When you think of information technology (IT), you might think about the people who offer technical support at a business. When you have trouble logging into your computer or a program crashes, you might reach out to IT to help you through the problem.
It may surprise you that IT involves much more than just assisting with computer issues. An information technology degree can prepare graduates to solve all kinds of technical problems for businesses and organizations.
What Are the Pillars of IT?
An IT department works to solve technology problems on a broad scale. They help individuals with technical issues, but they also help with larger technology programs at businesses and organizations.
Overall, IT departments primarily focus on three main areas.
1. IT Governance
One of the roles of an IT department is to ensure the policies and procedures surrounding technology and technological infrastructure meet the organization's needs. IT governance uses a framework based on three major elements: effective structure, effective process and effective communication.
An IT department oversees the day-to-day technology work for an organization. This means that they maintain the network, monitor security, assign and configure devices and help individuals with technical support.
3. Hardware and Infrastructure
An IT department ensures that physical technology works together to create the right business solutions. This means they set up and maintain routers, servers, local devices and phone systems. When the technology in the office is working well and is serviced appropriately, the IT department serves the organization’s needs without being obvious or intrusive.
Why Do IT Departments Exist?
Most businesses today rely on computers and some sort of networking system to keep them running. When any type of technology is used, security and connectivity can become an issue that needs to be addressed. This is why IT departments play an integral role in the success of an organization.
As technology becomes an even more integrated part of business, organizations are wanting to upgrade their systems and find IT solutions that make the most sense for their business. An IT department conducts continuous research to ensure that its devices deliver what is needed when it is needed.
There are a variety of areas IT departments work in. Let's take a look at a few.
Now that just about everything is online, businesses are processing huge amounts of data. This overflow of data requires specialized computing systems, networks and people to analyze the information.
Businesses do not just function on desktop computers anymore. Mobile devices – such as phones and tablets – and laptops are essential components of a business now. IT departments ensure that the wireless connection is secure to achieve seamless communication across all devices.
Very few businesses store important documents on desktop computers anymore. Even servers are becoming obsolete. Today, most data and information is stored in the cloud. IT departments work with cloud hosting platforms to ensure data security.
Video conferencing and large files transfers have become more commonplace in business. Many companies host conferences with remote employees and long-distance clients. An IT department ensures that network bandwidth is sufficient so these virtual conferences run smoothly.
Hardware and Software
Information technology graduates must be able to work with both hardware and software to thrive in IT departments at big companies.
Hardware refers to the physical parts of a computer. This includes the motherboard, the CPU and the hard drive. It also includes the mouse, keyboard and printer. Tablets and laptops are also considered hardware because they are physical computing systems.
Software is the data, applications and programs used on a computing system. Examples include operating systems or word processing tools.
An IT specialist must be able to work with both hardware and software to successfully support an organization’s goals. IT gurus are often called upon to configure certain hardware components and upgrade software to the latest version for the people at work.
Jobs Within the IT Department
Many people assume that everybody in the IT department does the same thing, but that is not true. There are several individual roles that help an IT department stay well-rounded and able to solve any technology problem that a business confronts.
Within an IT department you may find a variety of jobs, including:
- Computer Support Specialist: The people who troubleshoot technology issues are computer support specialists. These professionals work with both hardware and software. They work on the front lines, answering calls or tickets received from people within the business who have encountered issues.
- Network Systems Administrator: Network systems administrators focus on the big picture. They are responsible for the company’s entire network.
- Computer Systems Analyst: A computer systems analyst generally specializes in certain industries like finance or government. They ensure that the technology used makes the most sense for a particular industry.
- Information Security Analyst: Cybersecurity is a big concern for many businesses. An information security analyst ensures that computer networks are safe. They conduct tests and develop processes to provide a secure environment for employees.
Interested in IT?
If you’re considering an information technology degree, think about some of the skills that are best suited for the role. People in IT must have strong communication skills. In addition to solving individual technology problems, IT specialists also work with other people in the tech field to develop solutions on a larger scale.
You should be interested in solving problems. Most of the time, you will need to go through several different steps to break down a large problem. Many times, the problems you encounter are unique to a specific user error or software glitch. In other words, it isn’t rare to come across an issue you have not seen before. There is a lot of troubleshooting in IT, so you need to be comfortable in situations that are not always straightforward.