Getting online and using modern technology is almost a requirement for small businesses in the 21st century. But, along with the technology, you often get a lot of jargon that means nothing to an inexperienced user. Here, Viatel has put together a list of 'technobabble' and what it means. You can download a full guide to technobabble by clicking on a link at the end of the list.
ADSL: See Broadband and DSL
Anti-virus: Not a humbug sucking relative, but a software program that protects the internal company computer network from malicious software. Commonly run in association with a firewall and a spam filter.
ASP: Application service provider, these host applications, such as financial packages, supply chain management databases for companies and lease expensive software packages to reduce initial capital outlay, but do not provide the Internet connection.
ATM: Asynchronous Transfer Mode. A networking protocol allowing data to be transmitted rapidly, see transfer protocol. Most commonly deployed on very large corporate networks and across international telecommunications links.
Attachment: A file or document that has been included with an email. Opening attachments from unknown sources is one of the most common ways of contracting a virus, aside from travelling on the London Underground.
Bandwidth: A measure of the data capacity of your connection, or how much information can be squeezed down your line. Similar to plumbing, a sewer pipe will carry more water than the small bore pipes that supply your taps, hence the common expression "You need a fatter pipe". Measured in bits per second.
Broadband: An ‘always-on’ Internet connection in contrast to dial-up. Broadband comes in more flavours than ice-cream. Speeds range upwards from 256 kbps, but standard offeringsat present go up to 2 Mbs. To tailor the speed and cost you can choose how many other companies share your line (the contention ratio). Further variety comes with asymmetric and symmetric connections – see DSL.
Browser: Software allowing you to access the World Wide Web. The browser translates HTML into meaningful sounds and pictures. The two most popular browsers are Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator. Bit (kb, Mb, Gb): The smallest unit of information on a computer, and the basis of the logic that underpins all modern day systems. See bytes.
Bits per second (bps): The amount of data transmitted from one device to another per second. Common abbreviations are kbps (Kilobits per second – a thousand bits) and Mbps (Megabits per second – a million bits). See bits.
Bytes (KB, MB, GB): A unit of storage capable of holding a single character, a byte is normally equal to 8 bits. Common divisions are kilobytes (1,024 bytes), megabytes (1,048,576 bytes), and gigabytes (1,073,741,824 bytes). The correct abbreviation for bytes is a capital B. A lowercase b indicates bits.
Co-location: Placing your server, usually a Web server, in a dedicated facility to ensure it stays up and running, and is kept safe and secure. This removes the risk of it being unplugged by the cleaner as they vacuum your office. See hosting, failover and data centre.
Contention ratio: The number of other organisations sharing your bandwidth. Normally expressed as a ratio, 20:1 means you might have to share your connection with up to 19 others. The bandwidth offered is the maximum available and actual speeds will often be much lower. Essentially the same as trying to travel by car on the M25; on a busy day everybody slows down.
Data centre: A managed facility containing racks of servers monitored by technical staff. ISPs will generally run their own data centres or lease space and staff in one. Essential to provide effective co-location and hosting services. Also known as Internet Hotels, but you wouldn't want to try and strike up a conversation in the bar.
DHTML: Dynamic HTML, simply web content that changes every time it is viewed. See transfer protocol.
Disaster recovery: An umbrella term for technologies and services that ensure the IT functions of a company are interrupted for the shortest time possible in case of an unforeseen event such as fire, flood or yak stampede. At the most basic level this is storing back-up copies of data on tapes or servers at an alternate location. ISPs generally provide a range of services – often backing up systems remotely over your Internet connection. See Failover.
DNS: Domain Name Server. The World Wide Web runs on numbers. Just as you might phone Bob on 020 876 etc., the IP address for www.viatel.com is rendered as 22.214.171.124. Domain Name Servers are the equivalent of Directory Enquiries converting these numbers back into names so that they're easier for humans to remember.
Domain name: A name linked to one or more IP addresses. Domain names are used within URLs. For example in
www.startups.co.uk/glossary, www.startups.co.uk is the domain name.
DSL (ADSL/SDSL): Digital subscriber line – the most common type of Broadband connection as it can be run over existing phone lines, rather than over specially laid cable, or wireless connections. The various letters to be found in front of DSL indicate whether the connection is Asymmetric – where it’s quicker to download than send data, or Symmetric – where it’s as quick to send as to receive data.
e-commerce: Not a colloquialism from Yorkshire but a general term for conducting business online. One of the few survivors from a nineties trend of prefixing the letter 'e' onto common activities. Another survivor is email.
Email: Electronic mail – communications sent over the Internet. Generally your Internet Service Provider will set you up with a mailbox and also software to scan incoming emails for viruses and spam. One of the most productivity boosting technologies to emerge in the past ten years, and an excellent way of keeping in touch with your customers, friends and all manner of fraudsters. See Spam.
Encryption: See PKI.
Ethernet: See LAN.
Failover: A backup system to ensure critical IT systems keep running. Such measures are said to improve resilience and redundancy.
Fibre network: A network where data is transmitted as pulses of light over glass fibres. This is a faster alternative to sending electrical signals over copper wires, which have traditionally formed our telephone lines. Mainly used for long distance and data rich communications, these fibre links are very expensive to maintain and most firms tend to lease capacity on others’ networks. Some larger firms, especially international operators actually own the fibre-optic network.