Computer jargon can sound like a foreign language if you’re not part of the IT crowd, and if you work with teams who are fluent in all things techie, you run the risk of falling into the dreaded ID-10T trap (techie code for idiot).  

Acronyms creep into most areas of business and if you want to save face and keep pace in meetings it’s wise to stay on top of the most commonly used terms. Not least because they have a genuine function: to identify technical faults, solve problems and assess software compatibility.

A complete jargon buster could fill a book, but most of us only need the essentials to get by, so we’ve put a list of the words or phrases your IT people are most likely to toss around in a meeting, so you can stay on top of the subject.


Internet Service Provider is a company or government organisation that provides access to the internet. ISPs compete, offering packages that work at different speeds, at different costs.

WISPs offer the same service to wireless users who travel or work remotely.  

Keywords, tags and labels

Keywords are search terms used to find content on a particular subject online. They can be anything from one to five words long (though Google’s algorithms constantly change and are now leaning towards finding the sense and context of a search phrase rather than exact matches) and help catalogue information, so your search results present the most relevant finds. Billions of keyword searches are run every day on everything from funny cats to Ferrari cars to financial technology.

As a business, you can create a list of keywords that most accurately describe what you do or the products and services you provide. Then you can get to work, strategically weaving them through your marketing material, website, blogs, online articles, etc to help your business rise to the top of search engine results when someone types in keywords or terms on your list.

Phishing and Whaling

Phishing is the name given to online fraud of your personal accounts and is one of the big threats to your inbox. It uses convincing-looking emails and web pages in the hope those targeted will meet the requests made, because they look like they’ve come from a trusted source.

Messages generally ask you to share account numbers, passwords or verify PINs that should otherwise be kept secret, and are a big risk to a business’s security.

They can take the form of fake notifications or requests from banks or services like PayPal where there’s access to your funds. Subtle clues are more obvious to trained eyes, but as a rule, smart users avoid clicking on anything that asks them to log in or click to confirm details.

Whaling is so-called because it is a phishing scam that goes for the bigger targets, such as CEOs, and can come in the form of mails from trusted peers, or legal imperatives that prompt the recipient to click on a link or download something in order to address a (fake) legal requirement.


A trojan is a hacker program that relies on the user mistakenly welcoming or opening the file, which activates it. Named after the famous Trojan horse tale, a trojan program masquerades as a legitimate file or software program and can look like a movie trailer file or even an installer that claims to be anti-hacker software.

The golden rule: if in doubt, don’t click.

Cloud Computing and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Cloud computing is the term used to describe software that’s accessed online, as opposed to being bought and installed on your computer. The web-based email platform Gmail is a good example of cloud computing, where each user’s email history is stored and accessed ‘in the cloud' and not actually on their own computer. Google Apps and Office 365 are also good examples of cloud computing platforms that can enhance your efficiency and keep files and communications in order.

It’s been described as the modern version of the 1970s mainframe computing model, if you’re more familiar with that.

As part of the cloud computing framework, 'Software as a Service' is a business model that relies on people or businesses renting software instead of owning it. With the help of web browsers, users access the cloud and log into rented copies of their software.

The biggest benefit of Software-as-a-Service is reduced costs for users, and from a software vendor’s perspective, they save thousands of hours that might otherwise have been spent supporting and troubleshooting with users over the phone.

Instead, they simply maintain and repair a central copy of the product online, so the most up to date version is always available.

Whether you need cloud computing IT support or not is really dependent on factors such as the size of your business, and on-site IT may be sufficient, but it is always worthwhile to find out how it can benefit your company or agency.

Encryption and Authentication

Encryption is the mathematical scrambling of data that helps it remain hidden from those without permission to use it. Encryption uses complex formulas (ciphers) to turn private data into incomprehensible words and numbers that only trusted readers can unravel.

Encryption allows us to conduct business online and use confidential information to do everyday things like shop or bank online, as well as access and share business-sensitive information.  

Authentication goes hand-in-hand with encryption, letting computer systems verify users with permission to access unencrypted information.

Ports and Port Forwarding

Network ports are thousands of tiny electronic lanes that make up your network connection. Every computer has 65,536 of these tiny ports, allowing data to travel in and out. By using port management tools like a hardware router, users can control port access to better safeguard themselves against hackers.

Port forwarding is the name given to the technique for opening specific network ports. To give you an example, you would port-forward to improve downloading speed or speed up online connections for business functions like teleconferencing.


Firewall is a term used to describe a barrier against damage or destruction. It comes from the building term of a protective wall, which helps prevent the spread of house fires or engine compartment fires.

In the world of computing, to have a firewall means software and/or hardware protecting you from hackers and viruses.

Computer firewalls range from small anti-virus software packages to more complex solutions. They all safeguard against unwanted intrusions or access, but as you’d expect, the bigger, more expensive packages protect at a much higher level.


A computer archive can provide:

  • A compressed container of numerous smaller data files
  • Long-term storage of files that are not used that often, or
  • Both


Adware is any free software that contains ads as a way of generating revenue. Unlike malware, it can be a little frustrating for users, but it doesn’t endanger your computer.


An anti-virus program is software that protects your computer against infection from a virus (or Trojan).


You may hear this term creeping into business meetings more often, and a lot of the time it refers to scope, time, or ability to do a task, but to give its proper meaning, bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be sent over a network or modem. It’s measured in BPS, or bits per second, and might be best explained with the popular roads and traffic analogy:

A two-lane road can only carry a limited amount of traffic and be pretty slow, while a six-lane road will be much faster. You can choose a bandwidth that’s reflective of your business needs, so you’re only ever paying for what you need and are likely to use.


A cache is a storage area that gives you quick access to information you’ve used recently.  You might have noticed the second time you visit a website, it loads faster. That’s because some of the site information has been ‘cached’ somewhere on your computer or in the cloud, making it easier to access next time.

There are obvious advantages to this, but it can mean being automatically directed to previous versions of a website or page, rather than a very recently updated one, so if you are in the process of making updates to your site, it is usually best practice to clear your cache regularly.


Cookies are used by websites to help identify you when you return to a website. Marketers love them because they can make future sales and marketing activity smarter, taking note of the journey customers make through the site, where they click, what they buy or download, so they can serve the most relevant information, offer or promotion the next time they visit.

It’s a trade-off essentially, because you have to agree to cookies, so you provide information on how you use their products or service in return for a better customer experience when (or if) you come back.


The word gigabyte, along with its friends megabyte and terabyte, refer to memory or the amount of space your computer, mobile phone or hard drive has to store data.

  • A megabyte is 1,000,000 bytes.
  • A gigabyte is 1000 megabytes (or megs).
  • And a terabyte is 1000 gigabytes (or gigs).

The more you have, the more you can store.  


Malware is short for malicious software that can damage your computer or business network, like viruses that delete information on your computer or spyware that gathers information from your computer and passes it on to people or organisations that use it against you.

Anti-virus software can help protect you against this kind of damage or intrusion, and it is worth talking to your IT team about the type of protection your business has for its PCs or Macs, and whether you might need to upgrade..


When you buy a computer, set up an office or create a team, RAM is one of the first things your IT person is likely to talk to you about, because the amount each individual requires goes hand-in-glove with their job or what they’ll use their computer for.

It stands for Random Access Memory and it’s what the computer uses to store and access information. The more RAM a computer has, the faster it will run.

It’s usually upgradable too, so you can buy a computer with a standard amount of RAM, which is okay for most, but if you process lots of data or run multiple applications, you might need to add more.

IT developers, for example, would require more RAM than their average user because writing code requires access to lots of data on a regular basis.

Remember, jargon is just a short-cut. If you find yourself lost or outside of a conversation you really need to be part of, ask the person talking to take the long way round with you. Sometimes the scenery is worth it!

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