Technical Terms Explained

There are many computer terms that people use assuming you know what they are talking about. Here are some simple definitions that may help you.

Server - a computer that provides a service to other computers, it could be as simple as sending a file across the room, or as complex as allowing someone to buy a product over the internet.

LAN - Local Area Network - connecting a number of computers that are close together, such as in an office.

WAN - Wide Area Network - connecting a number of computers over a large geographic area.

Router - a device that remembers where a computer is on the network and passes messages to it from some other computer (could be to other devices such as a printer) .

Hub - similar to a router, but does not remember where a computer is and so has to figure it out each time it sends a message, which is less efficient.

Gateway - The connection between two separate networks, such as between a LAN and the internet; can be one function of a router.

IP address - the unique number assigned to each computer or device on a network.

CPU - Central Processing Unit , the part of the computer that does most of the calculating, such as the Intel Pentium chip; can also refer to the chassis of the computer that houses the CPU.

OS - Operating System ; whether it is Windows, Macintosh, Linux or some other, the software that provides basic functions of a computer. Sometimes referred to as the platform.

Application - software that uses the capabilities of an OS to perform a specific function, such as word processing.

Memory - a temporary storage location that the OS and Applications use to speed up processing. If they run out of memory, they use the hard drive instead, slowing down processing dramatically. Once the computer is rebooted or turned off, the storage area is erased.

Hard Drive - where data, the OS, and Application software is stored permanently inside a computer.

NAS - Network Attached Storage ; essentially a hard drive attached to a network so that a number of computers can access it.

NAT - Network Address Translation ; a method of keeping computers on one network anonymous from the computers on another network, such as between a LAN and the Internet. It helps keep computers on a LAN more secure.