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Information technology

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Information technology (IT) refers to a company’s networks, hardware, software and data storage and the management systems that apply to them.

  • Hardware includes computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, scanners and other user or network devices (e.g., modems and routers).
  • Software includes any applications a company uses, such as accounting or word-processing programs. Software can be installed on a specific device, or accessed over the Internet or through the cloud (an external network of servers).
  • Data storage and management systems include databases, spreadsheets, servers, backup drives and cloud-based services like Dropbox.

A company’s IT systems allow it to manage, store, use and secure its data (such as customer records, invoices and correspondence). They also allow it to communicate and do business with customers, prospects, partners and suppliers via the Internet, secure web portals and e-commerce platforms like PayPal.

It is critical for a company to secure its data and client’s information from being hacked because it is key to its business operations and business reputation. Further, having backup and restore systems help a company get back to business in cases where hardware or software fail.

More about information technology

Some small businesses manage their own IT systems. Others hire a managed service provider (MSP) to handle setup and ongoing maintenance, either on a scheduled or as-needed basis. Managers must be aware that the information technology field is fast changing and that it can present both opportunities and threats to a business; investigating and considering the impact of newly emerging technologies in both the near and longer term.

Related definitions

Find out more in our glossary

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