Glossary of Computing Terms

If you have any specific IT terms you would like assistance with check out our Glossary of computing terms.

Bimodal IT refers to typically large IT systems that run two separate systems, side-by-side. One will handle the traditional functions and be based on accuracy and safety. The second will be more experimental and open to change and focus on speed and flexibility.

Bootstrap is an open-source collection of software tools that is available free and is used for creating websites and other web applications.

A byte is a unit of data which holds the information that tells a computers what to do. A byte is incredibly small and if often described as the amount of data required to save just one character of text. For that reason we usually use bigger units like Kilobytes (one thousand bytes), Megabytes (one million bytes) and Gigabytes (one billion bytes).

Cloud computing relates to internet based IT networks where systems, data and software applications are accessed on-demand. The computing “power” is licensed often on a month by month basis rather than installed on your premises and housed in your own PCs and servers. Often referred to as “The Cloud” the technology is being rapidly adopted across all industries and in the home, driven by the increasing computing power available at very low cost.

Cookies are used by a website so that it can remember who you are and store information about your previous visits. They are often used to store your website preferences, items you have put in your online ‘shopping basket’, save passwords (if you want it to) and generally to improve user experience.

The term dashboard was first introduced by Apple and refers to a user interface, usually on your computer screen, tablet or smartphone that brings key pieces of information together from several different sources. The sources themselves may be referred to as widgets.

A data centre houses the complex large scale computer networks used for data storage and for telecommunications systems. They often contain duplicate back-up systems and can be twinned with other data centres to provide additional safety.

A data lake is a store of huge amount of data that is stored in its original format ready to be analysed and/or processed. The use of the word “lake” refers to the flat architecture used for storing the data.

Ethernet is a technology used to connect devices into a network and is widely used in almost all computer system. It was developed first by Xerox in the 70s and has largely replaced competing technologies over the last 3 decades.

A Hard Drive is a data storage device that holds all the information that can be access by a computer locally, aka not on the internet so your downloaded music on iTunes. There are two types of Hard Drive a Hard-Drive Disc and Solid-State Drive. They can also be internal, inside the computer, or external, like a memory stick.

Hardware refers to the physical components that make up a computer. All computers have the same basic hardware components: Motherboard, Processor, RAM, Hard Drive, CD Drive, Graphics Card and obviously the screen, mouse and keyboard. Hardware can also be used to describe anything that is used by a computer so a printer, monitor or USB stick.

Hybrid cloud computing uses a mix of both on-premises, personal cloud and public cloud services together in one system and chooses which platform to use for specific tasks.

A Local area network (LAN) is a network of computers and other devices housed in a single location such as an office or home. Almost every SME and business will operate a LAN and these can be a mix of hardwired ethernet and wireless devices.

A motherboard is the main component of a computer and everything else is hard-wired into it. Although it has no exact purpose it is the most significant part as it connects all the different parts together as one thing, a computer.

An Open Source product is designed as a product that can be developed universally with access to anyone via a free license. It is by nature a collaboration and individuals share their improvements and new features within the community of users of that product.

PDF stands for Portable Document Format it is a type of file format. It is used to save documents, these can then be used by any application software, hardware, and operating systems. They can also be used to save photos.

A processor, also known as a central processing unit (CPU), is a microchip that is found on a computers motherboard. As the name suggests it is the part that processes the instructions that you give to the computer, so it is the component that turns what you type on keyboard into a words on screen and opens a program when you click on it.

RAM is an acronym that stands for Random Access Memory, this is a component of hardware found inside all computers. It is a very important factor in determining how fast a computer runs, this is because it holds all the data that is being used by the computer at the time, so your open Word Documents, Internet tabs, iTunes, etc.

SaaS is an acronym for Software as a Service. The refers to the increasing trend of “renting” software from suppliers on a monthly price per user license rather than purchasing a programme housed on a CD / DVD and loading it on to your own computer.

Software refers to the programs that a computer uses, these include Windows, Spotify, Internet Explorer, Word, etc. Technically the term software is considered any data that can be stored electronically, such as files, however it is usually reserved for computer programs.

The term Spam originates from a Monty Python sketch, it describes the use of emails to send unsolicited messages. Often containing advertising or viruses these messages are usually siphoned off as junk mail by your email provider.

P.S. Make sure to check the full email address of any dodgy looking emails.

Wide area networks (WANs) are essentially big networks, much larger than local area networks (LANs) and typically spread over multiple physical locations. So a business may have several LANs connected via a WAN.

In computing terms a widget is a software application that can be installed in many different locations and used by different software platforms. So for example a “Weather widget” that allows you to display weather information within the system you are designing.