Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) And Why They Suck

Good afternoon,

Spring may finally be arriving but we can’t be too sure. It’s another beautiful day in Reno and I’m back to talk about technology.

Today’s topic is the dreaded three letter acronym (TLA), a term which many of you are probably not familiar with but one which you certainly have encountered, whether or not you wanted to. In short, TLAs are “quick and easy” abbreviations for many of the technological terms that are thrown around the IT industry. Here’s my top list of TLAs that everyone should know and a brief definition to get you through the day!

ISP – Internet Service Provider. This is the Charter’s, AT&T, and Comcast’s of the world who are “gracious” enough to let you lease out one of their high speed internet lines.

NIC – network interface card – this is what you plug a network cable into to create the physical connection between your computer and the Internet signal coming from your ISP. (Note: this is going the way of the dinosaurs as wireless networksare rapidly becoming commonplace and speeds are getting faster)

CAT – this just stands for the category of cabling being used. Currently CAT5e and CAT6 are the commonly used network cable “categories”

TCP – transmission control protocol – this is the backbone protocol of the Internet. It is paired up with IP (internet protocol) to ensure the delivery of bytes being streamed over the Internet are delivered properly. Email and many other Internet protocols run off of TCP.

FTP – file transmission protocol – a method of uploading files to an Internet web server. For those of you who have GoDaddy or other web hosting accounts, you can use an FTP client to upload files from your computer on your domain.

DNS – domain naming system – this is the primary translator of the Internet. When you type in, DNS translates that “English” into an IP address, or computer language. Google’s IP address is so DNS translates from into the proper IP address to deliver that content to your machine.

LAN – local area network -in its simplest form, this is just a group of computers connected together for sharing resources.

VPN – virtual private network – similar to a LAN, a VPN allows you to remote into a LAN from an outside connection(such as your home) and access resources just like you would if you were connected directly to the network. A great example of this would be using a VPN to connect to your university’s network from a local Starbucks.

CSS – cascading style sheets – this is code that is written to provide incredible flexibility with websites. Instead of hard coding everything in HTML, you can use CSS to change and manipulate the content to your will. An amazing example of this can be seen at

So that is some of the common TLAs in a nutshell. Next time an IT professional tries to “name drop” a TLA, you will hopefully be better prepared. What other technology acronyms do you find confusing?



  1. Yeah well I lived in the UP, hiked the AT, worked for DOE, DOD, P&G and BASF, paid taxes to the IRS, so WTH do you think I need a class on TLAs for?

    ButI still think we ought to write that book. Your explanations were quite clear, so WTG, BB.

  2. To piggyback on your topic, all enterprises should check their use (overuse) of TLAs and other jargon to make sure they are communicating clearly with both customers and employees. How much time ($$) is wasted trying to interpret what “corporate” is saying?

    Thanks for your list!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts! I absolutely agree that companies overuse their jargon, much to the dismay of their customers and clients. It seems like social media would be a great medium for customers to express their dismay over this issue. Although, companies should be clear and concise right out of the gate!

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