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.
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.
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:
- Public: A third-party server where users share resources and pay per use
- Private: A remote but privately owned server that is implemented within the corporate firewall and controlled by the IT department
- 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.
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