Computers can only do a limited number of operations in a given time, usually about a billion operations per second. Here, by an individual operation, we mean addition, multiplication, assigning a value to a variable, etc. Hence, if we want our algorithm to finish executing in a second or so, then we need to make sure that the total number of operations we are asking it to do is less than 1 billion.
Estimating the exact run-time of an algorithm without implementing and executing it is very tough since it depends on so many factors - including the programming language being used, the compiler, the hardware of the computer itself, and more. Instead, what we'd like to do most of the time, is to estimate the run-time approximately.
Rate of growth
In algorithms, we focus on estimating the execution ...