The terms “information technology” and “IT” are widely used in business and the field of computing. People use the terms generically when referring to various kinds of computer-related work, which sometimes confuses their meaning.
A 1958 article in Harvard Business Review referred to information technology as consisting of three basic parts: computational data processing, decision support, and business software. This time period marked the beginning of IT as an officially defined area of business; in fact, this article probably coined the term.
Over the ensuing decades, many corporations created so-called “IT departments” to manage the computer technologies related to their business. Whatever these departments worked on became the de facto definition of Information Technology, one that has evolved over time. Today, IT departments have responsibilities in areas like computer tech support, business computer network and database administration, business software deployment, and information security.
Especially during the dot-com boom of the 1990s, Information Technology also became associated with aspects of computing beyond those owned by IT departments. This broader definition of IT includes areas like software development, computer systems architecture, and project management.
Job posting sites commonly use IT as a category in their databases. The category includes a wide range of jobs across architecture, engineering and administration functions. People with jobs in these areas typically have college degrees in computer science and/or information systems. They may also possess related industry certifications. Short courses in IT basics can be also be found online and are especially useful for those who want to get some exposure to the field before committing to it as a career.
A career in Information Technology can involve working in or leading IT departments, product development teams, or research groups. Having success in this job field requires a combination of both technical and business skills.
Network Cables in Server Room. Michael Bocchieri / Getty Images
- As computing systems and capabilities continue expanding worldwide, “data overload” has become an increasingly critical issue for many IT professionals. Efficiently processing huge amounts of data to produce useful business intelligence requires large amounts of processing power, sophisticated software, and human analytic skills.
- Teamwork and communication skills have also become essential for most businesses to manage the complexity of IT systems. Many IT professionals are responsible for providing service to business users who are not trained in computer networking or other information technologies but who are instead interested in simply using IT as a tool to get their work done efficiently.
- System and network security issues are a primary concern for many business executives, as any security incident can potentially damage a company’s reputation and cost large sums of money.
Because networks play a central role in the operation of many companies, business computer networking topics tend to be closely associated with Information Technology. Networking trends that play a key role in IT include:
- Network capacity and performance: The popularity of online video has greatly increased the demand for network bandwidth both on the Internet and on IT networks. New types of software applications that support richer graphics and deeper interaction with computers also tend to generate larger amounts of data and hence network traffic. Information technology teams must plan appropriately not just for their company’s current needs but also this future growth.
- Mobile and wireless usages: IT network administrators must now support a wide array of smartphones and tablets in addition to traditional PCs and workstations. IT environments tend to require high-performance wireless hotspots with roaming capability. In larger office buildings, deployments are carefully planned and tested to eliminate dead spots and signal interference.
- Cloud services: Whereas IT shops in the past maintained their own server farms for hosting email and business databases, some have migrated to cloud computing environments where third-party hosting providers maintain the data. This change in computing model dramatically changes the patterns of traffic on a company network, but it also requires significant effort in training employees on this new breed of applications.