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Definition: online


Connected to (logged into) the Internet or a server in a private network. Users with cable, DSL or FiOS service are online 24/7. Dial-up users are online only after dialing in and logging into their Internet provider. Contrast with offline.

Peripherals Are Also Online
A printer, scanner or other peripheral device turned on and connected to the computer is also considered online. When turned off, the device is "offline."

Online and Batch Processing
From the 1960s to the 1980s, information systems were designed as a combination of online and batch processing. Online meant terminals were connected to a central computer for queries. Batch processing meant entering transactions on punch cards into the computer on a second or third shift. Entering transactions (sales, purchases, updates, etc.) eventually evolved from batch to online. See transaction processing, batch processing and nearline.

Want to Impress Your Friends?
Although truly overkill, it is not incorrect to say that you work with "online, real-time, transaction processing systems" (every business essentially does). In today's buzzword age, this still sounds pretty high tech. But if you say this at your next social gathering, be careful. Your friends might ask you how to get their printer to work, but an experienced professional will probably just chuckle.