Jargon buster - technical terms explained

Content provided by MWEB - South Africa’s leading Internet Service Provider (ISP)

computer_network.jpgHave you ever wondered what on earth those techno-geeks are talking about, throwing acronyms and computer jargon into every sentence? Well, here to explain it all is a simple guide to some of the most common terms you'll hear being bandied about.


Short for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line, ADSL is a very fast Internet connection that is always on, which means you don't have to dial up each time you need to access the Internet. Dial-up internet access is a form of Internet access via telephone lines. ADSL also offers much faster Internet surfing than a dial-up connection, with download speeds of up to 4096 Kbps and upload speeds of up to 512 Kbps available in South Africa. 

By using an ADSL telephone line and modem, you get high-speed Internet access and the ability to surf the web and talk on your phone at the same time. ADSL is fixed in one place and cannot be taken with you when travelling.

2. Bandwidth

The term bandwidth is often used as a synonym for data transfer rate. This is the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second). This kind of bandwidth is usually expressed in bits (of data) per second (bps)

3. Blog

(n.) Short for Web log, a blog is a web page that serves as an individual's online journal. Very easy to update, a blog often reflects the personality of the author. 

(v.) To write an entry into a Web log.  Other forms: Blogger (a person who blogs).

4. Broadband

Short for broadbandwidth, a broadband Internet connection is much faster than dial-up. If the broadband connection is fast enough, it can simultaneously carry audio, data and video signals.   ADSL and Wi-Fi are both examples of broadband.

5. Domain

Simply put, a domain is the main part of the address of a web site on the Internet, for example www.mweb.co.za. The domain name also appears in your e-mail address (it's the bit after the '@'). Registering a domain is the first step in establishing a company's presence on the World Wide Web.

6. Hosted Exchange

This is an e-mail application based on Microsoft Exchange Server and using the Outlook e-mail program. But it offers so much more than e-mail because it is designed for communication and collaboration within an organisation, without expense or technical hassles normally associated with implementing, maintaining and supporting software applications.

By connecting to the same Exchange via a computer, web browser or Wireless Application Protocol, better known as WAP-enabled mobile phone (or in other words, a mobile phone that can connect to the Internet), employees are able to access and share information such as folders, contacts and calendars.  

A company with two or more staff can now afford an IT solution that gives efficiency and communications previously only available to large corporate organisations.

7. Hotspot

A Hotspot is a place where users with portable computers equipped with Wi-Fi access (see Wi-Fi below) can connect to the Internet wirelessly.

8. Instant messaging

Instant messaging (or IM) is the ability to exchange messages instantly over the Internet with a friend or co-worker who is also online. Instant messaging differs from ordinary e-mail in that the messages are sent instantly back and forth. Not only is this a more convenient way to communicate than e-mail, but it's faster and saves on the cost of a phone call.

9. Portal

A web portal or public portal refers to a website or service that offers a broad array of online resources and services, such as e-mail, forums, search engines, news and sport content. For example the Umsobomvu Youth Fund Portal - http://www.youthportal.org.za/ or the South African government website - http://www.gov.za/ .

10. Podcasting

Podcasting is the preparation and distribution of audio files using RSS to the computers of subscribed users. These files may then be loaded onto multimedia players such as the Apple iPod. A podcast is created from a digital audio file. The podcaster simply saves the file as an MP3 and then uploads it to the web site of a service provider. An MP3 is defined as MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, a digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression.

11. RSS

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is the acronym used to describe a standard for the easy distribution of selected web content. It is often used to distribute news headlines on the Internet. Website owners who want to allow other sites to publish some of their content will create an RSS document and register the document with an RSS publisher.

This way, the content can be re-published to another website or displayed in a software application called an RSS Reader. Syndicated content can include information such as breaking news, new blog entries, new Web articles, events listings, project updates, quotes from discussion forums or even corporate information.

12. Spam

Spam is electronic junk mail or unsolicited e-mail that is sent out in large volumes all over the world to virtually anyone with an e-mail address. In addition to wasting people's time with unwanted e-mail, spam also eats up a lot of Internet bandwidth.

Consequently, Internet Service Providers have taken it upon themselves to fight spam by offering powerful spam filters that delete any obvious spam before it gets to members' Inboxes. However, because the Internet is public, there is really little that can be done to prevent all spam completely, just as it is impossible to prevent junk mail in our physical postboxes.

13. Spyware

Spyware is any software that secretly gathers user information and transmits this to unknown parties over the Internet without the user's knowledge, usually for advertising purposes. Spyware is typically hidden inside certain programmes that can be downloaded from the Internet, which means users often install it unwittingly while they are busy installing something else.

Once installed, the spyware monitors the user's activity on the Internet and transmits that information in the background to someone else, sometimes for malicious purposes. Anti-spyware programmes such as Microsoft Anti-Spyware can be downloaded free from the Internet and are used to prevent spyware from running on a user's computer. 

14. URL

Short for Uniform Resource Locator, a URL is the unique address for a file that is accessible on the Internet - for example: http://www.mweb.co.za/ is the URL of the MWEB homepage. A common way to get to a Web site is to enter the URL of the Web site's homepage in the address line of your browser.

15. Voice chat

Instead of using an Instant Messaging service to type your messages back and forth to a friend, some services such as Skype offer a voice-chat option where, if you are both online and both have a Skype phone, speakers and a microphone (or a headset), you can actually physically talk to the other person as if you were on the phone but using the Internet instead of a phone line. The bonus of voice chat is that other than your standard bandwidth-usage or Internet dial-up costs, the call is free - perfect for international conversations.

16. VoIP

Short for Voice over Internet Protocol and pronounced "voyp" or shortened to "Voice over IP", VoIP makes it possible to have spoken conversations with people using an Internet connection instead of calling them directly using a telephone. The main benefit of VoIP is a significant cost-saving, particularly for international calls. VoIP can be implemented in many ways, including making Internet-based voice calls from your computer to a standard telephone. 

17. VPN

Short for Virtual Private Network, VPN is a way to use a public communications infrastructure such as the Internet to provide remote offices or individual users with secure access to their organisation's network.  Thanks to VPN, a company executive can log into the company network without having to be at his or her desk.

18.  Web hosting

The term "hosting" simply means to make something available on the World Wide Web. Web hosting refers to the hosting of a company's website or database on a remote, secure infrastructure such as an Internet Service Provider's server so that the public can access it at any time via a web browser.

From the perspective of both cost and productivity this is an attractive option, as it helps SMEs protect critical data against hackers, provides the latest operating systems, firewalls and security services, and allows access to information during telephone line or power failures.

19. Wiki

A wiki is a collaborative website that contains the continual collective work of many authors. Similar to a blog in structure and logic, a wiki allows anyone to edit, delete or modify content that has been placed on the website, including the work of previous authors. In contrast, a blog is typically written by an individual and does not allow visitors to change the original posted material but they can only add comments to the original content.

20. Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi stands for "Wireless Fidelity" which is the most popular standard for radio-based, wireless networking around the world. When you're in range of a Wi-Fi access point, the Internet is all around you in the form of high-frequency radio waves, and to tap into it, all you need is a Wi-Fi-compatible laptop or handheld PC.

Once in range of the Wi-Fi access point, you just log in and you will be online instantly. Because it is a broadband connection, Wi-Fi is faster than a standard dial-up modem and you don't need to hunt for a telephone socket.


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