threats. The “managed” part means that an IT provider installs the software on a company’s computers and other devices and schedules regular scans to check for issues, as well as ensuring the programs are updated and monitors the health of the network.

Managed Service Provider – An MSP is a company that manages your network services and devices using tools to allow them to support work remotely.  Typically, on a proactive bases supporting users and networks.  An MSP is a form of outsourced IT support.

Managed Workstations: Reduces downtime, improves maintenance, increases productivity and data security through an effective blend of Help Desk and on-site support and centralized deployment of software patches and virus protection updates.

MDM: Mobile Device Management; Any routine or tool intended to distribute applications, data, and configuration settings to mobile communications devices. The intent of MDM is to optimize the functionality and security of a mobile communications network. MDM must be part of a coherent “BYOD strategy”.

Megabyte (Meg or MB): Used to measure the speed of an internet connection and the speed of a network work.   1,024 x 1,024 (2 to the 20th power) Bytes; A megabyte is a million bytes.  Bytes are the 1s and 0s that are transmitted for data communications.

Modem:  A black box that a carrier’s circuit will connect to and then hands off as ethernet (network) connection to a switch or router.  IT will have some color LED lights on it that indicate the status.  Most have just a single button that is the power switch.

Monitor: The part of a computer that contains the screen where messages to and from the central processing unit (CPU) are displayed. Monitors come in a variety of sizes and resolutions. The higher the number of pixels a screen is capable of displaying, the better the resolution.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): An authentication method in which a computer user is granted access only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism: knowledge, possession, and inherence. Two-factor authentication is a type, or subset, of multi-factor authentication.

NAS: Network Attached Storage – this is s box that holds a single or multiple hard drive and is connected on the network for file storage.  It can be set up with Rights to allow people access or denies access for others.  It is not a server and will not run applications or programs.

NAT: Network Address Translation; a standard that enables a LAN to use a set of IP addresses for internal traffic and a single IP address for communications with the Internet.

Network adapter: A device that connects your computer to a network; also called an adapter card or network interface card.

Network hub: A common connection point for devices on a network.

Network Interface / Network Adapter: Your computer’s wired Ethernet connection and Wi-Fi connection are basically both network interfaces. If your laptop was connected to both a wired connection and a Wi-Fi network, each network interface would have its own IP address. Each is a different connection.

Network: A group of interconnected computers capable of exchanging information. A network can be as few as several personal computers on a LAN or as large as the Internet, a worldwide network of computers.

Patch: Piece of software designed to update a computer program or its supporting data, to fix or improve it. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, and improving the usability or performance.

PC: Usually refers to an IBM PC or compatible, or when used generically, to a “personal computer”.

Phishing: A con that scammers use to electronically collect personal information from unsuspecting users. Phishers send e-mails that appear to come from legitimate websites asking you to click on a link included in the email and then update or validate your information by entering your username and password and often even more information, such as your full name, address, phone number, social security number, and credit card number.

Plug and Play: A set of specifications that allows a computer to automatically detect and configure a device and install the appropriate device drivers.

Pop-up Blocker: Any application that disables the pop-up, pop-over, or pop-under ad windows that appear when you use a web browser.

Port: When an application wants to send or receive traffic, it has to use a numbered port between 1 to 65535. This is how you can have multiple applications on a computer using the network and each application knows which traffic is for it.

Proactive Monitoring: Often referred to as Remote Monitoring and Management or “RMM” continually monitors the stability and security of your IT system for maximum uptime. It tracks and maintains your desktops, routers, mobile devices, and networks from a centralized console.

Program: A set of instructions that tells a computer how to perform a specific task.

Protocol – TCP, UDP, ICMP, etc.: Protocols are different ways of communicating over the Internet. TCP and UDP are the most common protocols. The ICMP protocol is also used, but primarily so network devices can check each other’s status. Different protocols are ideal for different types of communication.

QoS: Quality of service; is the ability to provide different priority to different applications, users, or data flows, or to guarantee a certain level of performance to a data flow. For example, a required bit rate, delay, jitter, packet dropping probability and/or bit error rate may be guaranteed.

RAM: Random Access Memory provides space for your computer to read and write data so that the CPU can find it quickly and easily. When people refer to memory upgrades they are usually talking about RAM.

Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malicious software, or malware, designed to deny access to a computer system or data until a ransom is paid. Ransomware typically spreads through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website.

Remote Desktop: A Windows feature that allows you to have access to a Windows session from another computer in a different location

Remote Login: An interactive connection from your desktop computer over a network or telephone lines to a computer in another location (remote site).

RJ-45 Connector: An eight-wire connector used for connecting a computer to a local-area network. May also be referred to as an Ethernet connector.

Router: A device used for connecting two Local Area Networks (LANs); a device that passes traffic back and forth. It’s that router’s job to pass outgoing traffic from your local devices to the Internet, and to pass incoming traffic from the Internet to your devices.

Safe Mode: A way of starting your Windows computer that can help you diagnose problems; access is provided only to basic files and drivers.

SAN: A storage area network (SAN) is a dedicated storage network that provides access to consolidated, block level storage. SANs primarily are used to make storage devices (such as disk arrays, tape libraries, and optical jukeboxes) accessible to servers so that the devices appear as locally attached to the operating system.

Serial Port: An interface on a computer that supports transmission of a single bit at a time; can be used for connecting almost any type of external device including a mouse, a modem, or a printer.

Server: A computer that is responsible for responding to requests made by a client program (e.g., a web browser or an e-mail program) or computer. Also referred to as a “file server”.

Social Engineering: The art of manipulating people into giving up confidential information, usually through technology. Social engineering aims to take advantage of a potential victim’s natural tendencies and emotional reactions.

Software: Any program that performs a specific function. Examples: word processing, spreadsheet calculations, or electronic mail.

Spam: Email spam, also known as junk email or unsolicited bulk email (UBE), is a subset of spam that involves nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by email. Definitions of spam usually include the aspects that email is unsolicited and sent in bulk.

Spear Phishing: Phishing attempts directed at specific individuals or companies is known as spear phishing. In contrast to bulk phishing, spear phishing attackers often gather and use personal information about their target to increase their probability of success.

SSL: Small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. Typically, SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins, and more recently is becoming the norm when securing browsing of social media sites.

Switch: A switch serves as a controller, enabling networked devices to talk to each other efficiently. Through information sharing and resource allocation, switches save businesses money and increase employee productivity.

System Hardening: The process of securing a system by reducing its surface of vulnerability, which is larger when a system performs more functions; in principle, a single-function system is more secure than a multipurpose one. Reducing available ways of attack typically includes changing default passwords, the removal of unnecessary software, unnecessary usernames or logins, and the disabling or removal of unnecessary services.

Telephony: Telephony encompasses the general use of equipment to provide voice communication over distances, specifically by connecting telephones to each other.

Trojan Horse: A harmless-looking program designed to trick you into thinking it is something you want, but which performs harmful acts when it runs.

URL: A uniform resource locator, or URL, is also known as a web address. The current URL is displayed in your web browser’s address bar.

USB Port: An interface used for connecting a Universal Serial Bus (USB) device to computer; these ports support plug and play.

USB: Universal Serial Bus; a connector on the back of almost any new computer that allows you to quickly and easily attach external devices such as mice, joysticks or flight yokes, printers, scanners, modems, speakers, digital cameras or webcams, or external storage devices.

Username: A name used in conjunction with a password to gain access to a computer system or a network service.

Virtualization: The creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system, a storage device or network resources. In hardware virtualization, the term host machine refers to the actual machine on which the virtualization takes place; the term guest machine, however, refers to the virtual machine.

Virus: A program intended to alter data on a computer in an invisible fashion, usually for mischievous or destructive purposes. Viruses are often transferred across the Internet as well as by infected diskettes and can affect almost every type of computer. Special antivirus programs are used to detect and eliminate them.

VoIP: Voice over Internet Protocol; a means of using the Internet as the transmission medium for phone calls. An advantage is you do not incur any additional surcharges beyond the cost of your Internet access.

VPN: Virtual Private Networking; a means of securely accessing resources on a network by connecting to a remote access server through the Internet or other network.

WAN: A wide area network is a larger network that covers a wider area. Your ISP provides you with a connection to their own WAN, which connects to the Internet.

WAP: Wireless Application Protocol; a set of communication protocols for enabling wireless access to the Internet.

Wi-Fi: Wireless Fidelity; A generic term from the Wi-Fi Alliance that refers to of any type of 802.11.). Products approved as “Wi-Fi Certified” (a registered trademark) are certified as inter-operable with each other for wireless communications.

Wireless (networking): The ability to access the Internet without a physical network connection. Devices such as cell phones that allow you to send and receive email use a wireless Internet connection based on a protocol are called WAP.

WLAN: Wireless Local Area Network; the computers and devices that make up a wireless netwo

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