Our goal at Harrison Technologies is to help you understand you technology can help your bottom line, and we do our best to explain the situation in terms you can understand them. We know though that sometimes it seems like you need a translator to speak with your IT provider. To help we have created an IT Dictionary with terms you may have heard in the past or are likely to hear from an IT professional in the future. We are eager to expand our dictionary, so please contact us if you have a term you would like us to include.



Acronym for Active Directory. This is the user and computer security component used by a Windows server based network.

The process of duplicating data or configuration information that can be used if the original data source is damaged. This could be as simple as copying a file to a flash drive or CD, or more complicated methods such as server imaging solutions. This is critical for any business.

Backup Image
This refers to the method of backing up a data on a hard drive by essentially take a picture of the entire drive. By taking a full picture of the drive instead of just the important files, the process of restoring a workstation or server requires much less time. This method also ensures that no important files are missing in the case of data loss.

The hardware that makes up a computer server or desktop. This does not include the monitor, keyboard, mouse, or any other devices outside of the computer case.

Cable Internet
A low cost internet connection offered by cable television providers usually priced similar to DSL. Cable internet often offers higher speeds than DSL. Unlike DSL, a cable internet connection connects multiple locations on a single line. This means that your internet speed fluxuates depending on the usage of others in the area. This generally only an issue if the infrastructure in the area is insufficient for the demand, typically users don’t notice any speed changes.

Acronym for Domain Name Service. This is the service that translates the people friendly domain names into the computer friendly IP addresses that run a computer network or the internet.

Domain Name
The name registered by a company as an address on the internet. Using the example of www.google.com, google.com is the domain name.

Acronym for Digital Subscriber Line, a low cost internet connection offered by telephone companies. DSL speed is determined by the distance of your location from the telephone company’s hub. DSL speed, like other high-speed internet connections, is rated by the maximum allowed upload and download speed. Typically the download speed will be much higher than the upload speed.

A firewall is a program or device that manages access to your computer or network. When talking about a computer network the firewall is usually a small device connected between your router and switch. It provides the first level of security for your network. Many firewalls also provide services such as content filtering. For workstations there are many software programs available and many security suits include a firewall program. This is a critical component for any computer network.

A devices that connects multiple computers together to form a network, part of layer 1 of the OSI model. While still in use in some older installations and special networks, they have generally been replaced by switches. If your network runs on a hub, upgrading to a switch is a low cost way to increase network performance and reliability.

IP Address
Acronym for Internet Protocol address, the series of numbers that identifies computers on most computer networks.

Acronym for Information Technologies which refers to any technology used in a business for the processing or distribution of information. This would include computers, software, telephones, copy machines, websites, or any other technology that a business would use.

Acronym for Local Area Network. This is a relatively small number of computers in a specific location such as at an office.

Covers a wide category of malicious computer software. This includes viruses, spyware, trojans, rootkits and more. While viruses are included in malware, they actually make up a much smaller percentage of infections than in the past. In recent years, spyware or other non self-replicating programs have become much more common.

Acronym for Multi-Function Printer. This would be any printer that can also copy, scan, or fax. Also included are many copy machines, as they can function as network printers, scanners, and fax machines in addition to the primary copy machine function.

MX Record
Acronym for Mail Exchanger record. This is the DNS record that tells e-mail servers where to deliver your e-mail.

Acronym for Network Attached Storage. This is basically a hard drive that can be accessed by computers on the network. For smaller computer networks, they can be the primary storage location. They are also commonly used as a backup storage device. They range in size and price, many models also include basic levels of hard drive redundancy.

Network Drive
This is a virtual hard drive that points to a specific shared folder on a network. These drives are usually automatically mapped based on security rights by a central server.

Acronym for Optical Character Recognition. This is a type of software that work in conjunction with a scanner to literally “read” a paper. Instead of having an image of all sheet scanned, OCR software will detect the individual letters and formatting and put it into a word processor document that can be edited normally.

Acronym for Operating System, the base program which runs a computer. This is often one of the first things a computer technician will ask you when remotely working on your computer. Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux are three well known and popular operating systems for desktops and servers. Knowing the correct type and version of your operating system will help a technician to zero in on your problem quickly.

Acronym for Outlook Web Access, the web portal that is part of Microsoft Exchange to allow users to access their e-mail remotely through a web browser.

Patch Panel
This is the central panel where network drops are terminated. Patch panels are standard for wired networks and are generally located next to the network switch. Wire management should be used to keep the cables clean and easy to access for troubleshooting.

Acronym for Post Office Protocol. This method of retrieving e-mails allows for you to download a copy of your e-mail form a server, usually deleting the copy on the server in the process. This applies only to e-mail, and does not work with calendars or contacts.

Acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. This method of combining physical hard disks can create increased storage capacity or redundancy allowing for disks to fail. RAID has many different levels. The most common in small business is RAID 0, 1, and 5. RAID 0 is also known as striping, and basically combines multiple physical hard drives into one large drive. RAID 1 is also known as mirroring, and basically copies all the data from one hard drive to a second hard drive. This allows for either hard drive to fail but they system will continue to run with no data loss. This is the minimal RAID level we recommend for servers or NAS. RAID 5 allows you to combine 3 or more hard drives into a single virtual disk. RAID 5 will allow for any one of the hard drives to fail without any data loss or major impact to the system.

This is the connector on the end of a network cable. Often times a technician will refer to a RJ-45 cable instead of calling it a network cable.

A device that routes network traffic between subnets. Most often when a technical refers to a router he is referring to a DSL or Cable modem, or other device provided by your ISP to connect you to the internet.

Acronym for Small Business Server, a version of the Microsoft Windows Server operating system. This version combines the standard Windows Server OS with several additional server programs in a low cost package for small businesses. It allows smaller business to leverage the same powerful tools as larger offices for a much lower cost. There are some limits placed on the software, including a user cap of 75 people.

Technically a server is any computer in a network that provides services, however it more commonly it refers to a computer running a server operating system. In a small network, a server will generally store files, provide access to printers, and manage the security of the network.

Smart Phone
Definitions vary for what is a smart phone. Typically this is a phone that allows you to send and receive e-mails, as well as synchronize your calendar, contacts, and other items with your computer. Typically we consider a smart phone one that can perform these actions wirelessly. The iPhone, Palm Treo, and Blackberry are all smart phones.

Surge Protector
A device that protects against spikes in electrical current. A power strip simply increases the number of power receptacles and is not necessarily a surge protector. Quality surge protectors are essential for all electronic equipment. When purchasing a surge protector select only the ones that include insurance in the event that a power surge damages any device plugged into them.

A device that connects multiple computers on a network, part of layer two of the OSI model. While a switch looks like a hub and performs a similar function, a switch has a higher capacity and is far more intelligent resulting in better performance. Switches are rated by speed, number of ports, and manageability (aka smart and dumb switches). A series of numbers separated by slashed determines the speed of the switch, for example a 10/100 switch can run at 10mbps or 100mpbs. Gigabit switches (10/100/1000) are becoming more popular providing better performance to computer networks.

Technically a T1 line consists of 24 64kbps channels providing 1.544mpbs throughput. These channels can be used to provide telephone or internet service. While a T1 line is far more reliable than cable or DSL connections (they include a 99.99% uptime guarantee in the contract), they are also far more expensive. Multiple T1 lines can be bonded (connected) to increase the overall number of channels available, which increases the speed.

Acronym for Uninterruptable Power Supply, also known as a battery backup. A UPS is extremely important for servers so they can properly shut themselves down in case of a power outage. Larger versions can keep servers, networking equipment, or computers running for several hours. In addition to providing power they also clean the power provided to the computer, removing power spikes and brownouts.

Acronym for Unified Resource Locator. While you are uses words to find websites, the internet really runs on a series of numbers called IP addresses. The URL is basically the people friendly address for a webpage, or what you type into the address bar of a web browser.

A malicious program designed to replicate and spread across computer networks. A virus can cause a variety of problems which range from remapping a keyboard to the deletion of all data on your computer.

Acronym for Virtual Private Network. A VPN encrypts all data packets addressed for a specific subnet so they can only be opened at the intended destination. There are many different type of VPNs and vary in complexity and the level of security offered. Offices can be connected by permanent site-to-site VPN connections. Mobile laptops can have a small program called a VPN client that allows them to connect back to their home office. Whatever the method, a VPN connection essential puts you on the destination network, just as if you were physically plugged in.

Acronym for Wide Area Network. The largest wide area network is the internet. This term is also used when multiple local office networks are connected together to form a larger integrated network.

Acronym for Wireless Access Point. While the term technically refers to a device that only provides wireless network access, it is often used to refer to wireless internet routers as well.

Web Host
The company that physically hosts the files that run your website. There are many different types of hosting companies and packages depending on the needs of your website. If the website is located on your own server in your office, you would be considered to be hosting the website yourself.