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3rd April 2023

A basic guide to internet terminology

Written by Team Pentanet

3rd April 2023


The internet is a wonderful thing. It’s our gateway to the wider world, unrestricted by distance, time, or location. It gives us access to any entertainment, information, or contact we might want. But it can also be quite confusing.  

In the grand scheme of things, the internet is still quite young. There are several generations alive today who didn’t have the internet as a regular fixture in their home as kids. For these older generations, who didn’t grow up with an iPad in hand, it can be hard to understand all the jargon that gets thrown around when all we want to do is watch Netflix. 

That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide below, laying out a few of the terms you might run into across the internet, or when you’re receiving tech support, to make the whole process run a bit more smoothly. 

Modem: The device that connects your network to the internet. It converts analogue signals received from your router and network into digital data that it can then transmit to the internet. Devices such as a Fixed Wireless antennae or network termination device (NTD) fill a similar role to a modem.

Router: The device that manages your home’s internet network and its connection to the internet, diverting traffic to and from your devices. Want to learn more about the routers Pentanet has on offer? Click here.

Note: Generally, a modem and a router will be combined into one device, but this is not always the case and more specialised devices tend to just be one or the other. 

Bandwidth: The maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over an internet connection at one time. Think about it like a doorway your data must walk through, if you have a heap of devices they're going to all be sharing that door to push through.

IP Address: An IP Address (short for Internet Protocol Address) is just that, an address; a unique identifier given to each device on a network and each website. An IP address will look something like this: These are used to communicate across a network. Think about it like this, your home address is written on a letter to make sure it arrives in the right place. When you want to do something online, the same thing is happening, the Internet Protocol locates your address and delivers that new season of Antiques Roadshow straight to it like a letter. 

DNS: The DNS (Domain Name System) is basically the phonebook of the internet, or maybe one of those old timey switchboard operators. When you try and go to a website, you’re providing the name of the website to the DNS, and it is finding the IP address related to that name for you and sending that to your PC, so that it can find its way to the website, allowing you to surf the web at your leisure. 

Wi-Fi: Wireless technology that transmits your internet connection through the air around your home. Fun fact, Wi-Fi was created by Australians! Your Wi-Fi signal is produced by your router, and placing your router in an optimal location around your home can drastically improve your Wi-Fi connection. You can learn more about how to optimise your Wi-Fi experience here. 

Streaming: When you watch a video on Netflix or Youtube, you’re streaming it. This is a method for transmitting and receiving data in a steady, continuous stream that allows you to play the video even while the rest of the video is still being received. When a stream ends, your computer discards the media download, rather than retain it, which is different to a conventional download which will store a local copy of the media on your PC. 

Buffering: If you’re streaming a video and it stops, this is because it’s buffering. The data stream is happening slower than the playback of the video, and so needs time to receive more data so that you can continue playback. 

URL: A uniform resource location (URL), also known as a web address, is a reference to the location of information or a page on a computer network, as well as the method for retrieving it. 

Bit/Byte: Bits and bytes are terms for the storage of data, generally used for data transfer in the case of bits, and storage in the case of bytes. You can learn more about them here. 

Latency: The delay between data being sent and received, high latency can greatly impact your online experience, especially when playing video games. Learn more about latency and it’s impacts here. 

Download/Upload: A download is when information is downloaded from the internet onto your device. This is the primary way you will interact with the internet, but if you want to do things like video calls, file transfers or online gaming, a good upload speed is essential. Uploading is the act of your computer sending data to the internet, or to a cloud network. Learn more about upload speed and its impacts here. 

HTTP/HTTPS: You’ll see these at the beginning of URLs, they’re further forms of identification and communication, used to fetch information and locate pages on the internet. The important note here is that before you ever input sensitive information, such as your banking details into a webpage, check if it has HTTPS in its URL. This means that the requests and responses between you and the page will be encrypted, making it much more difficult for someone to steal your information. 

So there you have it, we hope this little glossary of information comes in handy in your internet explorations. If there’s anything you’re still unsure about, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on (08) 9466 2670.