The Alphabet Soup of Technology Acronyms

Throughout the course of the day, we hear many acronyms.  When I take my car into the shop to find out why my check engine light is on, the mechanic tells me that the problem is with my O2 sensor and it will cost me $10 dollars for the part and $50 dollars for labor. OK, I know he was referring to an oxygen sensor. What about medical terms?  The next time you visit your doctor count the number of different acronyms or terms you hear during your visit:  ACL, CBC, ENT, WNL, FX…the list can go on and on.

I must admit those of us in the computer and technology field are just as guilty as the various other professions when it comes to the use of acronyms. I confess there been times when I have taken great joy in saying words and acronyms in the hopes of seeing a totally confused look on the face looking back at me.

DNS, DHCP, ISP, and IP address are several terms you may have heard but may not be sure what they are or what they are used for.  Let’s start with ISP: Internet Service Provider. An ISP is a company that provides access to the Internet which can take on various forms ranging from a cable company to a telephone company. Beyond the actual Internet service, an ISP may also provide you with an e-mail account, in addition to providing you with space on their web server to host a personal web page.

In IP Address, the IP stands for Internet Protocol.  IP addresses are what computers use to talk to each other.  You can think of them being similar to a telephone number. There are static and dynamic addresses. Static addresses are permanently assigned to a computer.  Most websites have static IP addresses. Dynamic addresses are handed out to computers on a temporary basis as they are needed.  Your Internet service provider will probably assign a dynamic address to your computer when you connect to the Internet. An IP addresses will be composed of four sets of numbers separated by periods, such as 70.61.250.11.

DNS stands for Domain Name Server.  Continuing the telephone analogy, you can think of a DNS server as a phone book, as it maintains a listing of IP addresses and their corresponding names.  It’s a lot easier for us to remember names and words than it is to remember numbers.  For example, if you want to open Central Insurance’s public website in your browser, you could enter www.central-insurance.com in the address bar or you could enter 70.61.250.11. Which is easier to remember?

DHCP is the acronym for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol. DHCP servers maintain a listing of available IP addresses. When a computer requests an IP address, it will provide a temporary address to the computer to use. The length of time that a computer can use the temporary address is called a lease.  When the DHCP server issues an address, it also provides the address of a DNS server so your computer knows how to translate names to addresses.

Now let’s put it all together.  When you connect your computer to the Internet, your ISP will issue your computer a dynamic IP address from their DHCP server, along with providing the address of a DNS server. When you enter the web address of www.central-insurance.com in the address bar, your computer will use DNS to translate the web address to an IP address of 70.61.250.11, which your computer will then use to communicate to the IP addresses assigned to Central’s web server.

I hope that I’ve helped to demystify some technical acronyms you may encounter. Are there any others I may have missed?

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