Two men and a woman in a conference room, viewing laptops.

If you don’t understand the business language of the cloud, here is a cheat sheet.

Tech jargon is a slippery slope. Use too much, and you confuse — or worse, bore — your audience. Use too little, and you can’t have an effective conversation about the digital workplace.

The cloud still confuses many people, even those who use cloud services every day. Still, if you ask the average person to define it, you can practically see the cartoon question marks hovering above their heads. Throw in a few related terms and acronyms — such as SaaS, IaaS, SLA, and VoIP — and eyes start to glaze over.

However, these terms are important parts of today’s business language. For teams to effectively and strategically use cloud technology, they must be able to communicate about it. This means everyone in the organization needs at least a basic understanding of cloud-oriented business language — including the decision-makers who adopt cloud-based solutions, the leaders who deploy and integrate them into workflows, and the end users who rely on them to work from anywhere.

As more small and midsize businesses undergo a cloud migration for the first time, which terms do their teams need to know to professionally and confidently discuss their new tech tools?

What Is the Cloud?

We talk about “the cloud” as if it’s a place or thing, which leads to such questions as “Where is the cloud? What is the cloud? Is it over us right now?” Really, the cloud is just a metaphor for the internet. In simplest terms, it means storing and accessing data and software via the internet, rather than your hard drive or a local server.

Cloud Migration

No, it’s not a storm rolling in, nor is the internet heading south for the winter. Cloud migration simply means transitioning some or all of a company’s data, applications, processes, or services from onsite servers to the internet for on-demand usage.

Cloud Storage

You know that scary-looking room with all the interconnected computers only the IT team is allowed to enter? That’s a local server. And with the cloud, it’s unnecessary. Instead, business data gets saved on remote servers that can be accessed via any internet-connected device.

There are three types of cloud storage:

  1. Public: A third-party server where users share resources and pay per use
  2. Private: A remote but privately owned server that is implemented within the corporate firewall and controlled by the IT department
  3. Hybrid: A combination of public and private cloud storage, where highly sensitive data is kept on a private cloud and the rest resides on a public cloud

IaaS and SaaS

Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) refers to self-service, pay-per-use storage space, networking equipment, and services.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) refers to third-party business applications that are accessible via the internet. This includes bookkeeping software, project management programs, word processors, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and any other business programs that teams use to share and utilize information.


An application programming interface (API) is a set of computer codes that help different software — or different components of the same software — play nice together. For instance, if you wanted to link customer information from your CRM platform and your accounting program, an API could help them “talk” to each other and share data.


Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) refers to a phone connection that takes place via the internet, rather than a landline or cell tower. Cloud-based VoIP service is becoming particularly popular among businesses with remote workers or call centers, as it enables employees to use the business phone system from anywhere.


The term “service-level agreement” (SLA) is fairly self-explanatory. It’s a contract that spells out the level of service a vendor agrees to provide, including the quality and accessibility customers can expect. This important document also explains the vendor’s privacy protocols, which can be a critical consideration, especially for businesses that handle sensitive data.

There you have it. The cloud really isn’t all that complicated — it just requires learning a new business language. Share this cheat sheet with your team to help them join the conversation.

To learn more about VoIP and other cloud business services, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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A close-up of a person's hands, using a smartphone.

Business phone systems have changed dramatically thanks to smartphone technology.

What would your daily life be like without technology? Adding a meeting to your calendar, ordering pizza, emailing your boss and checking your social feed: nearly everything you do uses technology. An entire day — Jan. 6 — has even been set aside officially as National Technology Day. So, it’s the ideal time to consider the massive, major changes business phone systems have seen as technology has made everything faster, easier, and more automated.

From Party Line to Mobile Phone

At the center of this technology explosion is the telephone. Just a few generations ago, the telephone didn’t even exist. When it was invented, households had to use a party line shared with other people, meaning that others could (and often did) listen to conversations. Soon, the party line evolved into private lines, but the phones were attached to the wall with a cord. If you wanted to make a private call in your house, you had to snake the telephone cord under a nearby door. And to make a call, you had to turn a rotary dial, which is where the expression “dialing a number” came from.

Fast-forward to the next evolution of telephones: cordless phones, push-button dialing, and then mobile phones. All three became popular at about the same time. However, first-generation mobile phones looked very little like today’s versions, as they were up to two feet long and weighed as much as 40 pounds. Over time, they thankfully shrank in size and weight until we had the flip phone, which was smaller, mobile, but only made– you guessed it– phone calls. You know the rest: flip phones ultimately gave way to the smartphones we know and love today.

Smartphones: A Changing Way of Life

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the invention of the smartphone changed life as we know it. The smartphone changed how people conduct both their personal and work lives. Today, you’re reachable anytime, anywhere, not only by phone but also via video call, email and texting. Even more than that, this palm-sized device has become a hub for everything, including finding directions, checking the weather, taking photos, and posting on social media. It isn’t just a phone — it’s a control center for your life.

And the significance of this smartphone goes far beyond these uses. It sparked the invention of other technological tools like the tablet, the smart watch, fitness trackers, Google glass… What’s more, the smartphone has become such an important tool in today’s culture that many people who previously were resistant to using tech tools have become more technologically proficient and even depend on them in their daily lives.

Business Phone Systems Innovations

On the business side, smartphones have changed consumer expectations. Companies are using apps to communicate with customers and conduct transactions. They’re creating experiences that work across devices for both employees and consumers. Employees can also seamlessly manage their connections with customers, regardless of the device, thanks to cloud-based CRM integrations. And business phone systems were influenced, too: new, advanced features have innovated in workplaces so that employees have the same excellent functionality and seamless experiences they’ve grown to expect from their personal devices. Modern business phone systems offer features like virtual receptionists, paperless fax, and voicemail transcription, enabling employees to work they way they want.

Without the invention of the telephone, today’s culture would look very different. Thankfully, you don’t have to imagine a reality without this vital piece of technology (you could just watch the Walking Dead).

Just for kicks, celebrate National Technology Day by counting every time you use a device related to the telephone. You might surprise yourself.

For more information on how a sophisticated business phone system can help your team, contact a Vonage Business representative.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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