VOIP, The Cloud, and Other Telecom Vocabulary

telecom vocabulary

When it comes to technology, the telecom vocabulary can be pretty complicated. With all of the acronyms and complex definitions, how are you supposed to distinguish the important stuff from the fluff?


At TCS, we know that understanding the ins and outs of your telephone service is enough to make your head spin. To lighten your load, we are giving you a helpful guide to make sense of all the telecom vocabulary. After reading through this simple list, you will be more informed when deciding what is best for you and your business.

Ready? Here we go.


Short for Voice Over Internet Protocol.

What it is: In very simple terms, this is your voice traveling over an Internet connection, rather than a traditional phone line.



Common uses: “On-Premise” & “On-Premises”

What it is: An on-premise computer server is one you keep in your own facility. Since you house the server, your company’s computing and Internet services will be used to operate it. You have complete control over the security, maintenance, and connectivity.



Common uses: “The Cloud,” “Server Farm,” & “Somewhere in the Sky.” Okay, we probably made up the last one.

What it is: In simple terms, the cloud is a server located in another facility. The company who owns the facility (the provider) typically handles the security, maintenance, and connectivity. You own your own data and can access it whenever you need; however, it’s up to the provider to do all the grunt work.



Short for: Session Initiation Protocol

Common uses: “SIP Trunk” & “SIP Trunking” (no, there are no elephants. Our sincerest apologies.)

What it is: A SIP happens anytime two or more people are connected on a call. It can be on a video chat, a multi-party conference call, or just a basic phone call between you and the pizza guy. When you add “trunk,” it becomes a virtual phone line that connects your phone system to the Internet. This option greatly decreases your costs from a traditional phone service.



Short for: Private Branch Exchange

Common uses: Does the switchboard room on Mad Men ring a bell?

What it is: A PBX is a telephone system within an enterprise that switches calls between enterprise users on local lines while allowing all users to share a certain number of external phone lines. Having a PBX saves your company from the need to purchase external phone lines for each user. PBX’s are traditionally owned and operated by the business (on-premise), though the provider may be called in from time to time to service it.

What’s inside: A telephone trunk (multiple phone lines) that lead to the PBX, and a computer that switches the calls. You could hire someone to do it manually, but that’s totally optional.


Hosted PBX

What it is: Your PBX hosted in someone else’s facility. Rather than dealing with the headache and extra expense of housing a PBX system in your own office, you have the option to hand it over to another company to manage it for you. Though the actual hardware and software are located with the provider, you can connect to it from anywhere using cloud technology.

The bright side: This is a HUGE bonus for smaller companies because they can present a sophisticated corner-office feel, even though an employee might be working from their messy living room–or a chair on the beach. We’ll leave that for you to decide.

Investment details: With a hosted PBX, the need to use company resources to deal with maintenance and upgrades is eliminated. You typically pay a monthly subscription fee, and the host takes care of the rest.

Bottom line:  Big company feel, small company prices.

We hope this handy list of explanations is clearing things up for you. However, if you still have questions, we’d love to talk through more telecom vocabulary with you. Give us a call! Our friendly TCS experts are always here to help.

Contact TCS 1-866-225-5827