Protocol: Set of rules by which various Internet devices communicate between themselves to transmit data. For example IP, ATM, FTP. See transfer protocol.
Rack: An expensive set of shelves. This is the metal cabinetin which various servers sit and which the IT department guards jealously. The flickering array of lights is one of the few Star Trek innovations to make it into the real world.
Redundancy: Nothing to do with the dreaded P45. This simply indicates the presence of back-up systems to take over if it all goes wrong.
Remote user: In networks, remote refers to anything not connected directly to your computer. Remote users can therefore be considered as anything from a laptop user in reception, to a road warrior in Germany, to your “homeworking” boss in his bed. New networking technologies such as VPN allow these users to be connected into the corporate network securely and inexpensively over the Internet.
Resilience: See Failover.
Router: A device that forwards data to the correct destination. Effectively a set of railway points across two or more networks,
forwarding data off one and onto another and ensuring your data stays on track. Routers communicate amongst themselves to determine the best path for forwarding the data. Commonly these act as gateways between two LANs, a LAN and a WAN, or a LAN and the ISP's network.
SDSL: See DSL.
Server: The daddy computer on a network which manages all the network resources. Generally these are kept in racks and guarded by the IT manager. Often there will be separate servers to manage files, printing, email, network traffic and databases. Servers can generally be accessed by all computers on the network, so for instance any user can save files onto the file server or access their mailbox.
Service Level Agreement: Often abbreviated to SLA, this is a contract between two parties that commits a service provider to guaranteed levels of system performance across various indicators, and appropriate penalties if these are not met. Normally SLAs relate to things such as uptime or response time, i.e. how reliable your Internet connection is.
Software: Not a range of comfy slippers advertised within Daily Mail supplements but the programs and routines that control the functioning of the hardware and direct its operation.
Software patch: If you get a puncture you pop a patch on it. Software patches are simply pieces of code to repair holes or bugs in applications and operating systems. It is important to impose a strict patching policy to ensure your systems stay secure. See Virus.
Spam: Unsolicited emails, generally begging for your help to release funds from an obscure bank or promising to increase the size of your manhood. Spam filters run by your ISP or on your computer can help to reduce this irritation. Incidentally the name is derived from Monty Python's spam chanting Vikings, the link being it just won't shut up.
Switch: See Hub.
Transfer protocol: The software language spoken across the Internet. This comes in more dialects than Chinese, but the two main ones are: File Transfer Protocol (FTP) for moving entire files onto and off the Internet and Hyper Text Tranfer Protocol for download only. HTTP defines how messages are formatted and transmitted, and what actions Web servers and browsers should take in response to various commands, i.e. when you type in a URL, what happens next. HTTP's close relative is HTML or Hyper Text
Markup Language, this covers how web pages are displayed and formatted.
Trojan horse: Not a Greek porn star, but rather a nasty piece of malware. See Virus.
URL: you-arr-el. Uniform Resource Locator. Interestingly this can help you locate a woggle and scout cap but is capable of far more. It is the address you tap into your browser, for instance: http://www.viatel.com. The first part instructs the browser to use HTTP protocol to fetch the webpage from the Web, whilst Viatel is the domain name.
Virus: A malicious program that runs on your computer without your knowledge or permission. Variously known as trojans, worms or plain old viruses dependent upon their behaviour. The effects of viruses can vary from annoyance, pop-up messages, to complete system failure. Common methods of entry include via email, or through unpatched security breaches. A firewall, anti-virus
application, and regular patching are the best defence. Penicillin is no protection.
VoIP: vee-oh-eye-pee or vuh-oy-puh. Voice over IP, commonly pronounced vee-oh-eye-pee. A term applied to both the hardware and software that allows you to make phone calls over the Internet. The advantages are cheapercalls and the ability to integrate telephone calls with your PC applications.
VPN: Virtual Private Network: A method of connecting computers securely over the public Internet or shared networks. All data transmitted is encrypted and only available to authorised users. Useful for setting up inexpensive and flexible corporate networks. It is rather like the way the Queen travels; whilst she's speeding along a public road, she's protected by blacked-out bullet proof windows and police officer outriders. Unlike the way the Queen travels VPNs are cheap to run.
WAN: See LAN.
WLAN: Increasingly wireless LANs are becoming popular. These as the name indicates dispense with wires and instead communicate via radio waves. As radio waves travel through walls. it is important to consider the security of the network and to ensure your firewall covers both the wired LAN and the wireless LAN.
Web page: A document on the World Wide Web, every page has a URL.
Web server: See server.
World Wide Web/www: See Internet.
Worm: See Virus.
XML: ex-em-el. XML stands for eXtensible Mark-up Language and is a way of sharing data across different computer systems and applications. Basically any digital device in the future should be able to both create and view XML files allowing data to be swapped from one application to another. Just received a party invite as a word document? No problem - it'll transfer into your diary automatically, so no excuses for missing the mother-in-law’s birthday.
The above is an edited selection of terms from the Viatel Technobabble dictionary