All About Software: Types of Software & Why Software Security is Important

Software is the all-encompassing term which describes the programs, applications, and other data used to operate your computer and execute specific tasks. Software is the opposite of hardware, which describes all of the physical items needed in order to operate your computer – such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, or the computer (CPU) itself. Both software and hardware are necessary in order to use your devices. When shopping for a new computer or phone, many consumers take into consideration the safety features provided by each device in order to help protect themselves from malicious actors online – hardware security is relatively well-established in our world today. However, nearly 40% of adults do not update their software on a regular basis. Software updates are often seen as a nuisance to users because it takes time and we often don’t see the need to do so other than to get an update notification to go away. Despite these feelings being common, is important to understand the major types of software out there as well as the importance of software security and its impact on you as a device user.

Types of Software

System Software

There are three major categories of software and the most basic one that is a must in order to operate your computer is system software. This software category includes operating systems like iOS for your Apple phone or macOS for a Mac Book. An operating system is the software that manages all other applications and software downloaded to a device. Without this type of software, the computer cannot even turn on, much less operate.

Utility Software

Utility software is often considered as a piece of the system software, but this is specifically the software needed to keep the computer operational for your applications to be functional. This type of software is designed to help analyze what is going on with the computer, optimize these various systems, and maintain the computer’s necessary functions. Utility software can include security software such as an anti-virus software that comes with the computer (as well as applications that can be downloaded separately – those sort of straddle the two software types) and can also include things like file managers and compression tools that help make the operating of your computer more efficient. You can think of this type of software as the goalie for the system software – system software is required in order to operate your computer, but utility software makes it so that this can happen in as safe and efficient of a manner as possible.

Application Software

Application software (often referred to as an application or app) is the type of software that covers the ‘execute specific tasks’ chunk of the software definition above. This encompasses everything that does not automatically come on your new computer or device – these are the features on our devices that we use everyday such as the Microsoft Suite with Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, as well as social media apps like TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter. Take a look at your phone’s home screen – everything on there that didn’t come with the phone (everything apart from apps like Contacts or Settings) is an application that falls under application software. It is likely that you downloaded each of those apps in order to complete a specific function (i.e. listen to music, track your health, or connect with friends). Apps have to have their data saved to the operating system manually as they are not interconnected with the CPU like system or utility software – this is why saving your Excel files or Word documents is so important, so that a version of your file is saved to the device itself.

The Importance of Software Security

The best thing you can do for any of your devices with regards to software security is to update your devices regularly. This includes the operating software and the applications themselves. You can check the details for each software update that comes available to see what is being updated; oftentimes, this includes a security patch that helps to protect against a vulnerability that the previous software did not or provides you with new features that were not previously available. This makes it incredibly important to keep your various types of software updated as these are usually the most secure versions of the app or device’s systems. The vulnerability patches offered by software updates in particular are valuable as they help to protect your data including login information and potentially financial and other personally identifiable information if they are linked to that specific app or are available on your operating system. Regularly update your devices and apps in order to keep yourself safe and protect your essential software.

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