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Dictionary of Tech Terms


A/UX: An alternate operating system for Macintosh on UNIX. A/UX has a unique 32-bit addressing mode.

Access NuMber: The telephone nuMber used to dial into your local Internet Service Provider (ISP). To connect to the Internet, you must first establish an account with an ISP in your area. Usually, you'll receive a list of telephone nuMbers that you can use to "dial-in" to the service.

Active X: In its simplest terms, Active X is an architecture that lets a program (the active X control) interact with other programs over a network, such as the Internet.

ADSL: Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. A high-speed transmission technology originally developed by Telecordia and now standardized by ANSI as T1.413. ADSL uses existing UTP copper wires from the telephone company's central office to the subscriber's premises and involves electronic equipment in the form of ADSL modems at both the central office and the subscriber's location.

Analog: Comes from the word "analogous," which means "similar to." In telephone transmission, the signal being transmitted-voice, video, or image-is analogous to the original signal. In other words, if you speak into a microphone and see your voice on an oscilloscope and you take the same voice as it is transmitted on the phone line and run that signal into the oscilloscope, the two signals would look essentially the same.

ASCII: Pronounced as'-kee. American Standard Code for Information Interchange. It's the most popular coding method used by small computers for converting letters, nuMbers, punctuation and control codes into digital form.

Audio: Sound that may be converted to electrical signals for transmission. A person with optimal hearing capacity can hear sounds ranging from 20 to 20,000 hertz.

AVI: Audio Video Interleaved. File format for digital video and audio in Windows. Use the "media player" in Windows to play AVI files. The AVI file format is cross-platform compatible, allowing AVI video files to be played in Windows and other operating systems.


Backbone: The backbone carries the most traffic on a communications network. The backbone also joins LANs together (either inside a building or across a city or country). LANs are connected to the backbone via bridges and/or routers, and the backbone serves as a communications highway for LAN-to-LAN traffic. Your ISP connects you to the Internet backbone.

Bandwidth: In telecommunications, bandwidth is the width of a telecommunications channel. In analog communications, bandwidth is typically measured in Hertz-cycles per second. In digital communications, bandwidth is measured in bits per second (bps).

Base 64: As a standard algorithm for encoding and decoding non-ASCII data for attachment to an e-mail message, base 64 is the foundation for MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions).

Batch Processing: There are two basic types of basic processing. One type is batch processing, also called deferred time processing or off-line processing. Batch processing occurs when everything related to one complete task (such as preparing a payroll) is bunched together and transmitted for processing, usually by the same computer and the same applications program.

Beta: Refers to the final stages of development and testing before a product is released to market. "Alpha" is describes a product in preliminary development.

Binary: When only two values or states are possible for a particular condition, such as "On," "Off," "One," or "Zero."

Binary Code: A code in which every element has only one of two possible values, which may be the presence or absence of a pulse, a one or a zero, or a high or a low condition for a voltage or current.

BMP: A Window BitMaP format. The images that are visible when Windows starts up and closes down and the wallpaper that adorns the Window desktop are all in BMP format.

BPS: In telecommunications, BPS always means bits per second. In computing, Bps (note the capital B) often means bytes per second, while bps refers to bits per second. But don't trust people to always use the correct upper or lower case "B." You have to recognize what context you're working in.

Browser: Software that translates the digital bits into pictures and text so you can look at them. A browser displays documents on the Internet and the World Wide Web to your computer. A Web Browser is a computer software that allows a computer user to surf the Internet.

Buffer: In data transmission, a buffer is a temporary storage location for information being sent or received. A buffer is located between two devices that have different abilities or speeds for handling data.

1 - A concealed microphone, a listening device or other audio device
2 - To install the means for audio surveillance
3 - A semi-automatic telegraph key
4 - A problem in software or hardware (Note: a Bug is not a virus.)

Byte: Abbreviated as "B" (upper case B). A set of bits (ones and zeros) of a specific length that represents a value in a computer coding scheme, usually 8 bits. A byte is to a bit what a word is to a character.


C: The programming language that Lucent uses for several of its central office switches. It is also the programming language of choice for interactive voice response systems. C operates under UNIX, MS DOS, Windows, and other operating systems. It is a standard for programming telecom switches.

C++: A high-level programming language that was developed by Bjarne Stoustrup at AT&T's Bell laboratories. CoMbining all the advantages of the C language with those of object-oriented programming, C++ has been adopted as the standard house programming language by several major software vendors.

Cable: Refers to different types of wires or groups of wires that are capable of carrying voice or data transmission.

Cable Modem: A cable modem is a small box that connects your PC to the Internet via your local cable TV provider. A cable modem will typically have three connections - one connecting your coaxial cable outlet to your local CATV provider and the other two connecting your PC and TV.

Caching: A process by which information is stored in memory or on a server in anticipation of the next request for information.

CGI: Common Gateway Interface. Programs or scripts, usually executed on the web server, that perform actions (like searching or running applications) when the user clicks on certain buttons located on the web screen. CGI refers to the pre-defined way that these programs communicate with the web server, but the term has recently been used to refer to the programs themselves. The preferred programming language for CGI is PERL.

CGI-Bin: The most common name for a directory on the web server in which CGI programs are stored. The "Bin" part of a CGI-Bin is short for "binary." Most programs found in CGI-Bin directories are text files or scripts that are executed by binaries located elsewhere on the same machine.

CLEC: Competitive Local Exchange Carrier or Certified Local Exchange Carrier.


Domain: A domain consists of a set of network addresses. This domain is organized in levels. The top level identifies geographic or purpose commonality (for example, the nation that the domain covers or a category such as "commercial"). The second level identifies a unique place within the top level domain and is, in fact, equivalent to a unique address on the Internet (an IP address). Lower levels of domain may also be used.

Domain Name System: The domain name system (DNS) is the way that Internet domain names are located and translated into Internet Protocol addresses. A domain name is a meaningful and easy-to-remeMber "handle" for an Internet address.


E-1: The European equivalent of the North American 1.544 million bits per second (Mbps) T-1. E-1, however, carries information at the rate of 2.048 million bits per second.

E-Commerce: Electronic Commerce. Buying and selling over the Internet, the Web, and corporate Intranets.

EAS: Extended Area Service. A novel name for a larger than normal local telephone calling area. Also stands for the Emergency Alert System.

Electronic Mall: A virtual shopping mall for browsing and buying products and services online.

Ethernet: A local area network used for connecting computers, printers, workstations, terminals, servers, etc. within the same building or campus. Ethernet operates over twisted wire and coaxial cable at speeds up to 10 million bits per second (Mbps).

Eudora: A software program on Macs and Windows that is used for sending and receiving electronic mail. It is one of the most common e-mail service used on the Internet.


Facility: In the telephone industry, a facility is a phone or a data line.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC): A federal organization in Washington, D.C., that was established by the Communications Act of 1934. It has the authority to regulate all interstate (but not intrastate) communications originating in the United States.

Feeder Cable: Fiber is made of very pure glass. Digital signals in the form of modulated light travel on strands of fiber for long distances. The advantage that fiber has over copper is that it can carry more information over much longer distances.

Fiber Optics: A technology in which light is used to transport information from one point to another. More specifically, fiber optics are thin filaments of glass through which light beams are transmitted over long distances carrying large amounts of data.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP): A service that supports file transfer between local and remote computers (often through the Internet). FTP allows for the two-way transfer of binary and ASCII files between computers.

Firewall: A coMbination of hardware and software that limits the exposure of a computer or a group of computers to an attack from outside. The most common use of a firewall is on a local area network connected to the Internet. Without a firewall, anyone using the Internet can gain access to a corporate local area network and steal information or "dump" false data onto a network.

Frame: A frame is a packet. It's a generic term specific to a nuMber of data communications protocols. A frame of data is a logical unit of data, which is commonly a fragment of a much larger set of data, such as a file of text or image information.

Frame Relay: Frame relay is an access standard defined by the ITU-T in the 1.122 recommendation as, " Framework for Providing Additional Packet Mode Bearer Services." Frame relay services delivered by telecommunications carriers employ a form of packet switching analogous to a streamlined version of X.25 networks. The packets are in the form of "frames," which vary in length, with the payload ranging from 0 to 4,096 octets.

Full-Duplex: Transmission in two directions; bi-directional. Most telephones are full-duplex.


Gigabyte: A coMbination of the Greek "gigas," meaning "giant," and the English "bite," meaning "a small amount of food." A unit of measurement for physical data storage on some form of storage device-hard disk, optical disk, RAM memory, etc. A gigabyte is equal to two raised to the 30th power.


Half-Duplex: A circuit designed for data transmission in two directions but not at the same time, similar to a CB radio.

Head End: The originating point of a signal in cable TV systems. At the head end, you'll often find a large receiving satellite antennae.

Hertz: Abbreviated Hz. A measurement of frequency in cycles per second. A hertz is one cycle per second, and it is the basic measurement for bandwidth in analog terms.

High Definition TV (HDTV): A standard for transmitting a TV signal with greater resolution than specified by the current NTSC standard.

Hop: Each short, individual trip that packets make many times over, from router to router, on their way to their destinations.

HTTP: HyperText Transfer Protocol. Invisible to the user, HTTP is the protocol used by the Web Server and the Client Browser to communicate over the "wire."

Hyperlink: A link from one part of a page on the Internet to another page, either on the same site or a distant site.


Icon: An icon is a picture or syMbol representing an object, task, command, or choice that can be selected from a piece of software.

IEEE: Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. Founded in 1884, IEEE consists of over 320,000 meMbers in 147 countries. The IEEE's technical objectives "focus on advancing the theory and practice of electrical, electronics and computer engineering and computer science."

IEEE 802: The main IEEE standard for local area networking and metropolitan area networking, including an overview of networking architecture. It was approved in 1990.

Information Superhighway: A very vague term that is often used to describe the Internet.

Intranet: A private network that uses Internet software and Internet standards. In essence, an Intranet is a private Internet reserved for use by the people who have been given the authority and the passwords necessary to use the network.

Interstate: Literally, between states. Services, traffic or facilities that originate in one state, crossing over and terminating in another state.

Intrastate: Services, traffic or facilities that originate and terminate within the same state.

ISDN: Integrated Services Digital Network. ISDN has two forms-BRI, which is 144,000 bits per second and designed for the desktop, and PRI, which is 1,544,000 bits per second in North America and 2,048,000 bits per second in Europe. PRI is designed for telephone switches, computer telephony and voice processing. ISDN BRI offers videoconferencing and ultrafast data communication.


Java: Java is a programming language used on the Internet to create motion on static Web pages-to make animated figures dance and stock tickers flash.


Key System: The equipment used for providing features associated with key sets, including multipair cable, key service units, distribution blocks, and miscellaneous services.

Kilobyte: From the Greek "chilioi," meaning "thousand." A unit of measurement for physical data storage on a storage device. A kilobyte is 1,024 bytes, or 2 to the 10th power.


LAN: Local Area Network. A geographically localized network consisting of both hardware and software. LANs link personal computers, workstations, printer file servers, and other peripherals. Devices on a LAN typically transmit data inside buildings or between buildings located near each other.

Local Exchange Carrier (LEC): A local telephone company that can be categorized as either a Bell Operating Company or as an independent, which traditionally had the exclusive franchised right and the responsibility to provide local transmission and switching services.

Local Loop: The physical connection from the subscriber's premise to the carrier's point of presence (POP).

Local NuMber Portability (LNP): The ability to change phone companies and keep an existing phone nuMber.


Mail Server: Mail Server is the "post office" of a messaging network. Mail server offers electronic mail reception and forwarding service. Users may send and receive messages from any user in the system.

Megabyte (Mb): A coMbination of the Greek "mega," meaning "large," and the English "bite," meaning "a small amount of food." In the metric system, a megabyte is 1,000,000 bytes, or 10 to the 5th power. In binary terms, a megabyte is 2 to the 20th power.

Meta Tag: A meta tag is an optional HTML tag that is used to specify information about a Web document.

Modem: An acronym for MOdulator/DEModulator. Conventional modems comprise equipment that can convert digital signals to analog signals and vice versa.


Network Action Point (NAP): A point of access into the Internet that is used by the ISPs and providers of Internet regional and local subnets.

Network Interface Card (NIC Card): A printed circuit board comprising electronic circuitry for the purpose of connecting a workstation to a LAN.

Node: A point of connection into a network.

NRTC (National Rural Telephone Cooperative): An organization that provides telecommunications services to rural electric and rural telephone cooperatives in the United States.

NTCA (National Telephone Cooperative Association): A trade association representing rural telephone cooperatives and other small telephone companies.

NXX: In a seven-digit local telephone nuMber, the first three digits identify the central office of the telephone company that serves that nuMber. These digits are referred to as NXX, where "N" can be any nuMber from 2 to 9, and "X" can be any nuMber.


Open System Interconnection (OSI): The only internationally-accepted framework of standards for communication between different vendors. The OSI model organizes the communications process into seven different categories and places these categories in layered sequence based on their relation to the user:
Layer 1- Physical Layer
Layer 2- The Data Link Layer
Layer 3- The Network Layer
Layer 4- The Transport Layer
Layer 5- The Session Layer
Layer 6- The Presentation Layer
Layer 7- The Application Layer


Packet: Generic term for a bundle of data, usually in binary form, organized in a specific way for transmission.

Point of Presence (POP): A physical location where a carrier has a presence of network access. A POP generally is in the form of a switch or router.

Private Branch Exchange (PBX): PBX is a private telephone switching system, usually located on a customer's premises with an attendant console. It is connected to a common group of lines from one or more central offices to provide service to a nuMber of individual phones, such as a hotel, business, or government office.

Protocol: A protocol is a set of rules governing the format of messages that are exchanged between computers and people. A protocol is also a set of rules, procedures or conventions relating to format timing of data between two devices.

Proxy Server: A proxy is used on a gateway that relays packets between a trusted client and an untrusted host. A proxy server is software that runs on a PC and is basically a corporate telephone system for the Internet.


Queue: A stream of tasks waiting to be executed or a series of calls, messages, or packets awaiting the availability of a network resource.


Repeater: An opto-electronic device inserted at intervals along a circuit to boost and amplify analog signals. A repeater is needed because the quality and strength of a signal decays over distance.

RJ-11: RJ-11 is a six-conductor modular jack that is typically wired for four conductors. The RJ-11 jack is the most common telephone jack in the world.

RJ-45: The RJ-45 is a single-line jack for digital transmission over ordinary phone wire, either untwisted or twisted. The interface has eight pins or positions. Usually used for network connections, such as 10BaseT or Ethernet.

Router: Routers are the central switching offices of the Internet, corporate Intranets, and WANs. Many different groups-from backbone service providers and local Internet Service Providers to corporations and universities-use routers. Cisco provides more routers than any other company in the world.


Server: A server is a shared computer on the local area network that can be as simple as a PC set aside to handle print requests to a single printer. It may also be the gatekeeper controlling access to voice mail, electronic mail, or facsimile services.

Service Order: The official form for recording and processing customer services.

Shielded Pair: Two insulated wires in a cable wrapped with metallic braid or foil to prevent the wires from acting as antennas and picking up external interference.

Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP): The TCP/IP Protocol for governing electronic mail transmissions and receptions. An application protocol that runs over TCP/IP and supports text-oriented e-mail between devices supporting Message Handling Service (MHS).

Snow: Random noise or interference appearing in a video picture as white specs. In short, video noise.

Spam: "Junk" e-mail messages posted to numerous Internet users and newsgroups. Also known as "unsolicited e-mail."

Splitter: A network that supplies signals to a nuMber of outputs that are individually matched and isolated from each other. A splitter is a device that can connect two TV's using one cable.

Star: A topology in which all phones or workstations are wired directly to a central service unit or workstation that establishes, maintains, and breaks connections between the workstations.

Subnet: A portion of a network that shares a network address with other portions of the network and is distinguished by a subnet nuMber. A subnet is to a network what a network is to the Internet.

Synchronous Optical Network (SONET): A family of fiber optic transmission rates from 51.84 million bits per second to 13.27 gigabits per second; created to provide the flexibility needed to transport many digital signals with different capacities and to provide design standards for manufacturers.


T-1: Stands for trunk level 1. A digital transmission link with a total signaling speed of 1.544 Mbps. T-1 is a standard for digital transmission in North America. T-1 is part of a progression of digital transmission pipes-a hierarchy known generically as the DS hierarchy.

Tandem: One type of central office; it establishes trunk-to-trunk connections, functions which may be coMbined into a single switching system.

Tariff: Documents filed by a regulated telephone company with a state public utility commission. As a public document, the tariff details services, equipment and pricing offered by a telephone company to all potential customers.

TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol is a networking protocol that provides communications across interconnected networks, between computers with diverse hardware architectures and various operating systems.

Telecommunications Act of 1996. US: A federal bill signed into law on February 8, 1996, "to promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality service for American telecommunications consumers and encourage rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.

Telephony: The science of transmitting voice, data, video or image signals over a distance greater than what can be transmitted by shouting.

Third Party Call: Any call charged to a nuMber other than that of the origination or destination party.

Token Ring: A local are network (shaped like a ring) in which a supervisory frame, or token, must be received by an attached terminal or workstation before that terminal or workstation can start transmitting.

Topology: The configuration of a communication network. The physical topology is the way the network looks. Physical topologies for LANs include a bus, a ring, and a star.

Trunk: A communication line between two switching systems, which typically include equipment in a central office and PBXs. A tie trunk connects PBXs. Central office trunks connect a PBX to the switching system at the central office.

Twisted Pair: Two insulated copper wires twisted around each other to reduce induction from one wire to the other wire.


Upstream: In a communications circuit, there are two circuits-one coming to you and one going away from you. Upstream is another term used to describe the channel going away from you.

Uniform Service Order Code (USOC): A USOC is a structured language that allows for the development of software to support service order systems in the telephone industry.

Universal Resource Locator (URL): A URL is a fancy name for an Internet address. A URL is an address that can locate a file on any computer connected to the Internet anywhere in the world.

Username: The name by which you or someone else is known on the Internet. Used when logging into an access provider.


Videoconference: Videoconference is to communicate with others using video and audio software and hardware in order to see and to hear each other.

Voice over IP (VoIP): The technology used to transmit voice conversations over a data network using the Internet Protocol.


Web: An abbreviation for the Internet's World Wide Web.

Wide Area Network (WAN): A WAN is a computer and voice network that is larger than a city or metropolitan area. WAN's are treated differently to a MAN due to speed, light timing considerations, and the Modified Final Judgement, which prohibits Regional Bell Operating Companies from carrying traffic across Local Access Transport Areas.

Worm: A program that duplicates itself repeatedly, potentially worming its way through an entire network. The Internet worm was perhaps the most famous; it successfully duplicated itself on many systems across the Internet.


XDSL: A generic term-the "X" means generic-for Digital Subscriber Line equipment and services, including ADSL, HDSL, IDSL, SDSL, and VDSL. XDSL technologies provide extremely high bandwidth over the twisted-pair that runs from your phone company's central office to your home or office.


Yottabyte (YB): A coMbination of the homonymic Greek "iota," referring to the last letter of the Latin alphabet, and the English "bite," meaning "a small amount of food." A unit of measurement for physical data storage on storage devices-including hard disk, optical disk, RAM memory, etc. A Yottabyte is equal to two raised to the 80th power.


Zettabyte (ZB): A coMbination of Greek "zeta," referring to the last letter of the Greek alphabet, and the English "bite," meaning "a small amount of food." A unit of measurement for physical data storage on storage devices-including hard disk, optical disk, RAM memory, etc. A zettabyte is equal to two raised to the 70th power.