Browse Definitions :
Definition

compatibility

What is compatibility in IT?

In the world of IT, compatibility refers to the ability of software and hardware from different sources to work together without having to be altered to do so. This means that programs, devices and systems must interact with each other without issues arising.

For a system to be compatible, all components must agree on how they will exchange data and commands. Compatibility also includes compatibility with various operating systems so users can take advantage of features available in one OS but not another.

Compatibility can refer to interoperability between any two products: hardware and software, products of the same or different types, or different versions of the same product.

information technology components and functions
In IT, compatibility means programs, devices and systems interact with each other without issues arising.

Why is compatibility important?

Ultimately, compatibility ensures an optimal user experience by verifying computers, components and networks can all work together.

When compatibility is established between different pieces of technology, users are free to use any combination of software or hardware they choose, thus increasing productivity while decreasing costs.

Forward compatibility vs. backward compatibility

When compatibility is discussed, two terms are often used: forward compatibility and backward compatibility.

Forward compatibility refers to compatibility between different versions of the same product, while backward compatibility refers to compatibility between an older version of technology and a new version.

windows 10 vs. Windows 11
Forward compatibility refers to different versions of the same product.

Backward compatibility is usually more difficult as newer technology can use methods or protocols that were not supported in older devices. Nevertheless, it remains important for maintaining data integrity and ensuring customers' purchases remain valid over time. For example, newer 5G cellular-wireless devices are backwards compatible with older 4G devices, and the latest Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 6 (or 802.11ax) is backward compatible with previous generations of Wi-Fi, such as Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) products.

Challenges with creating compatible software and hardware

It is important to recognize compatibility can be a challenge at times, and compatibility issues should be addressed as soon as possible.

Whether it is forward compatibility or backward compatibility, research should always be conducted before introducing new technology into an existing system to reduce compatibility issues. It also helps to check with the product manufacturer for compatibility advice.

Finally, there are many tools available that can help test components for compatibility before they are connected or installed (for example, for cross browser testing, hardware compatibility with an OS update, etc.). There are also third-party websites people can turn to as well, such as when building a PC from different components, that can tell if parts are compatible or not. User can also turn to vendor hardware compatibility lists as well. This ensures any potential compatibility problems can be identified and resolved quickly and efficiently.

What if two components are not compatible?

If two components are not compatible, users may need to find a way to bridge compatibility gaps or purchase technology that is fully compatible. For instance, there are also compatibility modes available in some operating systems which allow them to work with software written for older versions of the same OS.

compatibility modes in Windows
Example of Windows compatibility modes.

See five reasons software updates are important and learn how VSAN compatibility issues affect performance.

This was last updated in June 2013

Continue Reading About compatibility

Networking
  • SD-WAN security

    SD-WAN security refers to the practices, protocols and technologies protecting data and resources transmitted across ...

  • net neutrality

    Net neutrality is the concept of an open, equal internet for everyone, regardless of content consumed or the device, application ...

  • network scanning

    Network scanning is a procedure for identifying active devices on a network by employing a feature or features in the network ...

Security
  • virtual firewall

    A virtual firewall is a firewall device or service that provides network traffic filtering and monitoring for virtual machines (...

  • cloud penetration testing

    Cloud penetration testing is a tactic an organization uses to assess its cloud security effectiveness by attempting to evade its ...

  • cloud workload protection platform (CWPP)

    A cloud workload protection platform (CWPP) is a security tool designed to protect workloads that run on premises, in the cloud ...

CIO
  • Regulation SCI (Regulation Systems Compliance and Integrity)

    Regulation SCI (Regulation Systems Compliance and Integrity) is a set of rules adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange ...

  • strategic management

    Strategic management is the ongoing planning, monitoring, analysis and assessment of all necessities an organization needs to ...

  • IT budget

    IT budget is the amount of money spent on an organization's information technology systems and services. It includes compensation...

HRSoftware
  • ADP Mobile Solutions

    ADP Mobile Solutions is a self-service mobile app that enables employees to access work records such as pay, schedules, timecards...

  • director of employee engagement

    Director of employee engagement is one of the job titles for a human resources (HR) manager who is responsible for an ...

  • digital HR

    Digital HR is the digital transformation of HR services and processes through the use of social, mobile, analytics and cloud (...

Customer Experience
  • chatbot

    A chatbot is a software or computer program that simulates human conversation or "chatter" through text or voice interactions.

  • martech (marketing technology)

    Martech (marketing technology) refers to the integration of software tools, platforms, and applications designed to streamline ...

  • transactional marketing

    Transactional marketing is a business strategy that focuses on single, point-of-sale transactions.

Close