Access Definition & Meaning

1. In IT security, access refers to the permissions a user, program, or device has to interact with data, content, and/or other devices. Access can be granular, such as the ability to view, share or print a specific file, or it can be broad, such as admittance to a computer s operating system to use its installed applications.

At the file level, access can be customized to enable a unique combination of privileges. For example, access can be restricted to read-only, meaning a user, program, or device can view a file but cannot modify or delete it. Or, access can allow some files to be created, edited, or deleted, but restricts that functionality for more sensitive files. This type of access is particularly important in the context of digital rights management (DRM), a system for protecting intellectual property and data copyright. As a response to the rise of Internet piracy, DRM allows for widespread (or limited) access to a digital file while also preventing unauthorized duplication or reproduction.

When applied to storage, access refers to the act of reading data from or writing data to a mass storage device. For example, programs can access a computer s memory, which means they read data from or write data to the main memory but do not interact with it otherwise. The time it takes to locate a single byte of information on a mass storage device is called the access time.

In web development, access characterizes which pages of a website are visible on the Internet and which users can view or modify them. If a web page is still in production, the draft will be hidden from the public but still accessible to anyone who has login credentials with the right privileges. Access levels can also be useful when gating content or building a community site in which someone must become a member to gain access.

With computers and servers, administrator access (also called root-level access) typically offers complete visibility and control over all aspects of a computer or network, as well as the access privileges other users have. This type of access enables administrators to install and configure applications and software.

2. When capitalized, Access refers to Microsoft Access.

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Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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