Tech Glossary: Technical Terms Explained in Everyday Language

With the success of The Support Desk Glossary, we decided to make a general terms version. These are terms that are used across all industries, not just Permitsy. Some of them are commonly said around modern households, such as “IP address” and some are less brought up, like “query.” These definitions are written in non-technical language, made for the non-technical audience, so that they can be easily understood by anyone. College and association admin generally don’t need to know these terms, but if they have a conversation that needed the knowledge of some technical terms, for example with an IT professional, these could come in handy!

Glossary 2.0

Bug – An error in a computer program that causes wrong or unexpected results.

Business Rule – A way of enforcing restrictions on data as it’s entered. Can be in terms of formatting, values, conditions, etc. It is used to ensure data integrity and a way of enforcing regulations through code. Examples might include something simple like raising a warning when the date of birth would make a persons age lower than 18 or something complex like not allowing an applicant to register for a practical exam when they have 3 failed previous attempts.

Character – A symbol (letter, number, or punctuation mark) which is a unit of information.

Database – A database can be a complex database using Microsoft SQL server like Alinity and Permitsy, or as simple as an Excel spreadsheet. The complexity of the database depends on your requirements. More complex usually means you have more options, but also has a higher maintenance and requires more technical skills. For instance, an Excel spreadsheet or Access database can be managed by people without programming skills, but may be limited in the ability to offer additional services through it to your members.

Dataset – a file or group of files specifically used for one purpose.

Debug – to remove bugs (see “bug” above) that cause errors or unexpected results. When a programmer is debugging a program, they are often using a specialized set of programming tools to track down what’s causing the bug. This might be an error that you are seeing, an issue with the application being slow, or even a query returning unexpected results.

Extract/Export – A way of taking out raw data, unformatted from the database for analysis. Used to acquire data on to their own spreadsheet to do what they want with. Viewed usually in xml format.

File Format – The layout of a file in terms of how the data within the file is organized. Different programs use specific formats to be able to access and recognize data. Examples of file formats are:

  • .doc, .docx – MS Word document
  • .html – Web page
  • .gif, jpg, .png – Images, often on web pages or on your computer
  • .pdf – document format used for read-only documents (like receipts, certificates, etc)
  • .exe – an executable program
  • .mp3 – an audio file – most often music
  • .mp4 – video files
  • .xls, .xlsx – Microsoft Excel files

Freeware – Computer software that is available for use free of charge.

Hardware – The physical machine and components of a computer.

Hard drive – A data storage device that holds are your files and folders.

IP Address – A unique set of numbers assigned to identify each computer on the Internet. An example of an IP address is “”.

DNS (Domain name) – Domain names are a way mapping easy to remember names to IP addresses.

Query – A pre-defined way of members that all share the same traits. A query can be configured, ie. Practicing Registrants, and then further organized, ie. Full-Time Registrants and Part-Time Registrants. It’s a way of filtering through a large selection of items, in Permitsy’s case, registrants.

Reports – Alinity can format data for easier review by auditors for example, can be seen with headers, graphs, etc.

Select Mode Action – After being turned on in the Alinity application, it is a method of selecting a large number of members for further actions.  For instance – after selecting a number of registrants, you could perform a registration change to cancel their memberships.

Software – The programs use to operate the computer. Alinity is a software application.

Sproc – developers often talk about needing to write a “sproc” (short for Stored Procedure) to accomplish some task in our database. For instance, a SPROC might be used to add a new applicant. This stored procedure then has all of the programming to insert new applicants, but also has business logic embedded to handle scenarios such as detecting duplicate registrants, making sure that phone numbers are formatted correctly, etc.

View – Views are also integral components to any database application. Views are used to assist with ensuring that data in the database can be displayed to you in a consistent way. For instance, we might store first, middle and last names in separate fields in the database. We use views to give you that name in various formats that are useful depending on the context of what you are doing – “Jeff Burns”, “Stephen Jeffrey Burns”, “Burns, Stephen Jeffrey”, “Burns, Jeff”, etc.

Web Service – A program (like a middle man) sitting on the web server between the web client/staff client and the database and vice versa. A public user puts in an interaction on the web client (i.e. clicking a link or entering login information) and that gets sent to the web service to sort out with the database and then sent back to the user (i.e. a new page or the home page that they just logged in to). An analogy of a web service is a waitress at a restaurant: the customer (public user) gives the waitress (web server) an order and the cook creates the order by grabbing ingredients from a fridge (database) and the finished dish is given back to the waitress to present to the customer.


If you have any suggestions for terms that should be added to our glossary, please comment them below!