Wednesday 18 October 2017

How to keep up with office colleagues using tech jargon: a bluffer's guide

Whether it’s FTP, Nest or the Cloud, don’t get left out of the conversation
Whether it’s FTP, Nest or the Cloud, don’t get left out of the conversation
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Feel like a laggard when it comes to colleagues using tech terminology? When a conversation turns to analytics or the internet of things, smiling vacantly will only get you so far. In the third of a series of explainers for late adopters, here are seven every day pieces of tech jargon explained.

1 "Yes, but are there analytics?"

What they're talking about: Lies may beget statistics: there is no stopping the march of 'analytics'. Almost everything you or your business does with a device or online service can now be measured, graphed and compared against your peers and competitors.

The most common service is probably Google Analytics, a free online program that lets you track a website's performance, visitors and other data. But Facebook and Twitter have (free) analytics programs, too: both are pretty essential if you're using them as marketing tools. (Even if you're not, it's sometimes interesting to see which posts you make interest people the most.)

How to get it: For Google Analytics on your own website, sign up with and visit analytics.google.com. For Twitter, it's analytics.twitter.com.

2 "Just open a Word account in the cloud."

What they're talking about: While Microsoft Word used to be part of a CD Rom package, today it can be used free of charge online (in the 'cloud'), so long as you have a (free) online Microsoft account (otherwise known as an Office 365 account). It's doing this because it has to, with free alternatives such as Google Docs gaining real traction.

There are some restrictions to free Word, like not being able to save documents to your PC (they're saved in your online Word account instead). And while it has features like a word counter, you can't do all the things that a "premium" (paid for) account offers, such as extensive offline usage.

How to get it: Sign up for a free Microsoft account at Microsoft.com. Then go to Office.live.com (it wouldn't be Microsoft if there wasn't a confusing domain or branding switch somewhere) and log in.

3 "Do we have an internet of things strategy?"

What they're talking about: The 'internet of things' is one of the great buzzword phrases today in tech. It means that everyday objects, from light bulbs to parking meters to wristwatches, can connect online to receive instructions on what to do. It's based on the proliferation of tiny chips in ordinary, mundane objects allied with much more wifi and mobile internet connectivity from phones. It could be used as easily within large offices and factories - connecting tools or access doors, for example - for customers' convenience. For this reason, large businesses and public sector bodies talk about it as part of upgrading their operations.

4 "Can you send it over FTP?"

What they're talking about: The problem with email as a way of sending files is that it's often restricted by size. Gmail, for example, has a 20-megabyte limit. Microsoft Outlook varies according to individual businesses' rules, but can be as small as 1MB per email. An alternative is 'to FTP it'. File Transfer Protocol is basically a process where you upload a file directly to someone's account, either to their website, online account or even their own server. Online variants you might have heard of include Dropbox, Hightail or DropSend.

How to get it: Online FTP hosting accounts like Dropbox.com or Hightail.com are generally free with premium business upgrades.

5. "We're rolling out a big data plan this year."

What they're talking about: A former heavyweight champion of tech buzzwords, 'big data' usually means trying to look for previously unrecognised patterns in large dumps of data that companies have. For example, it could mean cross-referencing a company's fleet car GPS locations with productivity or business leads. Or taking all of a public sector body's customer interaction records and trying see which bits work and which don't. The problem with big data processes is that they usually require a hefty investment in analysis software and staff to do it.

How to get it: Some big companies, like IBM, Amazon Web Services and Cloudera, pitch specialist big data services to businesses.

6 "We need to go after verticals more."

What they're talking about: As in general business jargon, a 'vertical' is when you specialise your product or service for a targeted industry or audience.

For example, if your company is specialising its accountancy service for doctors and nurses, it could be described as a health industry 'vertical'. This is very common in the technology and media industries, where 'vertical' sectors are seen as easier to make profits from because they focus on one thing.

Dell, for example, now has Irish units that focus on the oil and gas sectors because it's a cash-rich sector that will pay more for IT services.

Similarly, chasing 'vertical' audiences online - such as business, tech and sport - is increasingly part of large media companies' strategies.

7 "It works like a Nest."

What they're talking about: Nest is a 'smart' thermostat that has become a big hit around the world and has come to symbolise 'smart' devices for the home.

It comes in two parts - a thermostat with a colour screen and a unit that replaces your home heating control box.

The thermostat connects to your wifi and controls the heating unit depending on what temperature it records in the room. An app for your phone also lets you program it or operate it manually. Some office devices have been doing this for a while, especially security and alarm systems.

How to get it: You can buy a Nest outright or get it through an Electric Ireland deal. Unless you're an experienced handyman, it takes a technician to install it.

Indo Business

Also in Business