This glossary of home and small-business IT terms is written in a way to help you understand these terms that will crop up in the blog whether through editorial or advertisement.
3G: May also be marketed as NextG by some operators. One of many wireless-broadhand transmission technologies (HSDPA or HSUPA) that uses GSM-based cellular mobile-telephone technology to transmit data to the customers.
4G: One of many wireless-broadband transmission (LTE or WiMAX) technologies that can move data over a cellular mobile-telephone system at a rate faster than the 3G technologies.
Adaptive All-In-One: Sometimes referred to as a desktop tablet computer, a tablet computer that has a screen of between 18″-27″ and capable of running on integrated batteries for two to three hours. These computers can be set up to work as a desktop computer through the use of a kickstand or pedestal and a detachable keyboard.
ADSL: A standard high-speed method of transporting data down a regular telephone line between the exchange and the customer that permits the telephone line to be used for regular voice-grade traffic. while the data is being transferred It is considered the most common way of providing broadband Internet to the residential and small-business user. The commonly deployed version of ADSL is ADSL2+ which provides an increased throughput over the first-generation ADSL technology and allows for longer distances as well as “naked” (no telephone service) deployment.
1: A desktop computer with the computing and display circuitry integrated in either the screen or the keyboard. A classic example of this is the early Apple Macintosh computers or the Apple iMac series of computers.
2: Sometimes described as a multifunction printer, a printer that has an integrated scanner and the ability to copy and, in some cases, fax documents or print from digital-camera memory cards and similar removeable storage.
ATA (Analogue Telephone Adaptor): A device which connects an orthodox analogue telephone to a network to provide IP telephony service to that telephone. It has digital-analogue circuitry to pass both sides of the conversation in to the IP telephony service while a call takes place, uses the telephone’s keypad with its Touch-Tones for call management as well as using its ringer to announce incoming calls.
Backbone: Also known as a backhaul. A common path used for transferring data between network infrastructure devices or network client devices.
BIOS: The software that runs in a computer just after it is switched on in order to initialise the computer before loading the main operating system. It can also be used to describe firmware that is part of a dedicated computing device.
Bluetooth: Named after Harald 1 “Bluetooth” who built up the Danish kingdom, this is a standard for a 2.4GHz wireless peripheral interconnection system that is commonly used with mobile devices, but can be used with regular computer peripherals.
Bluetooth Smart: Of a Bluetooth-based peripheral device especially one that performs a sensor or controller role, designed to work on the low-power version of this standard and cannot work with Bluetooth host devices that don’t support this standard.
Bluetooth Smart Ready: Of a Bluetooth-based host device like a smartphone, tablet or computer; capable of working with low-power “Bluetooth Smart” peripheral devices as well as orthodox Bluetooth peripheral devices.
Broadband: A term used to describe any always-on Internet service that can transfer data at a rate of at least 512kbps.
Broadcast-to-LAN: Also can be referred to as broadcast-to-network, this describes a network device that receives radio or TV broadcasts using one or more broadcast tuners connected to a regular aerial (antenna), cable-TV system or satellite dish; then streams the content of the broadcasts on to an IP-based local computer network. The broadcasts are then received using computer equipment running network-media-player software or one or more smart TVs or network media adaptors in a similar manner to Internet-streamed content.
Cable modem: A wired-broadband modem that provides broadband Internet service using cable-TV infrastructure. This term is also used to describe wired-broadhand Internet service provided through cable-TV infrastructure.
Content Distribution Network: Also known as a Content Delivery Network or CDN. This is a network of multiple Internet-facing computer servers located in different geographic areas used to make content available from an online resource in an efficient, secure and highly-available manner. These networks typically host the data local to the end-users, provide firewall capabilities for the online resource and offer fault-tolerance by serving content from other servers if any server or Internet connection fails.
Convertible: Of a laptop or notebook computer, able to become a tablet computer by the user sliding or swivelling the screen or folding the screen over the back of the keyboard.
CPE (Customer Premises Equipment): A term used to describe modems and similar equipment installed at a customer’s premises in order to provide the customer with a communications service such as broadband Internet. It is typically used more to describe the equipment that would be typically provided and installed at the premises by the service provider.
Crossplay: A feature in video games capable of online multi-player multi-machine play that are written for different video-game platforms and computing-device operating systems to allow players behind different platforms or operating systems to engage in the same online gaming space.
Dedicated Graphics: A graphics-processing setup for a regular computer that uses its own processor and RAM to realise the what is shown on the screen. This setup is considered to be of high performance and earns its keep with graphics-intensive tasks like multimedia work, computer-aided-design or fast-paced games.
Desktop Computer: A regular computer that is designed to be used at one’s desktop and not intended to be portable. Typically, computers of this class are run primarily on AC power and can have a separate system unit with integrated secondary storage, computing circuitry and display or can have the secondary storage, computing and display circuitry integrated in the display or keyboard.
DoS (Denial Of Service): An attack on a computer server or network that prevents it from fulfilling its role to provide computing services to other users. A DDoS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack is where multiple computers are used to cripple the computer server or network. Here, the effect is similar to a “hotline” phone number that ends up being busy and returning an engaged (busy) tone to the caller.
DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol): A client/server Internet protocol that is involved in the assigning of network and Internet information such as the IP address and DNS server address to network client deviices when they connect to the network. In a small network, the network’s “edge device” like a router maintains the function of a DHCP server providing this information to all of the devices that are connected to this network.
DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance): See UPnP AV – A super-standard for networked AV devices that includes compatibility with UPnP AV network devices.
DNS (Domain Name Server): A server computer that keeps a directory of all of the domain names (user-friendly names for Internet resources such as Web pages or email servers) and their IP addresses in order to allow you to find them using these names. This is typically referenced by an IP address that is held on your computer and is learnt of from your network’s router. Effectively, the DNS server is the Internet’s equivalent of the traditional White Pages telephone directory which would list the names and telephone numbers of every telephone-service customer in the geographic area that it covers.
Driver: A piece of software running on a host computer that provides a logical interface between that computer’s operating system or application and a peripheral device like a printer.
Ethernet: A tern currently used to describe the essential standard for data transmission over a network. Currently this term is used to describe network connections using dedicated in-building copper wiring infrastructure, commonly unshielded twisted-pair cabling terminated with RJ45 modular connectors. The same term also applies to describe the patch cables used to connect network equipment to each other for data transfer.
Extended Service Set: A Wi-Fi wireless network segment that is identified by a particular SSID and WEP / WPA security-parameter set. The segment can be served by one or more access points as long as they have the same wired backbone or WDS distribution infrastructure.
Firewall: A hardware device or software program that works as a data gatekeeper to protect a computer or network against unauthorised and malicious data traffic.
Firmware: Any software that is installed in a dedicated-function computing device to enable it to perform its duty. Also is used to describe the BIOS software that runs in a computer to initialise the computer before loading the main operating system.
Fixed-Wireless Broadband: A term for any broadband service that uses radio waves to transmit data from a base station to a customer’s premises using equipment that isn’t designed to be relocatable by the customer; including a fixed outdoor antenna (aerial).
Flash Memory: A term used to describe any non-mechanical data-storage system that uses integrated circuits to store data in a non-volatile way.
FTTB (Fibre To The Building / Fibre To The Basement): A fibre-optic next-generation broadband setup that has the fibre-optic cable run to a multiple-tenant building like a shopping centre or apartment block and has copper-based cabling to distribute Internet service to the customers within that building.
FTTC (Fibre To The Curb / Fibre To The Cabinet): A fibre-optic next-generation broadband setup that has fibre-optic cable run to a street-side cabinet that covers a neighbourhood. The customers are connected to this cabinet using copper-based wiring methods like Ethernet or VDSL2.
FTTH (Fibre To The Home) / FTTP (Fibre To The Premises): A fibre-optic next-generation broadband setup that has fibre-optic cable to the customer’s premises.
FTTN (Fibre To The Node / Fibre To The Neighbourhood): A fibre-optic next-generation broadband setup that is similar to a FTTC (Fibre To The Curb / Fibre To The Cabinet) setup but has fewer street cabinets in the neighbourhood and is intended to have the copper infrastructure served by one cabinet cover a larger number of subscribers in that neighbourhood.
HBBTV: Short for Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV. This is a technology where a Smart TV or set-top device provides large-screen interactive TV experiences based on content drawn from traditional broadcast TV and content drawn from related Web sites.
HomeGrid: An alternative high-throughput wired no-new-wires network technology developed by G.Hn that uses a building’s AC wiring, TV coaxial-cable or traditional telephone cable infrastructure to convey data across a local area network.
HomePlug: A technology that is considered as the standard for using a building’s AC wiring as a data network without displacing the infrastructure’s role as AC power-supply wiring. The high-throughput version of this standard that can move 200Mbps of data is known as HomePlug AV. Also a generic term used primarily in the United Kingdom for a HomePlug-Ethernet bridge that plugs in to the wall.
Host: In computing terminology, a reference to any computer device that performs the main functionality in a computer system or network and benefits from the services provided by the connected device or network.
Hybrid Tablet: Also known as a detachable notebook or described as detachable-screen. A tablet computer with a keyboard that is able to be attached to and detached from the screen to serve as a notebook computer. Initially, some variants of 10″ size were built around mobile-computing architecture and run the Android operating system while larger units are built around regular-computing architecture and run the Windows 8 operating system. But most of these systems, irrespective of the screen size are primarily running Windows 10 and implement a mobile computing architecture capable of running regular computing software.
IGD: Short for Internet Gateway Device: A device, commonly a broadband router, that connects between the local network and the Internet, providing Internet access to all equipment connected to the local network.
IMAP4: An open-standard Internet email protocol that allows the email to be managed from multiple client computers by requiring the email to exist on the mail server
Integrated Graphics: A graphics-processing setup for a regular computer that relies primarily on the host computer’s main processor and RAM. Typically, this is recommended for everyday computer work but is coming close to the performance of baseline dedicated graphics.
Internet Of Things: Currently a goal of the technology industry to extend the benefits if a highly-interoperable Internet to devices other than regular and mobile computers, such as appliances and sensors.
IP Address: A unique numeric address for each device that is connected to any TCP/IP-based network such as the Internet.
IPTV (Internet Protocol Television): Regular broadcast television service delivered through the Internet. This can provide a stream of scheduled brroadcast programming or the term can apply to video-on-demand services offered by regular television broadcasters.
IPv6: A description for the Internet addressing system and standards set that allows for an increased number of IP addresses in a logical network compared to the current IPv4 system.
Laptop Computer: Also called a notebook computer. A relatively-lightweight portable regular computer with an integrated screen and keyboard that, in most cases, runs on its own high-capacity battery and is intended to be capable of being frequently transported or used in a mobile context.
LAN: Short for Local Area Network, a data network that exists for sharing data amongst computer equipment that exists within a premises.
Link-bait: Also called click-bait, a headline or byline associated with a link that uses sensational and enticing text to attract the user and entice them to click on that link. This is typically used to attract people to read something of dubious value, download malware or participate in an Internet scam like becoming a victim of phishing or attracting spam.
Local Loop: Also known as a subscriber loop. The wired telephone connection that exists between the local telephone exchange / central office and the customer’s premises. Used to describe local loop unbundling where the whole of this connection is made available for use by competing service providers.
LTE: A 4G wireless-broadband communications standard that is derived from the 3G HSPA standards and intended to coexist with networks that work on these standards.
Mi-Fi: Also called MiFi, A generic trademark used to describe a battery-powered portable wireless-broadband router that uses Wi-Fi as its local-area network.
Miracast: A Wi-Fi-approved wireless-connection standard that implements Wi-Fi Direct technology to connect a computing device to use an external display device such as a monitor or projector.
Mobile Computer: In this site, I refer to a “mobile computer” as a highly-lightweight computing system where the hardware and software are designed to run for a long time on on a smaller internal battery, has reduced connectivity as required for a low-profile device, as well as having limited display and storage capabilities. Typically these computers encompass smartphones and tablets that run Apple iOS, Google Android or similar mobile operating systems.
MoCA (Multimedia over Coaxial): A technology that is considered as the standard for using the TV antenna (aerial) or cable-TV cabling infrastructure in a premises as a local-area data network without displacing the infrastructure’s role as a TV-signal carrier.
Modem: Short for Modulator / Demodulator. A device that either connects to a computer or similar device to provide communications services for that device over a common carrier like the telephone service. Also a device that connects between a physical interface for a broadband Internet service and a router that works as an Internet Gateway Device.
Modem Router: An Internet-gateway-device router which has an integrated modem, typically an ADSL modem, for connection to the physical interface of a broadhand Internet service.
Naked ADSL: Also known as dry-loop ADSL. Used to describe an ADSL-based broadband Internet service delivered on a phone line that isn’t being used to provide the classic voice telephone service (dial tone).
NAS (Network-Attached Storage): Typically describes a purpose-built dedicated data-storage device with hard disks that is connected to a network. It is different from a regular computer that is pressed in to service as a file server.
Native: Of a client program for an online service, designed and written for its target platform and operating system in the same manner as other software for that platform. This is in contrast to interacting with the online service via a Web page. A native client makes use of what the host platform and operating system offers such as its user-interface abilities; along with offering improved performance.
Network Media Adaptor: Also can be known as a network media receiver, a device that can play media content that is hosted on the Internet or home network through an external display or audio amplifier.
Next-Generation Broadband: A term used to describe a broadband Internet service that is capable of providing a bandwidth of at least 10 Mbps to the customer’s door.
NFC (Near Field Communication): Any data transfer system that wirelessly transfers data between two devices such as smartphones or a device like a smartphone and a passive transponder device like an access card at a very short distance. Typically, the devices are required to touch each other before th data transfer will occur.
ONT (Optical Network Terminal): A modem used to connect a fibre-optic network to a copper-based network.
Operating System: The basic computer software that manages how the computer operates with the peripherals, the primary and secondary storage and the programs that the user runs on the computer. One of the key function includes managing how user-created data is stored on that computer and the network. Typically, this software also provides some programs that provide baseline functionality to the computer like text or image editing along with media management.
Over-the-top: Of a communications or broadcast service normally provided by a regular telephone or cable-TV service, provided using an Internet connection independent of the company providing that Internet connection. The hardware or software for the service is supplied by the company providing it rather than the company providing the Internet connection.
Over-the-top TV: A US term used to describe broadcast or on-demand TV content that is provided independently of the major over-the-air, cable or satellite TV services. It typically describes the TV content that is streamed or downloaded via the Internet.
Peripheral: Any device that is primarily connected to a particular host computer system in order to provide services to that computer system.
Phishing: A security threat against end-users’ personal or business-confidential information. This is where an official-sounding but fraudulent email or other message is sent to that user imploring them to click on a link to a page soliciting personal details, open an attached malware-lade file or reply to the message with the confidential information to the attacker. The user is tricked in to taking action to assure access to resources or to fulfill a perceived workplace, legal or other obligation.
POP3: A commonly-used incoming email protocol that works alongside with the SMTP email protocol for sending email. This protocol implies that the user transfers the email from the server to the client computer.
Port: 1) A socket on a piece of computer equipment used primarily for transferring data.
2) To rewrite a program that was written for one computer platform or operating system in order for it to work on another platform. An example would be to write a program for Windows that was already written for the Apple Macintosh.
3) A program that is rewritten for a different computer platform or operating system to what it was originally. An example would be the many mobile games that were initially written for iOS but were ported to Android or Windows Phone, or Microsoft Word which was originally written for the Macintosh but was subsequently ported to Windows.
Primary Storage: Typically RAM (Random Access Memory), this is volatile storage in a computer for programs to store the data they are working with at the current time.
PVR: Also a DVR, this describes a set-top device that records broadcast TV content from at least one tuner to an integrated hard disk. These devices use an electronic programme guide so you can choose which TV show to record and they typically have functionality like the ability to record each episode of a TV series or a recommendation-driven show selector.
QoS (Quality Of Service): The ability of network technology to manage data-transfer in such a way to give priority to time-sensitive data streams like VoIP telephony or Internet-based broadcasting.
RAID: Short for Redundant Array Of Independent Disks, this describes a group of hard disks that are ganged together in a single device and ran as one logical volume to provide for increased fault-tolerance, capacity and / or data throughput.
Regular computer: In this site, I refer to a computer as being a “regular computer” where it has a powerful hardware architecture that is typically considered fit for desktop use and intended to run on external power or a high-capacity internal battery; has increased connectivity, storage and display capabilities; and runs a desktop operating system like Microsoft Windows, MacOS also known as OS X, or desktop Linux. This describes the PC that is running Microsoft Windows or an Apple Macintosh, and is available in a desktop, laptop or similar form factor.
Router: A device that transfers data between two or more logical networks. The most common application is the device that provides Internet access obtained from a modem to all devices that are on a small network.
SAT-IP: A marketing name for a new standards-based broadcast-LAN setup based around Europe’s satellite-TV infrastructure.
Secondary Storage: A non-volatile storage subsystem in a computer that stores the operating system, applications and user data in a manner available to the computer and its user through its service life. This typically would describe the hard disk, solid-state devices, optical drives, memory cards and USB memory keys.
Segment: A portion of a local-area network that is covered by one particular medium and typically sharing the same bandwidth.
Single Sign-On: A mechanism with some applications, resources and services where you log on with one set of credentials to one resource and are able to have access to the other resources that are partners to the resource you signed on with. The function is described as “social sign-on” where you log in to a social network and are able to benefit from other services that partner with the social network.
Smartphone: A term used to describe a cellular mobile phone that is capable of being connected to the Internet and working with programs that a user deploys themselves.
Smart TV: A class of TV set or, to some extent, set-top video peripheral (Blu-Ray player, network media adaptor, etc) that works online and supports an app platform to provide access to Internet-driven services or enhanced functionality.
SSD (Solid-State Storage Device): A secondary-data-storage device that relies on flash memory rather than a mechanical means like spinning disks to store the data. This term is used mainly for such devices that are intended to replace the role of a hard disk as a computer’s main secondary storage device.
SSID (Service Set Identifier): Also known as an ESSID, the identifyoing name used for a Wi-Fi wireless network segment.
Standard Operating Environment: A practice used primarily in business IT which describes a set of specifications for the hardware and software used within an organisation or other group of users. This encompasses what kind of hardware for one or more computer form factors along with the operating system and applications that runs on the hardware.
Subnet: A term used to reference a logical network that is made up of different network-media segments and serviced by a router at its logical perimeter.
Tablet: Typically represented by the Apple iPad, this is a portable computing device that doesn’t have a keyboard but is controlled by a touchscreen and / or a stylus. Most such devices qualify as mobile computers although there are some that have the same architecture as a regular computer.
Tether: To connect a device that normally can function alone to a computer using USB, Bluetooth or another peripheral-connection method to provide extra functionality to either the device or the host computer. Typically used to describe the practice of using this method to connect a smartphone or similar mobile phone to a computer for use as a wireless-broadhand modem or connecting a digital camera or MP3 player to a computer to transfer files to or from the device.
2-in-1: A recent term to describe any portable computer that comes with the ability to be switched between a tablet or a notebook, either a detachable notebook (hybrid tablet) or a convertible notebook.
Unbundling: Known in France as dégroupage, a practice that is part of a competitive telecommunications market where competing telecommunications providers have complete access to and use of the connection between the telephone exchange / central office or similar “hub” or a nearer point of connectivity, and the customer’s premises. This is simply renting the physical copper or fibre infrastructure between these locations and some of these arrangements may only apply to data connection or can apply to all services using the same connection.
UPnP (Universal Plug And Play): Set of standard protocols and standardised device classes which allows network devices to discover and control each other across a small computer network.
UPnP AV (Universal Plug And Play Audiovisual): Set of standard protocols and device classes which allow a client device to find audio, photo or video content made available on a server device located on a small computer network. This standard also allows one audiovisual device to control another audiovisual device thus having it play or show media held on a particular server device, all through the same small network.
USB: Short for Universal Serial Bus. This is a simple wired-connector type that is used to connect different peripheral devices to one host computer device and uses this same connection for transferring the data between the peripherals and the host computer as well as providing the necessary power for some peripherals.
USB On-The-Go: Also known as USB OTG. A USB standard which allows a single USB connection on a mobile-computing device like a smartphone or tablet in order to support the connection of a device to a host computer or to allow USB peripherals to be connected to that device. It is typically used in context to a cable that connects the USB peripherals to these devices.
VDSL: A newer data-transmission standard that is based on ADSL technology and uses phone lines to transmit data to the customer’s premises. The only difference to ADSL is that it is designed for a short run between the exchange, communications cabinet or wiring closet and the customer’s premises and has a bandwidth that is larger than ADSL technology. It is primarily used for copper runs in fibre-optic-based “next-generation broadband” setups other than “fibre-to-the-premises” setups.
VIDIPATH: A marketing name implemented by DLNA for use of their technology to deliver premium pay-TV content via a home network to compatible receiver devices.
VoIP (Voice Over IP): The transmission of voice-based telephone calls over an IP-based network like the Internet. This can encompass video telephony applications where a video image is sent synchronously with the VoIP voice data.
VLAN (Virtual Local Area Network): A means of using the same physical local area network infrastructure to carry data for multiple local area networks as if they are their own networks. This is typically used to create a “guest network” or “community network” using the same Wi-Fi router or to assure quality of service for VoIP telephony or Internet-based video services.
VPN (Virtual Private Network): A secure encrypted data link that shares the same bandwidth as general Internet traffic but exists to provide secure access to resources hosted on another network. This is typically used for allowing a client computer to gain access to corporate resources or as a virtual data link between two business locations but is being used as a means to assure end-user privacy and anonymity on the Internet.
WAN: Short for Wide Area Network. A network that serves multiple customers and multiple premises. Typically, this term is used to describe the technology that is used to provide Internet service to a home or business.
Wi-Fi, WiFi: A marketing and common-use term used to describe any wireless data network that implements any of the IEEE 802.11 standards for data transmission. These networks are also referred to as a wireless LAN or WLAN.
Wi-Fi Direct: A standards-driven Wi-Fi network setup that implements a software-based access point in a device that could normally be a Wi-Fi client device. This setup is primarily to allow situations such as Wi-Fi peripherals for a host computer, linking a tablet or computer to a smartphone for Internet access or using DLNA or AirPlay to supply music to network speakers without the need for a dedicated access point or router.
Wi-Fi EasyConnect: A standards-driven approach for enrolling your currently-used Wi-Fi-capable computing device or another similar device to a Wi-Fi network segment. This standard, intended to supplant WPS, uses QR codes, NFC touchpoints or similar technologies to pass the Wi-Fi network’s attributes to the device that wants to connect to the network. It can allow either the device currently used by the user to benefit from the connection or to allow a user to enrol another device to that network.
Wi-Fi EasyMesh: A standards-driven approach defined by the Wi-Fi Alliance for creating a distributed Wi-Fi network based on devices from different manufacturers.
Wi-Fi hotspot: Also a wireless hotspot: A Wi-Fi wireless network that is primarily set up by an establishment to provide Internet access to the public.
Wireless Broadband: Also known as Wireless WAN, WWAN or mobile broadband, A broadband service that uses radio waves from terrestrial transmitters to transmit data to the customer’s equipment. Most such services are designed so that the customer’s equipment has integrated antennas (aerials) and can be easily relocated by the customer or used “on the move” by the customer.
WMM: A standard that manages quality-of-service for data on Wi-Fi wireless local area networks.
WMM Power Save: An auxiliary standard for signalling client-device power-status information across a Wi-Fi wireless local area network in order to allow battery-operated client devices to work in a power-efficient manner/
WPA: A highly-secure data-protection standard for Wi-Fi wireless networks. WPA2 describes the variant of this technology that uses an improved AES encryption method.
WPA-Enterprise: A variation of the WPA Wi-Fi network security standard where the access points authenticate the client devices based on factors unique to the client device or its users. Typically, this is implemented in larger organisations who usually have an in-house IT team and who want greater user control.
WPA-PSK: Also called WPA-Personal: A variation of the WPA data-protection standard which is based around the fact that all the access points and wireless client devices use a single common passphrase for authentication.
WPS: A newly-established method of providing simple yet secure client-device configuration for home and small-business Wi-Fi wireless networks. This can be achieved through the user entering a PIN number in a device’s user interface or the user pressing a “setup” button on the access point and the client device.