A Few Tech Basics

Let's talk about a few technical basics. An early concept to look at is something called static media versus digital or electronic media. What's this refer to? Static media is something that you can physically hold and read. This is like a book, a magazine, a newspaper, that sort of thing. Digital or electronic media basically needs power to access. So instead of the book, it's the Kindle. So obviously electronic medical or dental records are going to be accessed via a tablet, a computer, smartphone, etc. And next we look at how is this information stored electronically. There are three basic ways. One is called magnetic another one is optical and another one is flash, also known as solid state drive storage. They each have different properties. Magnetic looks like a little stack of a silvery pancakes with a little spindle arm that reads it.

 

That's actually what you have in a typical computer hard drive. Optical is like a CD or DVD. It's basically a disc which is read with an optical reader and the actual stuff it's reading are little indentations in the disc, really tiny ones you can't see. And that's how it actually judges what the data is and flash or SSD/solid state drive storage is reading it electronically. Now the reason all of these can talk to each other is because they're actually using the same thing; because all information is reduced to what's called Binary Code. And you've probably seen this. It's ones and zeros and because it's identical, no matter what the devices, they can all share information back and forth. Now every single one or zero is referred to as a bit. The smallest unit that you can use and actually read is eight of them together, which is called a byte. It's tiny. It'll be a, a letter, a number, maybe a small word. It varies by the program, but as they get bigger they'll have more and more. About a thousand bytes is called the kilobyte. About a thousand of those a megabyte and about a thousand of those, you may have heard of, is called a gigabyte. Now how much information is that? It varies a bit depending on what's being stored there. Like if you have pictures, audio files, movies, and also what quality it is. Basically like an HD movie will take up a lot more room effectively than a standard definition movie because it needs more binary code to effectively get all the information out there. One conservative estimate, if it will be helpful, a gigabyte can store approximately 75,000 pages of text. So what does this translate to in the real world? Well, typical computer today might have something like a one terabyte hard drive.

 

Yes, they come a lot bigger, but that's a standard size. A one terabyte hard drive can hold about 75 million pages of data. So there's a lot there and that also means a lot for you to use and a lot that can be stolen. Now one other thing you typically run across from programs: software. Software, program, app, and application all pretty much refer to the same thing. And that's a set of instructions for a computer, smartphone, tablet, etc. to follow. Now what about a computer network specifically? Basically that's all the devices that are intended to have access to your office's data. The way that's typically organized, on a more normal network you could say, is something called a client server model. A client server model will have certain centralized functions handled by effectively stronger computers called servers. That might include something like your office's overall data storage or all of your billing might be there or your email would be inside a server or multiple servers depending on how many you need.

 

Now each of the individual computers that are connected to this, sort of like spokes on a wheel, are called clients. So if you're watching this on a computer at your office, you're watching this on a client. Now the parts of the network we interact with directly, including clients, are called endpoints and these include the computers, mobile devices, medical and other Internet of Things devices and even printers. It's anything that humans interact with directly. Now the Internet itself is effectively a massive decentralized network. Your office network connects to the Internet via what's called a router, which just takes the traffic coming in and going out and brings it back and forth. Now one other thing to mention there, the way that traffic goes back and forth is a process referred to as "packet switching." In English, what does this mean? Sorry about that. Packets basically break down information into little pieces and then reassembling it on the other side.

 

If you've ever seen the old film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (which I highly recommend if you haven't), there's a scene in, there where one of the kids runs into a room with "Wonkavision" and he gets excited because it's a chance to be on TV. In effect what Wonkavision does is it zaps him, he disappears, he shows up as a million little pieces flying across the top of the room and then gets reassembled on the other side of the room. That's kind of what packet switching does. So whatever you're sending gets broken into little pieces. It goes out over the Internet using these routers and then is reassembled on the other side in the right order. That's how information goes back and forth. Now in terms of finding the right place to go, it uses something called IP addresses; IP standing for Internet Protocol.

 

Now what that basically equates to is a numerical address, which is how one thing finds another on the Internet. Actually every website you see has an IP address, which is the "real" address, the name you see, something like dentalcare.com or google.com. That's a name for you to look at that makes sense to you as opposed to trying to remember a numerical address. Think of it this way, it's like looking at a street address versus the name of a building. So instead of say 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the White House. It actually refers to the same thing.

Your network includes all devices that have access to your office’s data. The parts of the network you interact with directly, are called endpoints, and the devices that connect with them are called endpoint devices. These include computers, mobile devices, printers and medical and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

App, application, program and software all refer to the same thing; a set of instructions for a computer, laptop, smartphone, etc. to follow.

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