12 IT Jargon Terms to Help You Understand Your Tech Needs

Wondering what that technical term means? Maybe this will help.

IT is full of technical language many business owners find hard to understand. This makes it harder for them to make business decisions about their IT needs. If you’re confused about the terminology on some of your supplier contracts, or simply don’t know what your business needs to function more smoothly, here’s a few terms that might help.

1. Backward Compatibility

Most of us are familiar with the word “compatible,” meaning that two thing are able to work together. Backwards compatibility refers to newer versions of a technology being able to work with older versions.

For instance, when Windows updates its operating system, it usually retains backward compatibility with older versions of Word or PowerPoint until a certain amount of time has passed. After a few years, Windows expects most users to have updated to newer versions of that software, and no longer supports the outdated versions.

2. Cache

A data cache is a way of storing frequently-accessed information in a way that it can be retrieved more efficiently upon request. For instance, caches are frequently used by web browsers to load previously-visited web pages more quickly.

However, to be efficient, caches must be relatively small. Overtime, a cache can grow too large, take up unnecessary space, and cause your computer to slow down rather than speed up. When this happens, the cache must sometimes be cleared to make space for new files.

3. Cookies

An HTTP cookie is a small file sent by a website and stored in your browser to help the website remember pertinent information about the website visitor. This information could include usernames and passwords, address information, or browsing activity.

While cookies perform many essential and valuable functions for a website, they have also raised privacy concerns and can be a security vulnerability.

4. Fragmentation and Defragmentation

Fragmentation happens as files are saved or deleted from a disk, and new files are saved to occupy the space of the old. Defragmentation is the process of reordering the files on the disk so that like files are stored together and in the proper order.

5. Latency

Latency refers to the delay between stimulation and response. You’ve probably noticed it over a video call with a bad connection, where there’s a lag between what you’re hearing over your microphone and what you see on your video. It can also refer to the “slowness” of a computer, such as when you move your mouse across a screen but it doesn’t respond right away.

Latency has a growing significance for businesses who rely on cloud-based applications. To be usable, a service must provide low enough latency that the user doesn’t notice any delay. This is hard to deliver on programs that run large amounts of data, but improvements in technology are reducing latency in many places.

6. Licensing

Software licensing is a way for software providers to prevent copyright infringement. Typically, when you purchase a software program, you are issued a license to use the software on a certain number of devices, with a certain number of users, or for a certain time period.

Because the terms of various software licenses vary by manufacturer, it’s sometimes difficult for large organizations to keep track of how many licenses they own, and when they are set to expire. Software license management helps organizations comply with their license agreements.

7. Log File and Log File Management

Computers keep a record of actions a log file which tracks when a file was opened, edited, renamed, deleted, etc. These files are maintained for various purposes, mostly those pertaining to security, systems operations, and compliance. If something goes wrong with your system, or if someone tries to break in, a log file will show you what took place—and when.

However, for these files to be of use, someone must monitor and maintain them. Log file management is the process of reviewing, resolving, and saving log files so that any bugs or security breaches are resolved in short order.

8. RMM

Remote Monitoring and Maintenance (RMM) refers to a broad range of IT tasks that a provider can perform remotely, without having to come in to your offices or have physical access to your computer systems.

9. Scalability

Scalability refers to the ability of hardware or software to grow to match the demands of an increased workload. For instance, one of the common benefits of a cloud server is its ability to scale at need, without the user having to buy a new server rack every time their old one ran out of space.

Similarly, business owners who anticipate hiring more staff should consider the added demands these users will place on their network. Will their network be able to handle the increased traffic, or will the owner need to invest in extra infrastructure? Owners who expect to expand in the future but aren’t there yet can still plan their networks so that they are more scalable for the future.

10. Scripting and Maintenance Scripting

A script is a special program used to automate tasks that a human operator would otherwise have to execute one-by-one. Maintenance scripting creates and deploys scripts to run routine administrative, maintenance, and reporting tasks.

11. Systems optimization

This refers to various ways in which systems or programs are modified to run more smoothly. Defragmentation, maintenance scripting, and caching, and log file maintenance are all forms of systems optimization.

12. VPN

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows users to use a public network to remotely access a network, such as a company intranet, securely. VPNs help remote workers access company files securely, and can also help separate offices share files as though they were located in the same space.

There’s no avoiding IT jargon—and that’s OK.

The word “jargon” is often used as a pejorative to complain about language that seems needlessly opaque. However, jargon serves an important purpose, in that it helps professionals communicate very specific information to each other in terms they both understand. Because IT is such a technical field, it has more jargon than most. Hopefully, understanding what it all means will help you make more confident decisions about your business’s IT needs.

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