The 7 terms admins need to demystify to the business

IT is often frustrated that the business doesn't understand its priorities; here's how to make the translation

I forget sometimes when I'm talking to friends and family that they have no idea what I mean when I use certain terms. We all do that, right? For example, we'll toss out words like "cloud" when we mean the Internet, not to confuse our audience but because we're caught up in the current technojargon. But when we do so with our business colleagues, we risk confirming IT's propeller-head stereotype and, even worse, having them tune out what we're saying.

But if they don't understand what we're trying to say, they can't make good business decisions about their use of and investments in technology. So here's a cheat sheet for the admin terms that we all drop into conversation but need to explain to our business colleagues and even to our IT peers who aren't admins. And let's admit it: We don't always understand these terms either, so here's your chance to bone up and prevent future embarrassment or cluelessness.

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report. | Follow the latest Windows developments in InfoWorld's Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

1. Active Directory (AD): Although it's been out for 10 years, Active Directory is not really grasped by many nonadmin folks. Active Directory is a directory service; at its base, it's like a telephone book that contains the names, addresses, phone numbers, and so forth of all the users in your company, but it goes beyond that. It's also the mechanism for which people provide their usernames and passwords to be able to log in to various domains (network "sections"). It lets admins group domains together and apply different access settings to those groups to ensure resources (like files and folder or printers) are used only by people who have access rights. In addition, its Group Policy control feature helps ensure policies are applied throughout your organization.

2. Group Policy: This is a feature of an Active Directory organization that allows you to standardize the background of users' desktops, prohibit users from accessing certain tools in Windows, and deploy software to your users. Group policies can be created and applied to sites, domains, and organizational units, which are implemented within Active Directory to organize your users, workstations, and servers based on physical location groupings or logical departmental groupings. The number of policy settings runs into the thousands and is a must-know subject for any Windows admin.

3. TCP/IP: This set of protocols provides an address for each computer on your network or on the Internet, thus making them easy to locate. The IP address takes the form xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, such as 192.168.1.1. A user can see his or her Windows IP address by opening a command prompt and typing ipconfig. (Type ipconfig /all to see additional information about your IP configuration.) The first number is your overall network, sort of like a state in a postal address. The second number is your subnet mask, which is a zone sort of like a city in a postal address. The third number is the router address, sort of like your street in a postal address. And the fourth number is your device's specific address, like a house number in a street address.

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