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Baffled by buzzwords? Helping you make sense of IT jargon

businessman looking confused at laptop

When you’re running a small business, you’ve got enough on your plate without having to try to wrap your head around all the latest tech buzzwords and jargon that may or may not be relevant for your business.

That’s why from the very origins of Techsolve we’ve always made it our mission to communicate in plain, straight-talking English. While some of our peers in the IT managed service space may be fully paid-up members of the “boring-confusing-and-hard-to-communicate-with-technical-experts” club, that’s really not us.

Relationships are so important to business success, and we’ve always wanted to be those guys you can feel like you’re having a genuine conversation with. Jargon does nobody any favours — it alienates, confuses and bores anybody who doesn’t work in technology. And we don’t like that.

But with technology evolving rapidly and the market more unpredictable than ever, especially for small business owners, it can be handy to know a little bit of the lingo you might see banded around. Knowledge is power after all.

In this article we’ll look at nine of what we think are the most relevant buzzwords out there now and try to break them down into something much more digestible.

1.    Cybersecurity

Let’s start with one that you’ll have heard a lot about already. Cybersecurity is all about how we as individuals and business owners reduce our risk and exposure to various forms of cybercrime such as password, data and identity theft or malicious viruses that mess up your computers.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) gives a really nice accessible definition of the topic on its website:

“Cybersecurity’s core function is to protect the devices we all use (smartphones, laptops, tablets and computers), and the services we access — both online and at work — from theft or damage. It’s also about preventing unauthorised access to the vast amounts of personal information we store on these devices, and online.”

We have become so dependent on smartphones, computers and the internet that most businesses would grind to a halt without them. Having an adequate layer of cyber protection in place is now essential for any business.

2.    Ransomware

Ransomware is in the news a lot now. It’s basically a specific type of cybercrime — with the big clue in the word “ransom”. As Kaspersky puts it, “Ransomware is extortion software that can lock your computer and then demand a ransom for its release”. Depending on the type of ransomware, it could be your entire operating system or network that’s affected or just a few choice files that are most valuable.

Either way, it’s a massively stressful headache that nobody wants to have to deal with. Victims are faced with the dilemma of either paying the ransom to retrieve their data (expensive) or trying to recover and re-establish their business from backups, which depending on the volume of data and number of devices affected is easier said than done if you’ve not adequately prepared.

Small business owners often make the mistake of thinking they’re too small to be a ransomware target and it’s just the big players that get targeted. Data suggests that’s nonsense. It’s something to take very seriously.

3.    Backup

A backup is a copy of important data that is stored in an alternative location, so it can be recovered if it gets deleted, corrupted, or in the case above, held to ransom. How often the data changes, how valuable it is, and how long it takes to back up will have an impact on the best practice in terms of how often to back up.

Any important files should always be backed up to prevent loss of data and ensure you can recover those files if needed. There are various physical and digital ways to run backups including plug in hard drives or cloud-based options.

4.    Disaster recovery

In disaster recovery, the word ‘disaster’ really means any unforeseen event that messes with your business’s ability to operate. On the dramatic side that might include loss of life or a force of nature (for example, storm damage or flooding). It could also include a cyberattack as discussed above. Or just the short-term inconvenience of a power outage. Disaster recovery is your plan and process for resuming normal operations and regaining access to and control of your technology. Depending on the scenario it might extend to finding alternative office space.

It’s always worth having thought about disaster recovery so you’re prepared should the worst ever happen one day.

5.    Business continuity

Business continuity is a bit like disaster recovery and often gets lumped under the same discipline as they’re both focused on having plans in place to sufficiently prepare for a disaster. There is a subtle difference though. Business continuity is a focus is on keeping a business operational during a disaster or unusual circumstances, for example, maybe a shop that’s still trading despite being flooded or a national lockdown due to a pandemic such as Covid-19. Whereas disaster recovery is about returning a business and its data and IT infrastructure back to normal as quickly as possible after a disaster.

Business continuity and disaster recovery have different but complementary objectives. Business continuity plans try to limit downtime, while disaster recovery plans limit abnormal or inefficient operation.

By combining both plans, businesses can thoroughly prepare for all conceivable eventualities.

6.    Digital transformation

Blimey here’s a big topic, mainly because digital transformation seems to have become the poster child for the marketing of most IT-related products and services. It’s the Godzilla of IT buzzwords.

The easiest way to think about digital transformation is the process of reimagining and reimplementing business in the digital age.

As ZDNet puts it: “Digital transformation involves using digital technologies to remake a process to become more efficient or effective. The idea is to use technology not just to replicate an existing service in a digital form, but to use technology to transform that service into something significantly better.”

But it’s not just about the technology: it’s about changing business processes and corporate culture too. Digital transformation projects are often a way for large or mature organisations to compete with younger, nimbler, digital-only rivals. Yes, that certainly applies to big banks like NatWest, Lloyds and Barclays adapting their old legacy systems and processes to compete with the banking cool kids like Revolut, Starling and Monzo. But it also applies to your 30-year-old small family-run business building an ecommerce business because a Covid lockdown literally killed their ability to trade.

7.    MFA and 2FA

MFA stands for “multi-factor authentication”, which is a form of identity verification that requires users to provide multiple pieces of evidence before gaining access to a device or application beyond the standard username and password, which can be easily stolen or hacked.

These additional factors could be something you know like a pin or second password or the answer to a preset secret question. It could also require something like a one-time code being texted or emailed to a device in your possession. In advanced cases it could include something biometric like a fingerprint or facial recognition.

Anytime you’ve logged on to your internet banking portal you’ve probably experienced a form of MFA.

With MFA, even if your password is stolen or your phone is lost, the chances of a someone else having all the necessary devices or information is highly unlikely.

2FA stands for “two-factor authentication”. It’s a specific type of MFA that always requires two methods or credentials for you to verify your identity. Multi-factor in contrast just means any number of factors greater than one so it could involve two, three or more factors.

8.    XaaS

XaaS stands for ‘anything as a service’, which is a broad term referring to various IT tools, applications, services, and so on, which are delivered to you via the cloud, rather than obtained in a physical format or from a server in a building you own.

You can think of XaaS in the context of a brand like Netflix. Back in the dark ages if wanted to watch a film you’d go to Blockbuster to rent a DVD or you’d own the DVD yourself. Today we consume ‘movies as a service’ because by paying a subscription to Netflix we’re able to stream unlimited movies of our choice via the internet to our TV without you owning any of the infrastructure, which makes that happen (beyond the TV or laptop you’re watching it on).

There are lots of different of IT services and functionality that can be purchased “as a service”, from software (SaaS), platforms (PaaS), infrastructure (IaaS), storage (StaaS), data (DasS) or networks (NaaS) to name a few.

The thinking behind XaaS is that outsourcing various elements of their IT needs, businesses can access anything they need on demand and pay a lot less than it would cost to own, maintain and upgrade them outright.

9.    Cloud migration

Accenture describes cloud migration as the process of moving a company’s digital assets, services, databases, IT resources, and applications either partially, or wholly, into the cloud where they can be consumed in a more agile, on-demand and self-service way.

So, in short it’s about replacing your old clunky servers and outdated software with something new, shiny and virtual.

It’s not just big businesses that are migrating to the cloud — there are just as many opportunities and benefits for small businesses too.

There’s far too many for us to cover!

There are so many other acronyms and jargon in the tech world that we’d be here forever if we tried to explain all of them.

If you’re interested in discussing any of the above in more detail... or there’s another buzzword you’d like us to cover then give us a shout.

Either give us a bell on 0203 3 970 978 or fill out a form on our contact us page.