IT Glossary | Network Management Solutions

Glossary

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Adware

Adware is any software program that automatically generates advertising during installation or use to capture revenue for its developer.  Toolbars that sit on your desktop or work with your browser are one common example.  Some free programs, games, and utilities are also designed as adware, running sponsor ads while the programs are open until you decide to purchase it.  Most adware is safe to use, but some is programmed as spyware that tracks the Internet sites you visit and presents advertising related to the goods or services featured there.  This becomes a privacy and security issue. Back to Top of page

Application  (App)

An “application,” “application program,” or “app” is a software program designed to perform useful tasks of interest to the user.  Web browsers, e-mail programs, office suites, accounting programs, games, and media players are some examples of applications.  These run ‘on top’ of the system software that manages and integrates the capabilities of your computer.  You can often choose which applications you want to install and run on your computer. Back to Top of page

Backing up

The process of “backing up” refers to copying and archiving computer data in the event that your original data is lost or becomes unusable.  This archive is then called a “backup.”  Backups can also be used to recover versions of your data from an earlier time.  Backing up is extremely important, because there are many ways that your information can become damaged or disappear.

Hardware failure is one—computers rely on moving parts to access data, and a malfunction can cause files to become unrecoverable.  Software can also become corrupted and damage data.  Files can be mistakenly deleted, or corrupted by viruses or other software attacks.  Fortunately, there are many different types of data storage devices useful for making backups. Back to Top of page

Browser

A web browser, often just called a “browser,” is the program you use to access, retrieve, and view information on the World Wide Web.  It functions to interpret HTML code (the “language” that web pages are written in) to display a nicely formatted page to the viewer.  Some common browsers are Google Chrome, Foxfire, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera. Back to Top of page

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a term used to describe computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered over the Internet as services, similar in ways to how electricity is delivered to a community over “the grid.” Anyone with an Internet connection can access ‘the cloud’ and share data with other online users.  In general, the cloud is a just metaphor for the internet. Back to Top of page

CPU

CPU is an acronym for “Central Processing Unit,” also known as a “processor.”  This device is the brain of your computer, managing all necessary computing tasks, from the most basic instructions to complex functions. Back to Top of page

Cyberspace

This non-specific term most commonly refers to the virtual world that exists between all computers.  For example, while waiting to receive an e-mail you know was sent by your friend, you could say that the message seems to be lost in cyberspace. Back to Top of page

Data

Computer data is information processed or stored by a computer in the form of text documents, images, audio clips, software programs, or other types of data.  Computer data is generally processed by the computer’s CPU and is stored in files and folders on the computer’s hard drive.  At its most basic level, all computer data is binary—composed of zeros and ones—and for that reason it can be created, processed, saved, transferred, and stored digitally. Binary data is ultra-stable.  It does not deteriorate over time or lose quality with multiple uses. Back to Top of page

Data Management

Data management refers to the way individuals, companies, and organizations control, protect and deliver the information on their computers.  It consists generally of organizational plans, policies, programs, and best practices.  While computer data is intangible, it is also a very valuable information asset.  For this reason, comprehensive data management is extremely important. Back to Top of page

Desktop

Your computer’s desktop is the screen environment that you customize and interact with.  It works much like a physical desktop in that it gives you access to commonly used items.  It typically consists of icons, toolbars, folders and files, wallpapers and windows.  Placement on the desktop allows you to access items quickly instead of going through the directories on your hard drive each time you want to open them. Back to Top of page

Download

This is the process by which data is sent to your computer from a remote system.  Whenever you receive information from web server, email server, or similar system, it has been downloaded to your computer.  The opposite of this process, sending information to another computer, is called uploading. Back to Top of page

End User

An end user is the person that a software program or hardware device is designed for.  Generally, the terms “user” and “end user” mean the same thing. Back to Top of page

Firewall

A “firewall” is a security tool that ultimately controls the type of data allowed to enter and exit your computer, or computer network, via the internet.  In a nutshell, a firewall will protect your computer from damage caused by unauthorized, outside electronic access.  They can be either hardware or software-based, but the ideal firewall will consist of both, because each type provides different kinds of protection.  Today, internet-routers are the most common examples of built-in (hardware-based) firewalls, and are more difficult to customize.  Software-based firewalls are included features within many anti-virus program packages, and their options are often fully customizable. Back to Top of page

Gateway

A gateway is a technological bridge that links two networks together, so data can be transferred between multiple computers.  They can be either hardware or software-based, but both types produce the same result.  When you send an e-mail to a friend, there is a gateway that allows that connection take place.  Also, many times your connection to a Web site will involve various smaller connections to other servers along the way.  In these cases, multiple gateways are used. Back to Top of page

Hacker

Originally, a “hacker” was a technologically-savvy, clever, expert-programmer.  Recently, “hackers” are more accurately described as the modern-day-pirates of the computing world.  They are technologically-versed individuals, with the ability to gain unauthorized access to other people computers.  Hackers will “hack” their way through the security levels of a computer system or network.  This can be as simple as figuring out somebody else’s password or as complex as writing a custom program to break another computer’s security software.  They usually have malicious, unethical, destructive (and in most cases – criminal) intentions, and are the reason software manufacturers release periodic security updates to their programs. Back to Top of page

Hardware

Computer hardware refers to any physical part of your computer or other related devices.  Hardware can be split into two categories: internal hardware, and external hardware.  Internal hardware (often referred to as “components”) consists only of the hardware that is found inside of your computer.  Examples include the motherboard, hard drive, RAM, sound card, graphics card, even the internal fan.  External hardware (referred to as “peripherals”) includes monitors, keyboards, mice, printers, scanners, and all other pieces of hardware that exist outside of the computer. Back to Top of page

Internet

Often described as ‘a network of networks,’ the internet is a vast computer network, linked by a variety of modern technologies.  It allows for millions of people to instantly share information over long distances.  Created in 1969 by the United States military, the Internet was intended to exist as a “nuke-proof” communications network.  The Internet and the World Wide Web are two different things.  The World Wide Web is one of the many features of the Internet, along with E-mail, FTP, and Instant Messaging. Back to Top of page

Intranet

Not simply a typo, the Intranet is a term that refers to a local communications network that operates within the confines and guidelines of the Internet, and uses World Wide Web software.  It is basically a smaller, private network that exists internally between members of an organization. Back to Top of page

ISP

Stands for “Internet Service Provider.”  It is the company that you pay a monthly fee to in order to use the Internet.  Examples include: Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and Time Warner. Back to Top of page

IT

Stands for “Information Technology,” (pronounced “I.T.”).  IT can refer to anything related to computing technology and telecommunications, or the people that work with these technologies.  IT jobs include computer programming, network administration, computer engineering, Web development, technical support, and many other related occupations. Back to Top of page

Malware

Short for “malicious software,” malware refers to software programs designed to damage or do other unwanted actions on a computer system.  Common examples of malware include any type of virus, worm, trojan-horse, or spyware.   Anti-virus and anti-spyware programs will seek out and destroy malware programs on your computer, and thus help to protect your computer from any negative effect of malware. Back to Top of page

Network

When you have two or more computers connected to each other, they create a “network.”  The purpose of a network is to enable the sharing of files and information between multiple systems – quickly.   Network connections can be established through the use of cables – such as Ethernet cables or phone lines, or by using wireless networking cards that send and receive data through the air (wireless). Back to Top of page

Operating System

Also called an “OS,” this is the software that supports your computer’s most basic functions.  The OS communicates with your computer’s hardware on the most basic level.  It executes applications, manages tasks, accesses all the storage facilities, and most importantly – serves as the user interface.  Without an operating system, no software programs can run.  Windows 7 is an example of an OS. Back to Top of page

PC

Simply stands for “Personal computer.”  The term “PC” can be used to describe any computer that was designed for individual use.  PCs are the machines most of us use daily, either for work or play.  A typical PC includes a system unit, monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

The term “PC” can be a bit ambiguous, because Apple/Macintosh computers are often contrasted with PCs.  However, Macs are technically PCs themselves.  So – if you use a computer at home or at work, you can safely call it a PC. Back to Top of page

Platform

In the computer world, a “platform” typically refers to a computer’s operating system.  Technically, the term includes your computer’s hardware and software framework and architecture, whose combination allows any given application or program to run.  For example, a Dell computer running Windows XP would be considered to be running on a Windows platform. Back to Top of page

Pop-Up

The term “pop-up” has two possible computer-related meanings:

      1. Pop-Up Window: A browser window that opens without the user selecting “New Window” from the program’s File menu.  Pop-up windows typically contain some kind of advertisement, and can appear when you first visit a page, or after you close a window.  Some pop-up ads show up in front of the main window, while others show up behind the main browser window.  They could also be an indication that your computer is infected with malware.
      2. Pop-Up Menu:  A type of menu that pops up on the screen when the user right-clicks a certain object or area. It can be also called a contextual menu, since the options are relevant to where the user right-clicked on the screen.  Pop-up menus provide quick access to common program functions and are used by most operating systems and applications.

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Remote User

A remote user is someone who controls a computer from specific location that is different from the location of the computer itself.  For example, if you forgot to bring a specific file from your work computer home to review before discussing it with your coworkers tomorrow, you might be able to connect to your work machine from your home computer and grab the file.  When you access your office computer from home, you are considered a remote user. Back to Top of page

Router

This is a hardware device that forwards – or routes – data from a local area network (LAN) to another network connection.  A router acts like a coin sorting machine, allowing only authorized machines to connect to other computer systems. Back to Top of page

Search Engine

This term identifies any Web-based software-code that is designed to find user-specified information on the World Wide Web.  Google, Excite, Lycos, AltaVista, Infoseek, and Yahoo are all examples of search engines.  These engines index millions of Web sites and create their own private databases, which are then navigated internally in order to provide users with “relevant” results. Back to Top of page

Software

Computer software is a general term that describes computer programs.  Software programs, applications, scripts, and instruction sets all fall under the category of computer software.  Therefore, installing new programs or applications on your computer is synonymous with installing new software on your computer. Back to Top of page

Spyware

As a type of malware, this is software that “spies” on your computer.  Spyware can potentially record a variety of personal information, like Web browsing habits, e-mail content, specific usernames and passwords, credit card information, etc.  The software then transmits this data to another person’s computer over the Internet.  Firewalls and anti-spyware software can help protect your computer from invasive spyware. Back to Top of page

Storage Capacity

Storage capacity is another term for “disk space.”  It measures how much data a computer system may contain.  The standard unit of measurement for that data is a “byte.” However, the byte is now so comparatively small in regards to contemporary technology, the smallest data unit mentioned is usually the “kilobyte” (kB), which is 1000 bytes.  Common modern storage capacities average around 750 gigabytes (GB), or 750,000,000 kilobytes. Back to Top of page

Troubleshooting

This is the process of identifying and fixing problems.  Computer troubleshooting may involve issues with either hardware or software, or both.  The basic process of troubleshooting is to check the most general possible problems first, and then gradually check for more specific problems.  This provides a logical approach to problem solving and can apply to multiple types of products. Back to Top of page

Upload

While downloading is receiving a file from another computer, uploading is the exact opposite.  It is the process of sending a file from your computer to another system.  It is possible to upload and download at the same time, but it may cause slower transfer speeds, especially if you have a low bandwidth connection. Back to Top of page

User Interface

A user interface, or “UI,” refers to the general means in which someone interacts with a software program or hardware device.  A user interface of software, also known as a GUI (graphical-user interface), may include a mix of icons, menus, and clickable buttons – all displayed in a program’s main window.  An example of a piece of hardware’s UI is any type of remote control, or a gaming console’s controller.  Most modern user interfaces include a combination of both hardware and software aspects, as in navigating a program’s main window by using of your mouse. Back to Top of page

Utility

Utility programs, or “utilities,” are any type of software that somehow helps analyze, configure, optimize, and maintain proper upkeep of your computer.  Some utility programs help keep your computer free from other, unwanted, software, while others allow you to customize your desktop and user interface.  Some examples include disk cleanup/repair tools, anti-virus programs, or any data back-up software. Back to Top of page

Wireless

In the computing world, the term “wireless” may refer to several different types of technology.  The two most common types of wireless capabilities are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Wi-Fi is the technology used for wireless internet access, and networking.  You computer’s wireless card transmits and receives data to and from a specific wireless router, via high-frequency radio signals.  Wireless routers are in-turn connected to a network, cable modem, or DSL modem, providing Internet access to anyone connected to the wireless network.

Bluetooth is the technology similar to Wi-Fi, generally used in the development of wireless keyboards, mice, printers, headphones, and headsets.  Bluetooth wirelessly exchanges data over short distances, using high-frequency radio signals.  Bluetooth is especially used in establishing a wireless technological connection between two pieces of hardware. Back to Top of page

Workstation

Mainly, a workstation is a place where work gets done.  The term refers to a computer and its immediate surrounding area, that has been set up to perform certain, specific tasks – such as photo editing, audio recording, or video production.  Many workstations carry out specific functions that are smaller parts of a larger project, and so – they are often networked together, allowing computers to send files back and forth with ease. Back to Top of page