So, you understand that the internet is a thing which connects you magically to cyberspace and everything in it. You’ve been using it for years, and you know how to do a whole bunch of really neat stuff online from e-mail to Netflix.
Which is why you feel that you should already know the meaning of these terms that tech-savvy people brandy about like they’re household terms they picked up back when they learned to ride a bike. You’ve been online too long and now it’s just too late to ask.
Don’t worry. Whether you’re logging on for the first time or just trying to make sense of it after all these years, we have below a list of commonly misused and misunderstood basic internet terms. You’re welcome.
What’s a Megabit Mb?
A Megabit (Mb) is a unit used to measure internet speed. Kind of like miles or kilometers per hour, but MUCH faster! They are often referred to as “megs” or “Mbps” – Megabits per second. It refers to the time it takes to complete a task requested by a user (that’s you) on the internet. For example, every time you open a webpage or click on something online you are making a request. How long it takes to load that cat video can be measured in Mbps.
What’s the difference between Mb, Kb, and GB?
1000 bits = kilobit (kb)
1000 kilobits = 1 Megabit (Mb)
1000 Megabits = 1 gigabit (GB)
Hope that’s a “bit” less confusing.
So, what’s a Megabyte MB, then?
A Megabyte (MB) is a measure of data size (not speed). The size of your files is usually measured in MB or GB (gigabytes).
Got it? Good. Next…
This is where the fun stuff starts. Bandwidth is the term used to refer to how much data you can send through your network connection at a given time. It’s like the width of the road. The wider it is the more cars you can drive down it at once. The higher your bandwidth is the faster your internet will appear because you can do more at once. Your bandwidth is determined by the size of the line you choose.
For example, if you have a 4Mbps line you have a narrow road. If you have a 50Mbps line you have a much wider road and can perform more online tasks at once without experiencing congestion(slowing down). Remember, some of the things you do online use more bandwidth than other things – for example streaming uses more than browsing social media. You should choose your line speed or bandwidth according to what you’re planning on doing with it. We have a handy little guide on choosing the right line speed right here.
What is an ISP?
An ISP is an Internet Service Provider (like us!). We help you connect to the internet and sell you the data you use. We are also the people who make sure everything works behind the scenes so that when you turn on your device the Wifi is there ready and waiting to stream, chat, browse and answer your questions.
What’s an underlying infrastructure provider?
The Underlying Infrastructure Providers are the people who build the networks and allow us (the ISP) to access those networks. Think of it like this: The underlying infrastructure provider builds the roads, and we drive the cars (and busses and Ubers). More about all that here.
What’s the Cloud?
No, not the kind that we Capetonians are always hoping for. In internet terms “The cloud” generally refers to computing that takes place “in” the internet rather than on your computer. You can store your files in the cloud. If you have a Google account with stuff in your Google Drive – you are already using the cloud. If you don’t – then it might be time to try it out!
Many applications are “cloud-based” which means they work via the internet, you don’t download the whole thing. Your data is up there waiting for you to grab it. Remember though, anything in “the cloud” does still actually have to be stored somewhere – this will usually be on big central server computers. The main advantage of cloud computing is that you can store your data without having to carry around heavy hard drives, and without slowing up your computer with too many saved files – and you can access it from anywhere, provided you have internet access and a device.
What’s an App?
There’s an app for that! A web app (or application) is a program that allows you to perform certain tasks within a mobile system. For example, Whatsapp is a messaging app. Netflix has a mobile app that allows you to access your Netflix account from your phone or tablet without having to go through your browser. I have a fitness app which reminds me to drink water. There are apps for just about everything! The advantage is that they tend to put you in touch with the information you need without using up too much space on your device.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small packets of information or data which are collected by the websites you visit. You can not eat them, nor feed them to your computer mouse. You can learn all about cookies here.
What is P2P?
P2P is like when your computer and devices talk to each other face-to-face rather than over the phone. P2P stands for “peer-to-peer” and refers to a network of computers which are communicating with each other without the use of the internet or a central server. In other words, your computers are talking to each other. You can share files and folders, or play games with each other, or chat. Your printer, speakers, mouse, and pretty much every additional thing that you connect to your computer is usually connected via P2P. There are generally cables involved.
What’s the difference between 2.4GHz and 5GHz?
If you’re using Fibre, then you have probably seen these two Wifi signal types come up in your available internet options. These are the Wifi signals your router is sending out, which you can use to connect to the internet. They are the invisible waves of internet happiness which magically make everything work, even though you are not plugged in via a cable. 2.4GHz is slower, and 5GHz is faster but has less range. Learn all about 2.4GHz and 5GHz here.
What is 3G, 4G and 5G?
This one is simpler than you’d imagine. “G” stands for generation and it refers to a wireless internet connection. So 3G internet is simply 3rd generation internet. 5G is then fifth generation and newer, faster and more stable. That said, the newer “gens” sometimes take a little while to get off the ground and are not always available in as many areas as the older “gens”. Kind of like in real life – your granny is a 2G connection – she moves a little slower, but she knows what she’s doing, until she falls asleep. Your teens are the 5G connection – they are crazy fast and super hyped up – but they are not always the most reliable, and you can seldom find them when you need them.
What’s an IP address?
An Internet Protocol (IP) address is like your computer network’s identity or “name” on the internet. Unless you have a fixed IP address, this will change every time you log in. A typical IP address looks something like this: 184.108.40.206.
What is HTML?
This is the language that the internet speaks in, kind of. It is the coding language which developers use to build websites, emails, pretty much everything you see online. Without it, you would basically see a flock of bleeps and bloops all over the place. HTML makes the internet understandable to humans. Kind of like Douglas Adam’s Babel fish, for those who are familiar with his work.
What’s the difference between ADSL, LTE and Fibre?
We are ever so glad you asked! Fibre is the best, fastest and most reliable internet connection available. LTE is airborne internet which is super convenient if you move home a lot. ADSL is an older form of internet connectivity which is busy being phased out. You can read all about the differences between them and which is most suitable for you in this article on internet technologies.