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The Definitive IT Glossary Part 1: Networking

The Definitive IT Glossary Part 1: Networking There is a lot of jargon used in the IT industry. Do you ever start talking to your […]

The Definitive IT Glossary Part 1: Networking

There is a lot of jargon used in the IT industry. Do you ever start talking to your IT person only to get quickly lost when you hear three acronyms used in the same sentence?

Our definitive guides to “IT Speak” are here to help. Now, you can quickly get up to speed on what all your technology is doing and why it matters.

First, there are key terms related to “Networking.” We wrote a whole blog defining “Computer Networks,” but put simply, a network is a collection of interconnected computers that communicate and share resources. 

Here are 31 key terms and their definitions you’ll often hear related to networking:

  • Data Packet: a term for a unit of data that is transmitted over a computer network. They are the fundamental units of communication for devices connected to the internet. They consist of two parts: A header and a payload. 
    • Header: Contains information on the source and destination IP addresses, as well as sequencing information, error detection, and other metadata necessary for the network to transmit the packet.
    • Payload: This is the actual data being transmitted. Could be part of a file, video stream, email, or any other kind of digital information.
  • Switch: A networking device that connects devices together on a local area network (LAN) and uses packet switching to forward data to the appropriate destination device. Just like how you send a DM when you’re sharing something with an individual, versus posting to your whole network, switches enable efficient communication between devices since they can communicate directly versus waiting for a response from their entire network.  
  • Hub: A hub is the opposite of a switch, it’s a networking device that connects multiple devices in a LAN and broadcasts data to all connected devices. In today’s world, they’re outdated and businesses should be migrated to switches for better network performance.
  • Ethernet: A family of computer networking technologies commonly used in local area networks (LAN), typically using copper or fiber optic cables.
  • TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, the suite of communication protocols used to interconnect network devices on the internet.
    • TCP breaks the data down into packets that can be easily transmitted across a network
    • IP provides the addresses and routing details for where the data flows. 
  • IP Address: A unique numerical label assigned to each device connected to a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication. All devices on a TCP/IP network have unique IP addresses which consist of “32 bits” for four decimal numbers separated by dots (e.g.
  • Subnet: A portion of a network that shares a common address component. This is helpful for organizing large networks into smaller more manageable parts. Each subnet can be assigned its own set of IP addresses, reducing broadcast traffic and improving network performance.
  • LAN: Local Area Network, a network that connects devices within a limited area, such as a home, office, or building.
  • WAN: Wide Area Network, a network that connects devices across a wide geographical area, such as cities, countries, or continents.
  • VPN: Virtual Private Network, a technology that creates a secure connection over a public network, such as the internet, allowing remote users to access a private network securely. A VPN created an encrypted connection between your device and the network to protect data against interception or hackers. It also is important in the remote work world, so that employees can access sensitive data in a secure manner even when they are on home or public WiFi.
  • DNS: Domain Name System is the internet’s phone book. It’s a hierarchical decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the internet or a private network. DNS translates human-readable domains like into an IP address (like so that devices can communicate.
  • DHCP: Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, a network management protocol used to automatically assign IP addresses and other network configuration parameters to devices on a network. This is how you can get free WiFi in Starbucks. When a device connects to the network, an IP address is automatically generated so data can flow between the device and network, rather than you having to configure your device each time you join a new network.
  • Gateway: A network node that connects two different networks, serving as an entry and exit point for data traffic. A router is a specific type of gateway, but firewalls, VPNs, proxy servers are also all gateways. 
  • Firewall: A security system that monitors and controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on predetermined security rules. A firewall is the bouncer to your LAN. It filters out data packets trying to enter based on certain criteria like IP origin address or URL. They’re essential to protecting your network from harmful intrusions and controlling who has access to what data on your network.
  • Load Balancer: A networking device or software that distributes network or application traffic across multiple servers to ensure high availability and reliability.
  • NAT: Network Address Translation, a method of remapping IP addresses as data flows from one network to another. This is useful so that the data packets are accepted by the other network. 
  • IPv6: Internet Protocol version 6, the most recent version of the Internet Protocol, designed to replace IPv4 to accommodate the growing number of internet-connected devices.
  • ARP: Address Resolution Protocol, used to map an IP address to a physical machine address (MAC address) on a local network.
  • FTP: File Transfer Protocol, a standard network protocol used for the transfer of files from one host to another over a TCP-based network, such as the internet.
  • SSH: Secure Shell, a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network.
  • Telnet: In computer terms, Telnet is a way to connect to another computer over the internet and see what's happening on that computer. It's like a secret handshake for computers to talk to each other and share information. You can use Telnet to talk to other computers, play games, or even check your email. But just like with your secret clubhouse, you can only go in if the computer lets you.
  • SNMP: Simple Network Management Protocol is a protocol used for monitoring the devices and traffic on a network. It helps those managing your network ensure that data is flowing, devices are connected, and there are not any updates needed.
  • ICMP: Internet Control Message Protocol, used by network devices, like routers, to send error messages indicating, for example, that a requested service is not available or that a host or router could not be reached. These error messages can be viewed on the SNMP. 
  • Bandwidth: The maximum rate of data transfer across a network or internet connection, usually measured in bits per second (bps).
  • Latency: The time it takes for a data packet to travel from its source to its destination across a network, often measured in milliseconds (ms).
  • Routing: The process of selecting paths in a network along which to send network traffic.
  • DNS Server: A server that translates domain names into IP addresses and vice versa. There are public DNS servers run by Google, Cloudflare, OpenDNS which track public domain names and their associated IP addresses. Organizations can also have private DNS servers to manage the naming and IP addresses within their LAN.
  • Proxy Server: A server that acts as an intermediary between a client and other servers, forwarding, or blocking, requests from the client to those servers. Most modern firewalls include Proxy server capabilities and enable an organization to control what websites users on their network can access. 
  • VLAN: Virtual Local Area Network, a logical network that allows devices to be grouped together even if they are not physically on the same network segment. In the world of remote work, this is how businesses stay connected. All the company’s devices connect to a VLAN so they can communicate. 
  • 802.11: Commonly known as WiFi, these standards enable devices to know how to communicate with each other. Previously, devices had to be hardwired into a network, but these standards that layout how data should be encoded and transmitted, enable devices to join a network wirelessly.

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