In a nutshell, information is structured, processed and organised data that is relevant to the subject matter at hand. It gives meaning to data and allows decision making to be made. For instance, a particular customer’s sale in a restaurant is information it becomes relevant when the management can identify which dish is the most or least popular. The same applies to statistical data. A survey or research is information; it becomes relevant only if the researcher or interviewer can make a informed decision on the information based on the facts he has collected.
With information technology and its exponential growth over the last 20 years, information technology has become a crucial element of business life. A business’ information systems not only allow users to gain access to information from external sources but also to process and organise it, storing and distributing it to specific departments and executives at the top of the organisation. Information technology also allows users to share information and to interact with each other through computer systems, fax machines and phones. These computer systems, computers and fax machines are information systems.
The two major areas of information technology are the hardware and the software areas. The hardware part refers to hardware devices such as computers, printers, scanners, telephone sets and the like used to implement information technology. The software part refers to the applications written to run on these devices. Data manipulation, image processing, internet searches and database management software are examples of application software.
Application software is used to do things like log in, manage files, set up databases, search databases, email, perform tasks, etc. The computer-related activities include managing design, developing print designs, web page designs, creating web pages, graphics, web server applications, email services, internet connectivity and so on. Database management software is used to collect, store and manage the organization’s information, particularly the data that supports the activities of the organization. The two areas are closely related, as information technology involves developing a system that is capable of handling the tasks related to database management software.
In the information security domain, on the other hand, there is a need for application software that can be used to protect information. Examples include developing a firewall, detecting, tracking and blocking unauthorized computer access, performing anti-viruses and changing passwords. Information security is a concern to companies throughout the world. This is because hackers are continually trying to find ways of getting hold of information that will be beneficial to them, usually for malicious reasons.
The two concepts of information technology and information security are interrelated but not identical. Information technology refers to processes used to create and manage information and its storage and distribution. On the other hand, information security pertains to the assurance of privacy of data, especially that which is generated by computers. Data security must be considered in today’s ever-increasingly connected world.