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

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4. Unified communications: Everyone is tossing this term out these days, but what it actually means is usually vendor-specific. Microsoft has unified messaging (UM), which comes from Exchange 2007 and 2010 and involves textual information such as email and instant messaging. To go from UM to UC (which includes voice and video communication), you have to add an Office Communications Server (OCS) or Lync server into the mix. To go one step further and have unified communications and collaboration (UCC), in which documents can be shared and worked on by a group, you have to include a SharePoint server in the environment as well. On the UC side, you'll see another acronym: VoIP, for Voice over Internet Protocol. It lets voice data such as phone calls be transmitted and managed on the computer network, such as to allow a universal inbox for text and voice.

5. Virtualization: The current generation of servers is incredibly powerful, which may be exactly what you need for running intense applications, such as an Exchange mailbox server. However, depending on the application and the load that your people place on it, you might be able to use a single server for multiple tasks. A server software package like Exchange is one big task, but it's desiged to run by itself on a server machine, so much of that server machine's resources are wasted. That's where virtualization comes in: It convinces the server machine it is actually several machines, so you can load multiple tasks on it, each thinking they have their own phsyical server machine. (The trick to this is a technology called a hypervisor that basically juggles these virtual machines on the physical machine.) The benefits of virtualization include easier management and the reduction of physical servers needed, along with the resources they use, such as power, cooling, and storage. But the initial deployment cost of virtualization can be steep in time, dollars, and staff.

6. High availability (HA): It's easy to think of high availability as meaning just high uptime -- that is, the percentage of time that the network is running and available. But high availability means more. It means the percentage of time the resources on the network are available to do their job. For example, if my Exchange server database crashes or gets corrupted, email is no longer available, even though the network is. My uptime hasn't changed, but my availability has dropped. High-availability systems are designed to keep everything running at , even as the demands increase. A common feature of high-availability systems is failover, so if one component has a problem, resources are moved to the other units rather than stop or crash. Often servers are clustered (grouped) to allow easy failover. Another high-availability technique, found in Exchange 2007 and 2010, is continuous replication technology, which ensures that backup databases are kept current continuously as changes made to the master are immediately replicated on the backups, rather than wait to do the backup during slow periods.

7. Cloud computing: Personally, I think this is one of the worst buzzwords invented. It's used all over town as the cure-all to every problem IT might have. InfoWorld has a great definition of cloud computing, explaining what it is and is not. Basically, cloud computing is the use of Internet-based resources to deliver computing capabilities as needed, such as access to applications (software as a service, or SaaS), to storage and other resources (infrastructure as a servce), and whole computing enviroments for development, prototyping, or remote computing (platform as a service).

This article, "The 7 terms admins need to demystify to the business," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in business software and Windows at InfoWorld.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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