The new IT landscape: 10 terms you need to know
The tech world evolves quickly. This shouldn't be news to anyone who remembers when a 56k modem or a phone that let you play Snake was the cutting edge, but even if you're the most up-to-date, tech-savvy person, it can be exhausting keeping up.
In today's data-driven environment, it seems that there are new jargon and buzzwords cropping up all the time, that can leave many people confused. However, with almost every firm set to be reliant on IT and data some some degree, it's vital that they understand what the key terms and trends are.
So here, in no particular order, are ten of the biggest buzzwords flying around the tech sector at the moment that you need to know about.
A form of malware that's become hugely popular with criminals in recent years, ransomware works by encrypting key files on a victim's computer, and demanding money in exchange for the key to access it again. Recent figures suggest some 93 per cent of phishing emails now contain ransomware. It's so effective because once a PC is infected, there's often nothing the user can do other than pay up or face losing their data.
One particularly nasty example of this is Petya, which instead of encrypting documents, locks up files essential to a computer's operations - effectively making it unable to start up. The good news is this malware has recently been cracked, allowing victims to unlock their files without paying - but you can be certain there'll be a new alternative along sooner rather than later.
A blockchain is a database that can maintain a list of transaction records and protect them from tampering. This digital ledger allows each participant to add records without the need for a central authority - but once information is on the database, it's very difficult to change it.
You may not have heard of the term itself, but chances are you'll be at least vaguely familiar with one of the key services that relies on this technology - the virtual currency Bitcoin.
Sometimes related to the similar concept Analytics-as-a-Service, this refers to the range of usually cloud-based solutions and frameworks that allow businesses to derive useful, actionable information from the data they possess.
Whether it's building up a picture of a customer or spotting emerging industry trends, the as-a-service nature of this, with the applications delivered via the internet, means firms don't have to make huge capital investments in their own infrastructure, bringing results within reach of any company.
Another technology designed to make the most of the huge increase in data that businesses have available, Hadoop is an open-source software framework intended to greatly increase the speed and efficiency of turning raw data into useful information.
Forrester Research predicts that this technology will be mandatory for large enterprises in the coming years, so it's something that any firm looking to make the most of its data needs to be aware of.
5. Machine learning
A key pillar of big data is its ability to help businesses spot patterns and adapt to emerging trends, but often, these goals are hindered by the fact someone has to review the data and reach conclusion.
Machine learning takes this decision-making out of the hands of people, using advanced algorithms to learn and adapt without the need to be specifically programmed, allowing companies to be more responsive and offer a better service, whether it's a self-driving car building a picture of its surroundings, or Netflix learning what types of shows you like
6. Internet of Things
A term sets set to be one of the biggest buzzwords of the coming years, the Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to the huge range of network-equipped sensors and devices currently finding their way into every part of our lives.
Whether it's thermostats that can be controlled from your phone. Driverless cars, or even the much-cliched 'smart fridge' that can order your shopping for you, it's estimated there will be some 6.4 billion such devices in use by the end of this year. The era of IoT is here - the only question is how you take advantage of it.
7. End-to-end encryption
This is a topic that's been much in the news recently, thanks to several governments' attempts to crack down on it. However, more businesses are recognising the importance of full encryption on their private data. Unlike standard transport encryption, which only protects information (such as the contents of an email) in transit, full end-to-end encryption ensures the data is kept private even on the device, so only the sender and recipient can view it.
As encryption becomes more widely accepted, major apps such as Whatsapp are now deploying end-to-end technology in order to give users peace of mind that their communications cannot be intercepted.
8. Net neutrality
Another topic that's been a hot political issue in recent months - particularly in the US - is net neutrality. This may sound complicated, but essentially, it is the principle that all data being transferred over the internet should be treated equally, with no priority given to certain data types, or certain users.
It's a principle that's followed throughout the EU, but it's not one that's currently enshrined into law. As the amount of data being transferred continues to increase, it's sure to be an issue that's returned to in the coming years.
Like net neutrality, GDPR is a political issue that will affect the way every business handles its data. Passed into law by the EU earlier this year, the General Data Protection Regulation spells out tough guidelines for exactly what businesses must do to keep sensitive data safe.
With the potential of fines of up to four per cent of a firm's global turnover for serious breaches of these rules, it's not something any business handling data can afford to ignore.Expect to hear a lot more about it in the next few months.
Security is a big issue these days, and one of the biggest problems continues to be poor passwords. Therefore, biometrics are increasingly being turned to in order to bypass this issue and make the IT environment more secure.
If you're seen the latest batch of iOS or Android smartphones, you'll probably already be familiar with using a fingerprint to unlock the device. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Facial recognition tools, retina scanners or voice prints are all popping up across a huge range of devices as more firms look to replace easily-compromised passwords with more secure alternatives.