What is information technology?
Information technology (IT) is the use of any computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data. Typically, IT is used in the context of business operations, as opposed to technology used for personal or entertainment purposes. The commercial use of IT encompasses both computer technology and telecommunications.
The Harvard Business Review coined the term information technology to make a distinction between purpose-built machines designed to perform a limited scope of functions, and general-purpose computing machines that could be programmed for various tasks. As the IT industry evolved from the mid-20th century, computing capability increased, while device cost and energy consumption decreased, a cycle that continues today when new technologies emerge.
What does information technology encompass?
The IT department ensures that the organization's systems, networks, data and applications all connect and function properly. The IT team handles three major areas:
- deploys and maintains business applications, services and infrastructure (servers, networks, storage);
- monitors, optimizes and troubleshoots the performance of applications, services and infrastructure; and
- oversees the security and governance of applications, services and infrastructure.
Most IT staff have different responsibilities within the team that break into several key areas including:
- Administration. Administrators handle the day-to-day deployment, operation and monitoring of an IT environment, including systems, networks and applications. Admins often perform a range of other duties such as software upgrades, user training, software license management, procurement, security, data management and observing adherence to business process and compliance requirements.
- Support. Help desk staff specialize in answering questions, gathering information and directing troubleshooting efforts for hardware and software. IT support often includes IT asset and change management, helping admins with procurement, handling backup and recovery of data and applications, monitoring and analyzing logs and other performance monitoring tools and following established support workflows and processes.
- Applications. Businesses rely on software to perform work. Some applications are procured and deployed from third parties, such as email server applications. But many organizations retain a staff of skilled developers that create the applications and interfaces -- such as APIs -- needed to deliver critical business capabilities and services. Applications might be coded in a wide array of popular languages and integrated with other applications to create smooth and seamless interactions between different applications. Developers might also be tasked with creating interactive business websites and building mobile applications. The trend toward agile or continuous development paradigms require developers to be increasingly involved with IT operations, such as deploying and monitoring applications.
- Compliance. Businesses are obligated to observe varied government- and industry-driven regulatory requirements. IT staff play a major role in securing and monitoring access to business data and applications to ensure that such resources are used according to established business governance policy that meets regulatory requirements. Such staff are deeply involved with security tasks and routinely interact with legal and business teams to prevent, detect, investigate and report possible breaches.
Why is information technology important?
It's been said that data is what powers industries worldwide. That may be hyperbole, but few businesses -- large or small -- can remain competitive without the ability to collect data and turn it into useful information. IT provides the means to develop, process, analyze, exchange, store and secure information.
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Data processing plays a significant role in these core business practices, among others, including:
- product development and design;
- marketing and market research;
- sales and invoicing;
- customer development and retention;
- accounting and taxes;
- human resources and payroll; and
- regulatory compliance.
Computing has penetrated practically every part of business and much of our personal lives. The ubiquity of computing -- also referred to as pervasive computing -- is another reason why IT is critical. Computing devices have evolved well beyond personal computers and servers. Today, all businesses and most individuals have and use multiple computing devices, including phones, tablets, laptops, game consoles and even doorbells, thermostats, vacuums and many kitchen appliances.
Virtually all these devices, many of which are part of the IoT, tap into the internet, which interconnects billions of devices worldwide. It's a complex and, potentially, perilous environment that requires IT expertise for management, security, maintenance and reliability.
Examples of information technology
So how is IT actually involved in day-to-day business? Consider five common examples of IT and teams at work:
- Server upgrade. One or more data center servers near the end of their operational and maintenance lifecycle. IT staff will select and procure replacement servers, configure and deploy the new servers, backup applications and data on existing servers, transfer that data and applications to the new servers, validate that the new servers are working properly and then repurpose or decommission and dispose of the old servers.
- Security monitoring. Businesses routinely employ tools to monitor and log activity in applications, networks and system IT staff receive alerts of potential threats or noncompliant behavior -- such as a user attempting to access a restricted file -- check logs and other reporting tools to investigate and determine the root cause of the alert and take prompt action to address and remediate the threat, often driving changes and improvements to security posture that can prevent similar events in the future.
- New software. The business determines a need for a new mobile application that can allow customers to log in and access account information or conduct other transactions from smartphones and tablets. Developers work to create and refine a suitable application according to a planned roadmap. Operations staff posts each iteration of the new mobile application for download and deploy the back-end components of the app to the organization's infrastructure.
- Business improvement. A business requires more availability from a critical application to help with revenue or business continuance strategies. The IT staff might be called upon to architect a high-availability cluster to provide greater performance and resilience for the application to ensure that the application can continue to function in the face of single outages. This can be paired with enhancements to data storage protection and recovery.
- User support. Developers are building a major upgrade for a vital business application. Developers and admins will collaborate to create new documentation for the upgrade. IT staff might deploy the upgrade for limited beta testing -- allowing a select group of users to try the new version -- while also developing and delivering comprehensive training that prepares all users for the new version's eventual release.
Software vs. hardware
IT includes several layers of physical equipment (hardware), virtualization, management systems, automation tools, operating systems, other system software and applications used to perform essential functions. User devices, peripherals and software can be included in the IT domain. IT can also refer to the architectures, methodologies and regulations governing the use and storage of data.
There are two categories of software: system software and applications. System software encompasses the computer programs that manage the basic computing functions. They include the following:
- boot programs;
- assemblers; and
- device drivers.
Business applications include:
- databases, such as SQL Server;
- transactional systems, such as real-time order entry;
- email servers, like Microsoft Exchange
- web servers, like Apache and Microsoft's Internet Information Services (IIS);
- customer relationship management, such as Oracle NetSuite and HubSpot; and
- enterprise resource planning systems, such as SAP S/4HANA.
These applications make use of programmed instructions to manipulate, consolidate, disperse and otherwise work with data for a business purpose.
Mobile applications that run on smartphones, tablets and other portable devices typically connect with cloud or data center applications over the internet. These applications have expanded the scope of computing and created a new category of software and telecommunications that requires special expertise to maintain.
There are many different types of computer hardware. Computer servers run business applications. Servers interact with client devices in the client-server model. They also communicate with other servers across computer networks, which typically link to the internet.
Storage is another type of hardware. It's any technology that holds information as data. Storage may be local on a specific server or shared among many servers, and it may be installed on premises or accessed via a cloud service. Information that is stored can take many forms, including file, multimedia, telephony, and web and sensors data. Storage hardware includes volatile random-access memory (RAM) as well as non-volatile tape, hard disk drives and solid-state drives.
Telecom equipment, comprising network interface cards (NICs), cabling, wireless communications and switching devices, connect the hardware elements together and to external networks.
Abstracting hardware and software
IT architectures have evolved to include virtualization and cloud computing, where physical resources are abstracted and pooled in different configurations to meet application requirements. Clouds may be distributed across locations and shared with other IT users, or they can be contained within a corporate data center, or some combination of both deployments.
Volatility is a characteristic of virtualized resources, enabling them to expand and contract as needed. Subscription-based cloud or locally installed resources, such as storage or composable architectures, can spin up resources, such as servers, OSes and application software, as needed and then release them when processing is complete.
Information technology vs. computer science
When researching careers in IT, you're likely to come across the term computer science. While there is overlap between IT and computer science, the two are distinct disciplines with different courses of study to prepare for careers in either area.
IT is generally associated with the application of technology to deal with business issues. As such, the IT workforce is oriented toward developed technologies such as hardware systems, OSes and application software. Proficiency in IT is required to identify the hardware and software components that should be used to enhance a specific business process. IT pros work with a variety of technologies, such as server OSes, communications devices and software, and applications.
Preparation for an IT career requires basic courses in hardware and software systems. IT degree programs may include subjects such as:
- business analysis
- project management
- network administration
- database design
- database management
Computer science focuses on the logic and design of the underpinnings of the components that IT experts use to assemble business systems. A strong mathematics background is required to pursue a computer science career. Much of the work in computer science involves developing the algorithms and logic and writing the low-level code that enables computer systems to address business problems.
Computer scientists may participate in the hardware and software engineering work required to develop products. They are also likely to delve into more abstract technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
A course of study in computer science requires a foundation in computer concepts and advanced mathematics. It may be complemented with subjects such as:
- AI and ML
- neural networks
- security systems
- data analytics
- user experience
Careers in information technology
A team of administrators and other technical staffers deploy and manage a company's IT infrastructure and assets. IT teams depend on a range of specialized information and technology skills and knowledge to support equipment, applications and activities. Third-party contractors and IT vendor support personnel augment the IT team.
The information technology profession is extremely diverse. IT workers can specialize in fields such as software development; application management; hardware components; server, storage or network administration; network architecture; and more. Many businesses seek IT professionals with mixed or overlapping skill sets.
There is a wide array of IT careers, each with varying technological and managerial requisites. Among the most common IT job titles are the following:
- Chief information officer (CIO). This person is responsible for IT and computer systems that support the goals of the business.
- Chief technology officer (CTO). This person sets the technology goals and policies within an organization.
- IT director. This person is responsible for the function of the business's technology tools and processes. This role may also be called IT manager or IT leader.
- System administrator (sys admin). This person configures, manages, supports and troubleshoots a multiuser computing environment. Within a business, this role can be divided up by technology, requiring an administrator or team dedicated to server, desktop, network administration, virtualization, or other components and technologies.
- Application manager. This person's role centers on the provisioning and management of a high-value business application, such as Exchange.
- Developer or software engineer. This person or team writes, updates and tests code for computer programs to meet internal or customer-facing business objectives.
- Chief IT architect or IT architect. This person examines and changes IT functions to best support the business.
IT skills and certifications
A successful IT career will involve developing several technical skills. For the current IT job market, these 10 skills are among those most in demand:
- cloud computing
- edge computing and IoT
- IT automation
- software development
- big data management and data analytics
- mobile application development
In the pursuit of these IT disciplines, it is advantageous to earn certification to demonstrate proficiency in specific technologies and areas of expertise. Some of the most highly regarded certifications include the following:
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect -- Professional
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect (GCP)
- Microsoft role-based certifications
- Project Management Professional (PMP)
- VMware Certified Professional (VCP)
This was last updated in August 2021
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Examples of Information Technology
Traditional computer applications that include data storage and programs to input, process, and output the data. Software and support for office automation systems such as word processing and spreadsheets, as well as the computer to run them. Users' PCs and software.
Information technology (IT) is the use of any computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data.What is information technology short notes? ›
Information technology is building communications networks for a company, safeguarding data and information, creating and administering databases, helping employees troubleshoot problems with their computers or mobile devices, or doing a range of other work to ensure the efficiency and security of business information ...Which of the following are examples of information technology? ›
- Telephone and radio equipment.
- Video conferencing equipment.
- Personal computers.
- Performance management software for managing goal setting and performance review.
- Content management software for blogging and collaboration.
Examples of technology includes phones, computers, wheels, and washing machines.What are at least 5 examples of information and communications technologies? ›
- Social Media Platforms.
- Live Video.
- Conferencing Technology.
- Group Wikis.
- Group Forums.
“Information Technology (IT) plays a vital role in today's personal, commercial, and not-for-profit uses.” Information Technology is the main driver behind innovation, and without innovations, companies will not survive because they are the wave of the future.What is information technology paragraph easy? ›
Information Technology (IT) is the technology or devices related to the collection, processing, arrangement, management, and transfer of information. This technology uses computers, the internet, telephone system, and satellite as a global system.What is the definition of information technology quizlet? ›
Information technology. any computer-based tool that people use to work with information and support the information and information-processing needs of an organization. Hardware. the physical components of a computer, physical devices that make up a computer (or computer system) Software.What are the 5 examples of technology? ›
- Television. Television sets transmit signals over which we can listen to and view audio and visual content. ...
- Internet. ...
- Cell phones. ...
- Computers. ...
- Circuitry. ...
- Artificial intelligence. ...
- Software. ...
- Audio and visual technology.
Students will learn about technical theory, networking, programming, and computer hardware. Depending on the specific major, students may also learn about database management, systems analysis, computer circuitry, website development, and IT management.What is technology in simple language? ›
Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment.Where is information technology used? ›
It is a common technology used by every enterprise to upscale their business skills. One can use this for both personal as well as commercial purposes. Global companies incline towards using Information Technology to manage and innovate data according to their processes.What are the four main information technology? ›
There are four primary elements for information technology as a whole: information security, database and network management, computer technical support, and business software development.What are common information technology? ›
ICT gadgets are small technological devices or appliances performing certain functions. Examples include Telephones, telexes, radios, televisions, fax machines, satellites, the internet, computer systems, cellular networks, etc.How we use technology in our daily life? ›
Technology lends immense support in automating various tasks, setting up reminders, communicating efficiently, paying bills at the click of a button, and shopping for the simplest things, such as groceries to investing in valuable assets right in the comfort of our homes.What is an example of technology in the classroom? ›
These devices allow teachers to project slides, textbook examples, webpages and more, offering kids a more engaging visual than words on a page. Smartboards can even play video, taking the place of a TV or film projector.
The modern era saw the rise of technologies such as reproductive technology, the television, man-made satellites, personal computers, and many more. However, there is a specific event that triggered significant technological advancements in medicine and society.What are the three types of information technology? ›
- Artificial intelligence.
- Cloud computing.
- Data/database management.
Electronic textbooks, instructional software, email, chat, and distance learning programs are also examples of ICT.
- Telecommunications Equipment.
- Network HUBs.
Information technology has brought numerous benefits, including improved communication, increased productivity, enhanced decision-making, streamlined processes, and greater access to information and knowledge.How does information technology affect us? ›
From communication and transport to healthcare and connectivity, technology has enhanced our lives for the better. The best part is that it is ever-evolving by facilitating more advanced features. For instance, we have come far from traditional audio calls to instant messaging and facetime.How is information technology used in business? ›
Information technology is now used in daily operations of any business. IT has enabled an ease of doing business by managing overheads, regulating recruitment, dealing with market uncertainty, managing inventory, monitoring employee performance, dealing with employee grievances and so much more.What is the best definition of information and communication technology? ›
Information and communication technologies (ICT) is defined as a diverse set of technological tools and resources used to transmit, store, create, share or exchange information.Which of the following is not an information technology definition? ›
The Correct Answer is Light Storage.Where did the term information technology come from? ›
The term was first published in the 1958 Harvard Business Review when authors Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas C. Whisler said “the new technology does not yet have a single established name. We shall call it Information Technology.”What are differences between information technology and information systems? ›
The difference between information systems and information technology is that information system incorporates the technology, people, and processes involved with information. Information technology is the design and implementation of information, or data, within the information system.How do you write a technology essay? ›
- Understand Your Assignment. ...
- Find an Interesting Technology Topic Idea. ...
- Find Relevant Sources and Read about Your Topic. ...
- Select a Research Question. ...
- Use Keywords to Find Other Sources. ...
- Make Notes as You Read Sources. ...
- Introduction: ...
- Body Paragraphs:
Information technology professionals study, design, develop, implement, support, and manage computer-based information systems, including both software applications and computer hardware.
HTML is the building block for significant web development technologies in the industry. It helps you design web pages as you wish, and the code snippets we use in HTML are easy to understand. HTML tags are human-readable and make it easy for anyone to learn and create good-looking web pages.
IT Presents a Steep Learning Curve
One of the primary reasons that individuals believe information technology education to be difficult is that it can be time-consuming to study, especially at first, when you aren't familiar with the lingo, processes, and best practices used by IT professionals.
Technology is the use of scientific knowledge for practical purposes or applications, whether in industry or in our everyday lives. So, basically, whenever we use our scientific knowledge to achieve some specific purpose, we're using technology.How do you explain technology to a child? ›
Explain what a computer is and how to use it. Show them how to search for information online and how to stay safe when browsing the internet. If they're older, you can move on to more advanced topics such as social media, blogging, and coding. You must tailor your lessons to your child's age and level of understanding.What are the six functions of information technology? ›
Information Technology includes a set of tools, processes, and methodologies such as coding/programming, data communications, data conversion, storage and retrieval, systems analysis and design, and systems control.What is the nature of information technology? ›
Information technology is the design and implementation of computer networks for data processing and communication. This includes designing the hardware for processing information and connecting separate components, and developing software that can efficiently and faultlessly analyse and distribute this data.What are the eight commonly used in information technology? ›
They include: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, drones, Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, 3D printing and virtual reality (VR). Today, the Essential Eight continue to evolve and make their mark — with the pandemic accelerating emerging tech adoption.What exactly is an IT job? ›
Information technology professionals study, design, develop, implement, support, and manage computer-based information systems, including both software applications and computer hardware.What is an example of information technology in everyday life? ›
Other examples of IT systems include the internet, mobile phone systems, broadcast radio and TV systems, but IT is essential to many other day-to-day activities. Consider for example a visit to a supermarket. Checkout staff use an IT system to scan bar codes and obtain prices.What are 5 examples of technology? ›
- Television. Television sets transmit signals over which we can listen to and view audio and visual content. ...
- Internet. ...
- Cell phones. ...
- Computers. ...
- Circuitry. ...
- Artificial intelligence. ...
- Software. ...
- Audio and visual technology.
The basic concepts in information technology include information security, software development, technical support, database and data storage administration, and network management. Information security refers to the measures implemented to prevent unauthorized access to information by people who have malicious intent.What do most IT jobs do? ›
Information technology (IT) professionals are responsible for helping organizations maintain their digital infrastructure and providing troubleshooting assistance to technology consumers. IT employees are in demand to help others keep up with technological advances and security procedures.Why information technology is important? ›
Better decision-making and problem-solving – It is much easier to do marketing and management research online than by older methods. We find data and information faster and easier, analyze it, and make better plans. Innovative software allows us to also get faster and more accurate customer feedback.Why do we need information technology? ›
A major importance of IT is that it helps boost productivity and efficiency. With digital systems, people can perform tasks faster compared to manual methods. There are computer applications for various tasks you want to do, which help people to complete tasks faster with fewer errors.What is information technology in today's life? ›
With Information technology, communication between people has become cheaper, easier, and faster than ever before. Texting, video calling, and sending e-mails are so easy nowadays. There are so many apps available online to provide these services.How is information technology used in our lives? ›
Among the importance of information technology include: Providing technical support for customers and business operations. Solving complex business concerns with advanced hardware and up-to-date software applications. Enabling decision-making easier through data-driven data extracted from the latest tools.How does information technology change our lives? ›
Improved Quality of Life
From communication and transport to healthcare and connectivity, technology has enhanced our lives for the better. The best part is that it is ever-evolving by facilitating more advanced features. For instance, we have come far from traditional audio calls to instant messaging and facetime.
Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment.What is the most popular technology used today? ›
According to recent data, mobile phones top the list of the most popular electronics, worldwide. In 2023, pretty much all (96.8%) consumers own a mobile phone. Of the different types of mobile phones, smartphones are the most popular. They're owned by 96.6% of global consumers.