Cybersecurity is everyone’s business. From the office temps to the C-suite, everyone on your team needs to be on the same page when it comes to the protection of your firm’s digital assets. To achieve this, you all need to speak a shared language. The good news is, even if you are quite new to cybersecurity, you likely already know most of the terms you need.
Remember, you don’t need to become an expert overnight. You don’t need a degree in computer science to discuss your own IT environment, even if it may feel that way sometimes.
After all, how much do you need to know about medicine to have a meaningful conversation with your doctor about your health? Or, how much do you need to know about cars to talk to your mechanic? You may not know precisely how your engine works, but you know what an engine is, right? The same goes for technology. And we bet you know more than you realize.
Here are 8 essential tech terms everyone in your organization should understand:
Hardware: Any physical device that can store, process, or transmit data in digital form. Examples include everything from supercomputers to personal computers, laptops, tablets, cellphones, wearables, switches, routers, and digital appliances of every imaginable (and some unimaginable!) kind. Any digital device is synonymous with “hardware.”
Software: In its broadest definition, software is a set of instructions that guide hardware in performing a task. Nothing happens without software. Think car and driver. You may be familiar with the distinction between the operating system (OS) of a computer or phone and its applications (or apps), but while they are indeed different, both are software; they just do different things. The OS is the software that controls the use of the actual hardware, while the applications make requests of the operating system to have the hardware perform specific tasks.
Network: In this context, a network is a collection of connected (again, most often digital) devices. You can have a network of computers—such as the one in your office that enables you to send a document to your office printer—and you can also have a network of networks—such as your point-of-sale terminal network that connects to a credit-card authorization network. Whatever its size, the point of a network is to enable communications. Networked devices can share data and software, leveraging their connection to increase processing power. The Internet is a network of networks. In fact, it is the network of networks—you might think of the Internet as one giant ocean, but in fact it’s more like a huge number of interconnected streams, rivers, and lakes. And like Tolkien’s “one ring,” the Internet is there connecting them all!
Digital Services: Simply put, a service delivers value to a customer through action (a human doing a task for the customer) as opposed to manufacturing (producing a product). Similarly, for digital services: A collection of hardware and software, networked or not, combines to deliver value. For example, a digital service can be something as simple as digital storage. Other digital services include access to processing power or to a particular application.
Hosting: Be it a business (such as hosting a website) or a service (hosting storage), the term hosting means the capacity to deliver digital services located off-premises (remote) to the consumer. There are many nuances to the term (for example, near hosting, far hosting, distributed hosting), but the easiest way to think of it is that the computers are located in someone else’s office—that office hosts the computers on your and others’ behalf. That other firm runs and maintains them, pays the electric bills, and so on—while you get to use the computers by accessing them remotely.
Cloud: Or cloud computing, is the delivery of hosted digital services, on demand, over a network, and commonly over the Internet. If these services are being delivered through private and proprietary means, then the term used is private cloud. If the network is the Internet, then it’s called a public cloud. If we combine them, we refer to it as a hybrid cloud. Terms like “Software as a Service” (SaaS) and “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS) are now used to differentiate between cloud-delivered application services and hardware services. The main advantages of cloud computing include scalability, redundancy, reliability, pricing, and on-demand availability.
The “as a service” tag is getting appended to more and more digital services these days, for example, Architecture as a Service (AaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Everything as a Service (XaaS). And of course, TMG’s own product, cyberCTRL, is an industry-first: Cybersecurity as a Service (CaaS).
Internet of Things (IoT): IoT refers to yet another network, this one made up of physical devices that aren’t usually thought of as computers—for example, thermostats, appliances, cars, even wearables (devices that you wear as part of your clothing or accessories). These devices’ main function is to sense and communicate to a controller that then takes action based on the sensor readings. IoT devices are often vulnerable to attacks because they use simple circuits that are not well defended or secured.
Digital Ecosystem, Digital Realm, Digital World, Cyberworld, and the like: These terms are just shorthand for all of these definitions combined (hardware plus software plus networks plus services, etc.). They also help you sound smart and cool when you use them in a bar.
Armed with this understanding, you will be in a better position to move forward with cybersecurity solutions for your business. In our next post, we’ll define some more specific, cybersecurity-related terms that will have you chatting away like a pro in no time.