IT glossary of common technology terms

Jargon is a fact of life in the IT industry, and the deeper you delve into the technicalities of technology, the more you’ll encounter. The thought of keeping up with an ever-evolving industry may seem intimidating. Still, if you hope to stand at the forefront of your field, you must learn what is required to represent your business in a competitive market.

Fortunately, ITS Group is here to help you absorb the information you need to succeed. The following list covers the technical terms and abbreviations you’ll likely encounter on a day-to-day basis, along with a brief explanation of what they mean to you.

Whether you’re doing your research on cybersecurity or working on building your company website, you will benefit from knowing technical terminology. Read on to understand better the IT terms that underpin the web as you know it.

3-2-1 Rule

The 3-2-1 Rule is the cornerstone of secure data protection. The principles are simple – keep three back-ups on at least two devices, with one secured off-site. By doing so, you’re safe knowing that you’ll always have a copy of your data available in an emergency, and in keeping one off-site, you mitigate the risk of localized damage such as flooding or lightning strikes.

BDR (Back-up/Disaster Recovery)

Back-up and Disaster Recovery is the retrieval and reintegration of data lost by hardware fault or catastrophe. An effective BDR strategy hinges on taking frequent back-ups and storing them securely, minimizing the damage done to your business by sudden data loss, and allowing for fast data recovery if the worst occurs.

Break/Fix Providers

Break/Fix is a term describing a level of IT services provided. Break/Fix (as opposed to Managed IT Services) refers to seeking help on an ad hoc basis. Break/Fix Providers charge for the time and materials required to install or repair equipment.  While this approach may seem preferable to fledgling businesses, it makes budgeting for IT expenses haphazard at best.  


In IT terms, your cache refers to how your computer or device stores information. Data storage allows applications to perform tasks more quickly and operate more efficiently. However, you may sometimes need to clear an application’s cache to solve specific problems, so knowing what it is and how to delete it is always handy.


The cloud is a metaphor for online digital storage or remote processing power accessed through an internet connection. Dropbox is an example of a cloud service provider, with access to online storage granted for a monthly fee. Other companies use the cloud more ambitiously, allowing access to networked CPU or GPU stacks for the user to run programs that their PCs can’t accommodate.


Cookies are small snippets of data your web browsers may save for specific sites, often to save passwords you may enter often or to track user behavior and website usage. Website owners use cookies to construct a better picture of their users’ likes and dislikes to tailor their websites to consumers better.

Cookies can pose a cybersecurity risk if misused and any website utilizing them must have a public-facing privacy policy that describes their function.


The CPU (central processing unit) is the ‘brain’ of your computer. Without it, your PC wouldn’t operate at all. CPUs vary in power, with consumer laptops leaning towards the lower end while business systems use higher-powered models for quicker loading and data crunching.


Cybersecurity should be a key consideration of your business from its very first steps into the world. You should strive to maintain strong cybersecurity practices, as by doing so, you diminish the risk posed by threats such as phishing, ransomware, and malware. Cybersecurity utilizes components such as firewalls and virus scanners and is vital to the security of your company data.

Data Analytics

Data Analytics is a term used to describe collecting and analyzing extensive data sets to find patterns and commonalities. You can use these results to improve your performance in whatever area it is you’re researching. You can use services such as Google Analytics to analyze your website’s data, for example, to optimize your page layout and keyword usage to better appeal to audiences.


Data encryption is the storage of information in a different, unreadable format. Data stored in this manner can only be accessed with an encryption key and is useless to anybody accessing it without permission. Encryption is absolutely essential to modern online businesses, keeping the data you hold safe from outsiders, even if they can access it in some manner.


If one IT term has entered the public lexicon, it’s probably a firewall. A firewall is hardware or software that monitors incoming and outgoing data traffic for malicious intent. By modifying your firewall’s rules, you can determine which networks can be trusted and thus decrease the risk of attacks on your systems.


A GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, is a piece of hardware that determines how effectively your PC can output graphics and videos. While all PCs ship with an built-in GPU chip, it may be insufficient depending on the line of work you’re in. Tasks such as video editing, gaming, and photo manipulation require a powerful GPU to run, so if you’re going to do these sorts of tasks regularly, you’ll need a dedicated GPU to get the job done.


Hardware refers to the physical components of your PC and general IT setup. Computers, printers, hard drives, and keyboards are all examples of computer hardware.


A helpdesk, as seen here, is a service often provided by businesses to offer support to customers. This was traditionally performed in call centers, but you can now integrate a helpdesk into your website or application for direct customer support. Helpdesks usually allow customers to create tickets, contact support staff and read pre-written FAQs for advice and solutions.

IoT (Internet of Things)

Internet of things is a loose term created to describe a network designed to facilitate an internet connection for household objects. These can include lights, speakers, cameras, and other such items, and by connecting them all to a single network, you can control them from a single device. Functionality can range from helpful reminders to more mundane tasks, such as dimming the lights or playing a song.

IP Address

An IP Address is an identity tag of sorts, distinguishing your device from others in the area. IP Addresses can be used in many ways, such as prioritizing internet speed to particular devices or blocking others from your network entirely. A VPN can be used to obscure or change an IP address for a time, should you wish.


Malware is software designed to modify your system without your consent, usually with mischievous intent. It’s often disguised as an innocent attachment or download, and once downloaded, it may make unpredictable changes to your PC or device. The effects of malware vary—Trojan viruses often appear to be regular programs that, in fact, discreetly monitor or steal data.

In contrast, ransomware programs can encrypt your PC and demand payment via specified methods for the encryption key. Most malware is malicious by default and should be avoided at all costs through virus protection programs and other cybersecurity measures.


Metadata is data that explains or describes other data. While this might sound somewhat redundant, it’s actually beneficial to you as a business owner. When constructing articles for public consumption, following Search Engine Optimization practices and compiling comprehensive metadata about the content of your work helps engines such as Google decide how authoritative your report is on the subject.

This, in turn, places your content higher in their rankings and earns you more site visits, which is of enormous benefit to growing websites and services.

MSP (Managed Services Provider)

A Managed Services Provider is the opposite of the Break/Fix Service Providers mentioned earlier. An MSP is usually paid a set amount per month in return for proactive monitoring and management, as well as IT services on request. The benefit of this service is that your systems are kept operational, preventing costly downtime. Your technology will be significantly more reliable and the provider’s consulting services will save you headaches down the line. The MSP will be on call whenever an emergency occurs, resulting in less downtime for your business.

Open Source

Open Source is software freely released to the public on an open license, allowing you to take it and modify it with no repercussions. Though most popular software is close sourced, a large community of developers produces software at no cost, either as passion projects or alternatives to commercial projects. Notable examples of open source software include popular OS, Linux, and the web browser Mozilla Firefox.

Operating System

An operating system is a low-level software you rarely think about, acting as the building blocks upon which all other software is built. The most recognizable example is Microsoft Windows, without which you’d be unable to run anything at all. Your PC’s OS allows it to understand and interpret other programs and run them in a visually attractive manner for better ease of use. Though Windows is the most popular OS available, competition is there in Apple’s macOS and Linux, along with a host of smaller projects and Linux forks.


Phishing is a means of extracting data from you by deception. Phishing comes in many forms, some more creative than others, and is usually used to steal financial data or money itself. You should be particularly mindful when opening emails and check the address they’re sent from carefully—a common phishing technique is creating email addresses similar to those of large companies, such as email addresses ending in or

Though these techniques seem absurdly simple, they’re an increasingly popular means by which to extract money from less technologically aware individuals.

RAM (Random Access Memory)

RAM, or Random Access Memory, is a piece of computer hardware that allows your system to store and retrieve data. RAM comes in various sizes and speeds, which dictates how efficiently your system can call upon memory and perform tasks at speed.

Systems lacking in RAM can feel sluggish and slow, as their memory struggles to keep up with required functions. Your business equipment should be suitably equipped so as not to lose time and money due to poor performance.


Ransomware is a particularly nasty form of malware intended to exploit victims by threatening them directly. Once on your computer, ransomware attacks your files, typically encrypting them and leaving a threat behind for the owner. These threats can range from publication of documents to total file deletion, though all include a ransom demand, often to be paid in cryptocurrency.

Ransomware can be financially devastating, so you should absolutely keep up to date on cybersecurity measures and consider a Managed Services Provider to prevent any attacks.

Risk Management

Risk Management is simply the process of identifying potential risks to your cybersecurity and creating structured plans to address them. This process would involve you acknowledging your vulnerability in certain areas, calculating how specific events may exploit those weaknesses, and formulating a plan to prevent this from occurring.


Sandboxing is the isolation of software to its own separate instance or location, preventing it from interacting with other systems. You may choose to do this for various reasons, such as concerns regarding malware. It’s often practiced in web development, where site updates are first initialized inside a sandbox to assess any potential bugs and errors that occur as a result. Once finalized, this sandbox would then be pushed to the live site for users to see.

Server Hosting

Server Hosting is similar in definition to the previously discussed cloud. In essence, hosted servers are towers of hard drives networked and hosted online for you to access for a fee. Since the dawn of the internet, server hosting has been popular, with most websites hosted on another company’s servers. While self-hosting is always an option, server hosting companies such as Bluehost are a reliable alternative due to the scale of their operations.


Software is the non-physical aspect of IT – namely, the operating system and the software running within it. Millions of pieces of software exist, some commercially and others as hobby projects and forks of other projects.

Software as a Service(SaaS)

Software as a Service (SaaS) is software offered on a subscription basis, which has become a widespread practice over the past two decades. Some of the most prolific pieces of software operate in this manner, such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Cloud. Because most SaaS products are centrally operated, they benefit from being accessible anywhere, making them particularly useful if you often travel for business.

Two-Factor Authentication/Multi-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor/Multi-Factor Authentication is a best-practice cybersecurity solution. By activating multi-factor authentication for your system, account, or email, you will be required to enter the password you set before authenticating your login on a separate device, such as a phone or authenticator app. Your business must use such an authentication system because a single data leak can compromise every account you manage.

By requiring multi-factor authentication, you will significantly enhance access security for your data, making it much harder for cybercriminals to breach systems and accounts.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a means of ensuring your cybersecurity remains intact while browsing online. By connecting to a VPN, you’re able to send and receive data on public networks securely by connecting remotely to a private connection, such as a business network. A VPN allows you to encrypt your data and keep it safe from prying eyes for your business and your client’s safety.

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