If you’ve checked your email, posted on Facebook, saved something to the cloud or used your organization’s Wi-Fi recently, thank an information technology professional. The information technology (IT) field is dynamic, innovative and rapidly evolving as organizations seek solutions that help them pursue opportunities, create efficiencies and reduce threats. IT professionals are in high demand, and wages for the industry outpace those for the workforce as a whole.
IT is the field concerned with storing, managing and processing data in an organization. IT touches on every part of a company’s technology architecture: hardware, networks, connectivity, software, security, integration, design, telephony, programming and contingency planning — to name just a few! IT has grown in importance as organizations continue to embrace technology that helps them design and deliver, at an ever-increasing pace, the products and services that consumers want and need.
When all the pieces of IT work together, an organization can easily and effectively create, store, analyze and exchange data across teams. It can also stave off threats from a variety of sources, including malicious players, internal mistakes and discontinuation of service because of natural disasters.
The History of IT
While most people talk about the future of IT, it’s important to reflect on the field’s past and present. The history of IT is as old as the computer itself. ENIAC, one of the first modern computers, required technicians to ensure its operation when it was first switched on at the University of Pennsylvania in 1946. The first commercial mainframe computers, the IBM 701 and IBM 702, also required caretaking — these behemoth machines didn’t even ship with software or operating systems.
As computer technology developed, IT started to flourish. The advent of personal computers created a greater need for IT professionals in all kinds of organizations.
IT evolved quickly when internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee developed the idea for a global hypertext system, which led to the World Wide Web. The advent of globally connected computers required heavy support from IT to develop, build, maintain and improve networks.
The progression of the cloud in recent years has changed the face of the IT industry. Instead of just looking after hardware, software and internal connectivity within an organization, IT professionals must work with third-party cloud services provider and promote protocols that enable seamless communication between software and networks.
Today, IT is an integral part of any organization. At larger companies, the leader of the IT function — sometimes named the Chief Information Officer or Chief Technology Officer — has a spot in the C-suite, alongside the CEO.
Existing and Emerging Issues in IT
There are a handful of concerns for today’s IT professionals. One of the largest is cybersecurity. As networks grow more complex, and the information possessed by organizations grows more valuable, malicious parties may look for ways to bring down a network, hold it for ransom or steal its data. Not all threats come from outside: Employees, either accidentally or deliberately, can compromise your networks and data.
Another emerging issue is the rise of the Internet of Things, or IoT. The IoT describes an increasingly networked world of devices, where even commonplace objects such as wearable devices and washing machines are connected. IT professionals will need to make sure that these complex networks work efficiently, and that they are not vulnerable to attack.
Common Roles in IT
IT is a very broad field, and the job titles run the gamut from help desk analyst to chief information officer. Some of the most common positions include:
- Network administrators: The network administrator’s job is to ensure that the system is up and running smoothly, and that users have no problems accessing the websites and email they need.
- System administrators: These administrators are responsible for making sure the right people have the proper access to various levels of the IT infrastructure.
- Programmers: Programmers are generally seen as the rock stars of the IT world. They are the ones responsible for designing and compiling the code that enables new web experiences and useful new applications.
- Systems analysts: The systems analysts are some of the highest-ranked professionals in any IT function. They research, plan, design and implement the hardware and software solutions that achieve the organization’s goals.