LAN, WAN, and More: Common IT Jargon Explained

Most Are Technology Acronyms That Make It Quick And Easy To Spit Out An Otherwise Complicated Mouthful.

What Language Are They Speaking?

You might wonder this when you walk past a group from the accounting department tossing around words like “OPEX,” “CAPEX,” and “EBITDA.” A bit farther down the hall, you could hear a group from the IT department discussing why the LAN couldn’t access the WAN because of a NAT issue. Huh? We live in a world full of acronyms. It seems as if most of them are tied to technology, but those wild and crazy folks from the accounting department are proof enough that unique terms and acronyms abound in every department.


It’s an acronym for local area network; IT-speak for a small collection of networked devices. All the computers in your department could be on a LAN or all of them in your office.


It’s an acronym for wide area network; IT-speak for a network that covers a larger area. Your Internet service provider (ISP) likely gives you a connection to their WAN, which connects to the Internet.


It’s short for Internet Protocol. All networked devices have an IP address, a numerical identification corresponding to it on the network. When you connect to a web server to see a website, you’re using its IP address—and it’s using yours to provide the information you’ve requested. There are two types of IP addresses: IPv4and IPv6. We now have IPv6 addresses because there aren’t enough IPv4 addresses for all the devices in the world.


Rhymes with cat and stands for network address translation. Hang on. This one gets a bit crazy—especially when you just heard about IP addresses. A router uses network address translation to share just a single IP address among multiple devices. Here’s an example. Your wireless router at home creates a Wi-Fi network for your computers and mobile devices. It uses just one IP address to connect to your ISP, and then it creates a LAN that assigns a local IP address to all your devices.


What’s created when your router generates all those local IP addresses to the computers and mobile devices hooked up to your Wi-Fi network. Those happen at your office, too.


IP addresses are long lines of numbers. You’d have to know this specific numerical address for every website you visit on the Internet and for every device you want to connect to on a network. Your brain would explode. Instead, we use the domain name system. Our computers convert domain names like to numerical IP addresses. Actually, our computers don’t do the work. They contact a DNS server, which looks it up.

MAC Address

Guess what? Even if your computer runs on Windows, it still has a MAC address. That’s because this acronym has nothing to do with Apple. It’s IT-speak for media access control address—but even the IT department doesn’t control this. A MAC address is assigned when a device is manufactured. Identifying your laptop’s MAC address is how those 30-minutes-for-free Wi-Fi services know when it’s time to kick you off.


This can be either software or a piece of hardware that blocks specific types of network traffic. IT departments usually are asked to use firewalls to prevent access to outside networks. It can be as specific as a particular website.


It’s an acronym for the virtual private network, and it allows public Internet connections to be used as a secure and private environment. Wi-Fi is excellent, but it theoretically exposes all of the data on your device to anyone on the network. This software solution provides you with shielded protection.

There you have it, the tip of the IT-iceberg, the most common terms you might hear if you spent a day with the people responsible for keeping all the technology in your office running smoothly. One last observation about those people. They might be invisible. It’s becoming more common for small and medium-sized businesses to partner with IT management services—rather than incur the expense themselves with an in-house department. To understand the benefit, you’ll have to talk to the friendly people in accounting and ask them to explain the downside of IT-related CAPEX. It’s not a set-up, honest!

Don’t worry if you still don’t quite understand all the IT jargon we went over.

At Network Computer Pros, we explain to all our clients what we are fixing and what needs to be implemented to your technology in easy-to-use terms, so you don’t have to worry about memorizing and interpreting confusing tech-speak.

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