Small Business Tech: Communications Technical Terms Explained

You probably never realized when you started your business that you'd have to learn a new language- “tech-speak.” But eventually, you figure out that a hashtag isn't the same as the pound sign, and a router isn't a tool you use to build furniture. Small business tech can be a powerful tool to grow your business. And learning the lingo is the key to unlocking its potential.

Start with this straightforward glossary of common tech terms, and you'll be "techlingual" in no time.

Bandwidth - Think of this like the size of pipes you have in your house. The bigger the pipes, the more water can get through. Bandwidth refers to the volume of information that you can transmit over a communication channel (like the internet) in a certain time period. Internet connections with high bandwidth can view large files, like a video, faster than ones with low bandwidth.

Browser - This is software that allows you to view web pages. Popular browsers include Chrome, Firefox, Google, Explorer, and Safari. Your device typically comes with one of them, but you can download free versions of others. An important feature of your browser is its search function. This is used to find information online with a simple inquiry within the search bar.

Cloud computing - Early on, your software and files were all stored on your computer. With cloud computing, those items are now stored online. Some refer to this online environment as the "cloud." Really, it's just a remote storage place. When you want to access something on the cloud, your device goes online to retrieve it. That means you can access your programs or files anywhere you have an internet connection.

Firewall - Think of this as a security system for your computer. It monitors what comes in and what goes out of your system. Then it decides what gets through the door and what doesn't. The result is you're protected from hackers and viruses. A firewall can be built into your system or added with software, like an antivirus package. Be sure your firewall is activated at all times.

ISP - This stands for "internet service provider." It's a service that connects you to the internet. Free ISPs are usually available at school, work or a public library. For a fee, private companies, provide access to your home or business. This service often includes a high-speed option that is helpful to run many business applications. An ISP typically provides email service too.

Modem - This device serves as your primary connection to the internet. The connection can occur through a phone line (DSL) or through a coaxial cable line, depending on your ISP. In either case, the modem translates or "modulates" the signal from the ISP so it can communicate back and forth with your various devices.

Network - A neighborhood of devices that share the same resources. For example, a laptop, printer, tablet, and smart speaker all sharing a connection to the internet. The connection can be with an Ethernet cable or wireless. A local area network (LAN) is limited to a specific area-like a business or home. A wide area network (WAN) spans multiple locations connected by several LANs.

Router - This device acts like a traffic cop. It takes the translated data from your modem and directs it out to devices in your local network-all with one internet connection. That can happen through a wired or wireless connection. It also lets devices talk to each other-so your computer can send a document to the printer. Since the router acts as the go-between, it also shields the devices in the network from viruses.

URL - This is the address for a website or file. They are typically used in promotional campaigns so potential customers can go directly to a business' webpage. Most start with "http" or with "https" which adds a special layer of security when personal information, like a credit card number, is captured.

The more tech-speak you can master, the more information you'll have to decide which technology is right for your business. It can also help you troubleshoot issues as you communicate with your technical support resource. Start with these terms and expand your vocabulary as you go.

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