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Small Business Tech Glossary

Use our tech glossary to learn about important terms.



4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile tech, succeeding 3G. It’s a faster and more reliable way of accessing broadband internet on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. Typically, it’s about five times faster than existing 3G services.



An app is a self-contained program that lives on a mobile device (e.g. a phone or a tablet). Each app has a specific purpose and can be downloaded to a device from an app store. There are also thousands of business apps for things like billing, project management and CRM.


This means you pay as you go. Businesses used to have to buy all their hardware and software up front meaning they’d be paying for capacity they didn’t need. Or they’d lack capacity if they needed to scale quickly. As-a-service models mean you pay per device or per unit per month: you can scale up quickly when you need to and scale back if things slow down. See Desktop-as-a-service and Mobility-as-a-Service.

Asset management

Usually related to software and sometimes called SAM (software asset management), this means the process you have to buy, deploy, use, maintain and dispose of software assets within your organization.


Automation means getting machines to do jobs that used to be done by people. Automation is changing businesses by speeding up long, time-intensive tasks and doing them more accurately.


Backup (data)

A data backup means copying or archiving files and folders of work so you can restore them in case your data gets lost. Data loss can be caused by anything from computer viruses and file corruptions to theft, fire or floods. There are all sorts of ways of backing up data either online through the Cloud or offline in data backup facilities.


In computing, bandwidth means the data transfer rate, i.e. the amount of data that can be carried from one point to another in a given time period (usually a second). Network bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps). Modern networks usually measure speed by millions of bits per second (Mbps) or billions of bits per second (Gbps).

Big Data

Big data is a business buzzword. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. The explosion of mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT) means that computers can now gather previously unimaginable amounts of data about the way people behave or interact. This enormous data sets are called Big Data.

Business Wi-Fi

In the very early days of a business when there are only one or two of you, a normal domestic Wi-Fi system will probably be fine. But as you grow, you need to look at business Wi-Fi packages to get more bandwidth at a lower cost-per-user.


Capital assets

In business, a capital asset means an asset with significant value that has a useful life for more than a year and you are not intending to sell. This can be vehicles, but it could also be computers or other hardware you use in your business.

Capital expenditure (CapEx)

This means the money you spend on acquiring or maintaining your fixed assets, like land, buildings, and equipment.


The cloud has changed the way we all store and work with data. Basically, it means hiring storage and/or computer services from a third-party, rather than building and maintaining them yourself. Cloud computing is great for small businesses because it’s self-service, super-scalable and you can pay-as-you-grow.

Cloud storage

This is a cloud computing model where data is stored on remote servers that are accessed via the web. It’s maintained, operated and managed by a cloud storage service provider on storage servers.

Cloud voice

Cloud voice is any online telecoms service where people can connect and speak to each other on the internet, rather than via satellite.


Collaboration is a business-wide state of mind where you encourage sharing of ideas, knowledge and help. It's all about making that sharing easy; often done online – through chat services, and with shared spaces for working on documents.


A customer relationship management system is the place where you can gather up, analyze and put to use all of your rich customer data. By collecting all the data from different times and channels when a customer has made contact with you, you get a single view of the customer.


Data backup

Data bank

A data bank is where you keep information like customer data, inventory, product information and so on. A data bank should be organized in a way that lets you access data either locally (on-premises) or remotely (off-premises).

Data recovery

Data recovery is what you need to do to salvage inaccessible data from corrupted or damaged secondary storage (e.g. external hard-drive), removable media (e.g. a pen drive) or files when the data they store can’t be accessed in a normal way. To avoid the need for this (it can be quite expensive), it’s better to make sure you have data backup.


This is a service model that lets you get a virtual desktop with all the functions and apps you need to work, without having to buy and maintain processors. Your personal data is copied to and from the virtual desktop when you log-on or log-off, and you can access the desktop from anywhere on any device.

Device-based pricing

This is the alternative to user-based pricing and it means you pay for exactly the number of devices you’re using from a provider. It’s much more cost-effective if you have some people who need multiple devices (like field workers) but some who only need one or two in the back-office.


Devices are any electronic system that let you and your people do work, from desktops and tablets to smart phones and wearables. Making sure your devices can all communicate effectively with each other is essential for making your working lives run smoothly.


DevOps stands for ‘development and operations’ and refers to an agile relationship between devs and IT ops guys. The goal of DevOps is to make work between the two business units smarter with better communication and collaboration.

Dialpad Business Voice

Dialpad Business Voice is a business-grade voice system that helps you and your team stay connected and productive wherever they go, whatever device they’re using. The system integrates with the collaboration tools your people use every day and gives your users a business phone number they can access on all their devices.

Digital signage

Digital signage is just a jargony way of saying video or multimedia content that’s put on a screen for people to see. Digital signs can be edited in seconds, updated with data in real time, grab attention with animation or sound – and they’re more environmentally friendly.

Disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is your policy or set of policies and procedures for the recovery or continuation of your most vital technology infrastructure and systems after a natural or human-induced disaster.

Download speed

Your download speed is essentially the speed of your internet. It’s measured by the number of bytes per second that data travels from a device from the internet (download) or to the internet (upload).


Downstream is a telecoms terms meaning the transmission from an information server towards an end user. The reverse, when a transmission moves from a user towards a server is called upstream.


This is the amount of time a piece of equipment – especially a computer – can’t be used, usually because it’s broken. Minimizing your business downtime is essential for improving efficiency and lowering costs.



Encyption is when you convert electronic data into cipher text, which can’t be understood by anyone but people who are authorized to understand it. The main reason you encrypt data is protect confidential information stored on computers or sent via the internet.


ePayments are any payments that happen electronically (rather than cash, check or in person). ePayment is growing rapidly with things like Apple Pay, which acts as a ‘digital wallet’.



A firewall is a network security system that controls incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of rules. It acts as a barrier between a trusted network and untrusted networks.

Fleet Management

If your business relies on cars, vans and trucks, you can use Fleet Management software to make things run smoothly. The data you get from your fleet management tools allows you to manage your vehicles better – meaning your people can be more efficient and productive, and your customers get better service.


G Suite

G Suite is the new name for Google Apps for Work. It’s a collaboration tool that improves your productivity by letting your people access Google’s most popular web apps like Gmail, Drive, Hangouts, Calendar and Docs through the cloud.


Geo-fencing is a feature in a piece of software that uses GPS to define geographical boundaries. For example, it can help track vehicles or send messages to smart phone users when they enter defined areas or locations.



In the tech world, hardware is the stuff you can see and touch, for example: computers, printers, smartphones. It also means the stuff that makes computers: wiring, motherboards and other physical components. It’s the opposite of software.

Hosted application

This is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that means you can use a software application entirely from the cloud on a subscription basis. The ‘hosted’ bit means the application lives on a remote cloud infrastructure and is powered there. You can access hosted applications from anywhere using the web.

Hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud is a best-of-both-worlds solution. It means you can benefit from the security of a private cloud that you have on-premises and the flexibility and scalability of a third-party public cloud. A hybrid solution lets you move between the two platforms easily for different data needs.


Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT is an evolving system of interconnected devices that communicate with each other – directly, or over the internet. Basically – it's your physical things gaining a digital dimension.

Internet protocol (IP)

The internet protocol (much more commonly called IP) is how data is sent from one computer to another over the web. Each computer has an IP address which differentiates it from every other computer on the web.


Local area network (LAN)

A local area network (LAN) is a group of computers and devices that share a common communications line or wireless link to a server. A LAN is what connects all the computers in your office.

Local exchange carrier (LEC)

A local exchange carrier is a term used in telecommunications for local telephone companies. In the US, wireline telephone companies (i.e. not mobile providers) are divided into two categories: long distance (interexchange carriers) and local exchange carriers.

Long-term evolution (LTE)

Long-term evolution is a 4G wireless broadband technology developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It’s made greatly increased data rates possible (100Mbps downstream and 30 Mbps upstream), as well as reduced latency and scalable bandwidth capacity.


Microsoft Office 365

The Microsoft Office suite is a hosted version of the Microsoft Office software you used to have to install. It’s a subscription-based service that includes Office, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and Microsoft Office Web Apps.


In the computer world, migration is the process where you move from one operating environment to another. (Usually a better one.) It can mean upgrading to new hardware or software or both.

Mobile forms

Forms that your people can complete on mobile devices takes your paperwork digital. Mobile Forms let you send, receive and sign forms all using mobile devices so you can collect all the information you need while reducing the effort it takes to collect it. It also makes protecting and transferring data as simple as clicking a button.

Mobile Payment

Mobile Payment (also called ‘mobile money transfer’ or ‘mobile wallet’) is a kind of ePayment where you make a payment in person using a mobile device. Apple Pay is one of the most widely used examples.


Mobile-first is an approach to site-design that means you think about mobile first. So if you’re designing any online experience, you think about how it will work for mobile users before you think about desktop or any other device. The need for mobile first is a reflection of the massive proliferation of smart phone use in our business lives as well as our personal lives.


Mobility is a hugely important trend that’s changing the way businesses work. It means you and your people can be free from the office and work from anywhere using mobile devices and cloud services.

Mobility Management

Mobility Management is a way for businesses to consolidate mobile spending with a tool and a web portal for monitoring and managing mobile assets. It includes things like:
  • Lifecycle management for mobile devices
  • Billing/expense management
  • Reporting and analytics
  • Security services
  • Policy tracking and enforcement

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)

Mobility-as-a-Service means moving away from owning the devices you need for mobility (smart phones, tablets etc.) and instead accessing them as a service. The service provider owns the devices and is responsible for maintenance, repair, upgrading etc. MaaS is provided on a pay-as-you-go basis meaning you only pay for the devices you need. This means you can scale up quickly if you need to, but you’re not left with wasted extra capacity if you’re less busy.


Network carrier

A network carrier is the proprietary network infrastructure belonging to a telecommunications service provider, like Sprint. Providers are authorized by regulatory agencies to run these systems.



See on-premises


Sometimes abbreviated to ‘on-prem’, this means software you have installed and run in your own building. The opposite is off-premises, which means software you use but that runs at a remote facility or in the cloud.


Outsourcing is when you pay other businesses to perform tasks or carry out services on your behalf. You can outsource your marketing to an agency, for example. Or you might outsource your mobility management to a mobility-as-a-service provider.



Phishing is a form of online fraud where criminals send emails that seem like they’re from reputable companies in an attempt to get people to reveal personal information like passwords and credit card details. This can also be a threat on mobile devices which is called ‘smishing’. You need to protect your business against these attempts with rigorous security measures.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

Platform-as-a-Service is a cloud service that gives you apps over the internet. A PaaS provider will give you the tools you need to develop software but they’ll host the hardware and software on their own infrastructure. It saves you having to install in-house hardware and software to develop or run new applications.

Private Brand Exchange (PBX)

A PBX is the system you use in an office that switches users on local lines, while still allowing users to share a certain number of external phone lines.

Private cloud

Private cloud is a form of cloud computing where you own the hardware and software that runs the cloud. The advantage of a private cloud is that it runs only for your business and so the data stored on the cloud is a lot more secure. However, because you own all the tech, you’re also responsible for maintenance and management, which can be a lot more expensive.

Public cloud

Public cloud service providers give you access to cloud resources like applications and storage over the internet. On a public cloud, you’re not responsible for managing and maintaining the platform, and scaling is much more cost-effective. But public clouds can be less secure than private clouds and more likely to be the target of hacking attempts.


Quality of Service (QoS)

Quality of Service is the measure of whether a network can get to maximum bandwidth and how good its numbers are on other performance measures like latency, error rate and uptime. QoS also involves controlling and managing network resources by determining priorities for types of data like video, audio and other files on the network.


Real-time collaboration

A big advantage of giving your people wireless devices that are installed with G Suite apps such as Hangouts and Docs is that they can collaborate in real time. When documents exist in the cloud you can open them, read them and edit them from anywhere. That means your people can be more productive and get things done for your customers more quickly.

Remote support

Remote support is software an IT technician uses to connect to other computers (like the ones in your office) without having to be there. Remote support also has features like file transfer, desktop sharing, file synchronization and guest accessibility. All of these are key factors for achieving mobility.

Remote working

Remote working is the key to giving your people mobility. In the old days, work was something you could only do in the office. But now, with the right devices and mobility management work can happen any time, any place.



If you want your business to be agile, you need scalability. The ability to scale means being able to increase your resources when you need to, then decrease them when things slow down so you’re not paying for a lot of spare capacity. This means that rather than buying everything you need all at once, you take advantage of as-a-service solutions for things like software, mobility and platforms.


A server is a computer that provides data to other computers. It might serve a local area network (LAN) like your office or a wide area network (WAN) like an airport or a mall. There are lots of different kinds of server – web servers, mail servers and file servers, for example. Dedicated servers (ones you have on-premise) can be expensive to buy, run and maintain, which is why it may be more cost-effective to use cloud servers on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

A Service Level Agreement (more commonly abbreviated to SLA) is a contract between your business and a service provider. They detail exactly what you, as a customer, will receive from the provider and outline of the payment model.

Service migration

Service migration means moving your data (or other business elements) from one cloud service provider to another. It can be a complex process because the service providers use proprietary technology – this means it might be necessary to move data back to your own server before moving to another cloud.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business (what used to be called Microsoft Lync Server) is a one-stop platform for business communications: instant messaging, voice calling, file transfer, web conferencing, voicemail and email.

Social technology

Social technology is any tech that make social interactions possible. They run via the internet or mobile devices and examples of social software include wikis, blogs and social networks.


Software is the term for the programs used on computers and other devices. The opposite is hardware, which is the physical stuff that electronic devices are built from.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Software-as-a-Service is a way of getting access to software over the internet from a third-party provider without having to host it yourself. Because you don’t need to install and run applications, you eliminate the cost of acquiring and maintaining hardware, as well as other expenses like software licensing, installation and tech support.

System integration

System integration is a pick-and-mix solution to make sure you’re getting the tools you need. Using a system integrator (SI) your company can get hardware and software from multiple vendors then align them in a bespoke system to meet your specific business goals. This is cheaper than more expensive custom implementations.



Telecommuting means working from home or another off-premises location but connecting to the office via the web and using mobility solutions. The ability to use collaboration tools is vital for telecommuting to be effective.


This means a virtual conference where you can have a meeting without all being in the same room. This is possible by phone, conferencing software or business communications tools like Skype for Business.


Telematics refers to technology that lets data be transmitted over long-distances. It’s a key feature of Fleet Management as it’s what allows you to get data on where your vehicles are going, how much fuel they’re using, when they’re accelerating, when they’re braking and so on.


User-based pricing

User-based pricing is a pay-as-you-go payment model where you pay by the number of users you have subscribed to a service. It means you can increase the number of subscribers you need if demand greatly increases and then scale back if things get quieter.


A user-friendly machine or system is one that’s easy to use or understand. Exactly how user-friendly a particular piece of tech is will depend on both the user and the tech. But when technology is advertised as user-friendly, generally it means you don’t need expert knowledge to use it.


Vendor lock-in

Vendor lock-in happens when it becomes too complicated or expensive for you to move from one supplier to another. It’s the enemy of agility because it means your business can’t benefit from the cheapest or most efficient solutions when they become available. The more you use as-a-service models, the less likely you are to fall into the trap of vendor lock-in.

Video conferencing

Video conferencing is a form of teleconferencing where you use video. This is available with solutions such as Skype for Business.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN is a security technology that creates an encrypted connection over less secure networks so they can be safely accessed by private networks (like your office network).

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

VoIP is a communications technology for transmitting voice and multimedia content over IP networks. VoIP encapsulates audio into data packets then transmits them across an IP network. At the other end, it unencapsulates the data packets to endpoints like VoIP phones, and software applications on PCs and mobile devices.


Wide Area Network (WAN)

See Local area network (LAN)


Wireless means any telecoms where electromagnetic waves carry the signal over the communication path rather than a physical wire. The most common use of the word wireless nowadays is in reference to wireless local area networks where the devices in your office are connected to each other without the need for actual wires.

Workforce Locator

Workforce Locator is a tool developed by Sprint that can help your business see the locations of field employees. It’s a cloud-based solution that increases productivity, optimizes efficiency and reduces labor and fuel costs. It's user-friendly and doesn't require special software on the devices being located. You can access the application from PCs, tablets and smart phones to map the current location of one or more mobile workers.


Workplace-as-a-Service works using cloud technology and means your people can have access to an ‘office’ wherever they are. This doesn’t just mean access to computers, phone numbers, document access and all the right apps, it also means that all the access is appropriate to a user’s given location so you’ve got the right level of security.