It can be difficult to know exactly what people mean when talking technology. Yes, you can google definitions, but that doesn’t always give the terms in easy to understand language.

Check out these common technology definitions that are Good-To-Know when navigating a conversation with your tech support friends.

IT– Information Technology. This abbreviation is used to describe all of the components of computing, networking and data storage in your office.

MSP or Managed Service Provider– A company hired by a business to manage their IT. This MSP company is made up of any number of people. They provide ranging technology support services to businesses, typically with a majority of their clientele being long-term contracted clients. Services can vary but most often include some form of Helpdesk, management and proactive maintenance.

Helpdesk– A group of people who answer the phone, emails or instant messages of employees needing help with computer issues. Some businesses have their own internal helpdesk, others hire companies (MSPs) to handle this task and provide tech support to computer users.

Outsource– This word has gotten a bad reputation in the last few years because it implies that work is given from one group to another, specifically outside of the originating economy. But perceptions aside, this is common in the technical world. It’s important to decipher which tasks are being outsourced and which tasks will be handled locally by an MSP.

Per- Incident, Time and Materials, As- Needed or Break/Fix– Used to describe a relationship between a company and an MSP where there is no ongoing contract, just an understanding that the tech firm will be used only as-needed.

Software– Programs installed on hardware that allow the two to communicate.

Hardware– The actual boxes in the closet, on the desk and in the office. Can be workstations, laptops, servers, printers… anything physical you can touch.

Firmware– Fancy software that helps the hardware identify software and do its job.

Traditional Server– Ten years ago, most all networked offices were set up this way with a server as the central storage item on the network. To the regular person, this server could look like a computer or large metal box. These traditional servers are being used less because they cost a lot to purchase, maintain, store and power. Many businesses are asking for cloud servers or hybrid combinations.

Cloud server– A server stored in a special server room off-site and accessed through the internet. Becoming the go-to server option for ease of use, increased security and unlimited growth potential. Not to mention it’s a lot less expensive.

Backbone– This refers to the main infrastructure of your technology body, if you will. Think of it as the lines that run from the network closet to all the computers and printers in the office.

Network closet– In every office there is a closet or room that holds all the hardware components that help all the computers and printers talk to each other and the server (cloud or traditional). It’s one of the most important places in the office because it holds all the important hardware for connecting to the internet too.

Nodes, users, end users, workstations/devices– This is one way that people in your company, who work on computers, are categorized. This is often a number that will come up when shopping for tech support. They will want to know how many users you have. Or how many devices you have. (Yes, these numbers can be different. Think of two shifts of employees that use 1 computer, each on their respective shift.) When purchasing software, they might ask about nodes, these are also devices.


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