Information technology (IT) is the field concerned with all aspects of managing and processing information, especially within a large organization or company. IT usually refers to enterprise technology rather than personal or home computing and networking.
What is information technology?
IT is often used to describe computers and computer networks, but it also includes all layers of all systems within an organization from the physical hardware to the operating systems, applications, databases, storage, and servers. Telecommunication technologies, including internet, phones, and cellular networks, are also part of an organization’s IT infrastructure.
What are examples of information technology?
Categories of technology that fall under the IT umbrella include:
- Networking. Two or more computer systems, connected wirelessly or by cables, comprise a network.
- Compute. Though computing broadly refers to anything in the computer world, here it means data processing, particularly in the main memory of a central processing unit (CPU).
- Data storage. Information has to stay somewhere when it isn’t directly being processed. Storage solutions include devices (such as solid state drives), cloud storage, databases, data lakes, and file systems.
- Security. Cybersecurity helps institutions protect their data and other technological assets from unauthorized access. Data is one of the most important enterprise commodities, and attacks are increasing in frequency.
- Technical support. Technology often requires fixing hardware or software issues. Technical support ranges from unlocking a laptop to solving an entire network outage.
Because computer systems are central to information technology management, computer departments within companies and universities are often called IT departments. Some companies refer to this department as IS (Information Systems) or MIS (Management Information System).
IT department tasks include:
- Installing software onto devices
- Solving issues with hardware, such as broken device parts and electronic failures
- Updating devices to new operating systems
- Patching software or managing platforms that automatically perform patching
- Managing network cables, routers, and switches
- Designing and debugging software
- Provisioning new servers and storage arrays
- Migrating stored data to a cloud environment
- Maintaining data center hardware and software
- Monitoring security management platforms for potential weaknesses or breaches
- Mitigating security issues after receiving alerts
Why is information technology important?
During the past three to four decades, enterprises have shifted from manual bookkeeping and analog communication to a heavily digital business environment. Almost all business communication is done through electronic devices, and digital data comprises a large segment of all enterprise information. IT manages how all of this technology works, reduces errors, and protects systems from attacks.
IT needs have also increased in remote work environments; enterprises are heavily dependent on devices, networks, and data storage systems. Remote work environments also increase the risk of cyber attacks on endpoint devices because endpoints traditionally have fewer security constraints or aren’t under constant IT supervision. Solutions like mobile device management (MDM) software help enterprises supervise those devices and decrease the ways that threat actors reach enterprise data.
Read more about how MDM protects the hybrid workforce: Best Mobile Device Management Software
The importance of IT for information and system security
As long ago as 2017, data giant Domo estimated that internet users created 2.5 million terabytes of new data every day. This data explosion means that customer and internal data volumes have grown more rapidly than tech personnel can easily keep up with. Approximately 89% of big data has been created during the last two years. Enterprise data, which some industry experts argue is now the most valuable commodity in the world, powers company sales and finance operations and is the primary way to manage customer relationships. That importance means protecting data is one of the top priorities of a modern enterprise.
Information technology teams and processes are essential to protect enterprise computer systems, not just endpoint devices. The right software platforms, installed and managed by experienced administrators, help secure business networks and storage systems. Security software solutions include:
- Threat intelligence—Awareness of possible attacks and weaknesses in IT systems
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS)—Monitoring computer systems and networks for threats and developing methods to prevent them
- Endpoint detection and response (EDR)—Mitigating and stopping cyber attacks on endpoint devices like computers and mobile phones
- Security incident and event management (SIEM)—Analyzing log data to find anomalies and alerting administrators of potential threats
- Extended detection and response (XDR)—Successor to EDR that combines multiple security solution functions into one platform in order to be more comprehensive
IT teams must implement protective measures for their stored data if they want to safely manage it.
The importance of IT for regulatory compliance
Storing customers’ personal information means that enterprises have to be vigilant; stolen data not only endangers customers but also puts businesses at legal risk. Data protection regulations, such as the GDPR for businesses with European customers, impose strict measures on enterprises, so they don’t misuse customer data or put it at risk.
Often IT departments manage digital data storage and transmission systems. As a result, they are responsible for implementing technical constraints that a data controller or data protection officer enforces. Those constraints can include:
- Limiting employee and strategic partner access to sensitive personal data
- Enforcing password restrictions
- Downloading security software to company devices
Information technology vs. computer science
Information technology is a broader field than computer science because it deals with more than just hardware and networking. As data and technical needs multiply, information technology has come to include data center infrastructures and enterprise big data storage environments as well as computers and networks. Broadly speaking, IT encompasses the entire business computing world.
Because it is a field of science, computer science focuses on the study of computers and computational processes, specifically as they relate to mathematical algorithms. By studying these algorithms, computer scientists can improve computer systems and programs.
How do I get an information technology job?
To begin a career in information technology, people typically earn a college degree or a certificate.
Information technology degrees include:
- Computer science
- Information systems management
- Systems and network administration
- Computer engineering
- Software engineering
Many IT jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, some universities offer graduate degrees, such as:
- Master of Science in Information Science
- Master of Science in Applied Information Technology
- Master of Science in Computer Science (Cybersecurity)
IT and information science degrees include courses in areas like programming, data technology, technical support, and networking. College degrees are useful for IT jobs because they provide students with a wide range of experience in technology fields.
Information technology certifications are designed to educate and objectively validate an IT professional’s specialized competency in targeted areas of information technology. IT certifications can be obtained through education, experience or assessment of a specific set of knowledge skills. Today there are hundreds of certifications available through independent organizations and vendors, including:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP)
Read more about starting a career in technology: Top Tech Job Opportunities You Should Know About
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