Internet

The Cloud. What is it?

“The cloud” is one of those trendy tech terms you hear people talking about these days. The cloud in technology, however, is something completely different than the white, puffy things you see in the sky and defining it is a bit more challenging.

What Do People Mean by “the cloud”?

The “cloud” in cloud computing originated from the habit of drawing the internet as a puffy cloud in network diagrams.

At its most basic, the cloud is the term for a network of remote servers that can be accessed via an Internet connection to store and manage information. Put simply, it’s a place other than your computer, that can store your stuff and or access dozens of applications that used to rely exclusively on your computer to operate.

Prior to the creation of cloud storage, files were saved to a computer’s local hard drive, saved to a USB key and transferred to another computer, or emailed to you so you could open it on another machine.

Today, with the proliferation of multiple desktop computers, laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones you need to access your files somewhere other than your computer’s hard drive. Accessing the cloud allows you to save a file on a remote server and retrieve or share it from any machine that has an Internet connection.

Who invented the Cloud?

In the 1950’s companies used big, expensive mainframe computers − so big they took up an entire air-conditioned room. At that time, most organizations didn’t have the resources to purchase a new computer for each user so they developed “time sharing” arrangements. These agreements allowed multiple users to share access to data and central processing units (CPU) time. The concept of “time sharing” laid the groundwork for today’s cloud computing environment.

In the industry there is little agreement as to who first coined the term cloud computing. The Internet didn’t even have enough bandwidth to make the cloud available to the masses until the 1990’s. In 1997, Salesforce became the first site to deliver its applications and software over the Internet.

How Does the Cloud Work?

The framework of cloud computing is quite complex. The good news? You don’t need to understand the infrastructure to take advantage of it. If you can use the internet and create and save files to your own computer, you’re good to go.

You use the cloud every day. The Internet itself is actually a public cloud. From Google Drive to Dropbox to Evernote, any time you save information without using your device’s internal hard drive (or memory) −taking a picture on your smartphone, and uploading it to Instagram−you are uploading it to the cloud.

In the past, the applications you would install on your desktop computer, such as Microsoft Office, had to be downloaded via a huge executable file or you’d receive CDs in the mail to load the files on to your desktop. Today, these applications are delivered over the internet through a browser; a service known as SaaS (more on that in a minute).

A few ways you interact with the cloud:

  • Dropbox: Your personal folder in the sky (or in the cloud) that can be accessed from anywhere.
  • Google Drive: Just like Dropbox, except it integrates with Google tools like Google Docs, Gmail and others.
  • Spotify: A music streaming service that charges a small monthly fee to enjoy thousands upon thousands of songs as often as you want.

How big is the Cloud?

No one can say with certainty exactly how much space is provided by cloud-based services like Google, Amazon or Facebook; however, according to this infographic, the cloud can store about 1 Exabyte.

But how big is an Exabyte?

*DAMA Big Data & The Cloud 01-19-2012

An Exabyte is approximately 1,000 Petabytes or one billion Gigabytes. It has been stated that five Exabytes would be equal to all the words ever spoken by mankind.

What are the benefits to working in the cloud?

Businesses usually move to the cloud for financial reasons. Instead of purchasing their own hardware equipment, the value of which depreciates over time, the cloud allows companies to pay for only what they use, saving thousands of dollars a year.

In an article highlighting the benefits  of cloud computing, SalesForce wrote, “Where in the past, people would run applications or programs from software downloaded on a physical computer or server in their building, cloud computing allows people access the same kinds of applications through the Internet.”

Another advantage of the cloud is the speed of release and scalability of applications. More recently, however, it’s been reported developers are drawn to the cloud, thanks to the wealth of cutting-edge services they can include in applications, from artificial intelligence to internet-of-things connectivity. More importantly, the major public clouds are leading the way in the development and deployment of enterprise technology.

Types of Clouds: Private, Public & Hybrid

What is a Private Cloud?

Think of a private cloud as a cloud within the internet (which is a public cloud).  For large businesses, a dedicated private connection can be used to access cloud services when the volume of users and traffic requires robust connectivity.

The private cloud can also be viewed as the best of the best in data center automation. The ability to scale the technologies run on public clouds, along with deploying and managing software, minimizes manual provisioning and management. Because of their closed (to the public) network architecture, many times the services in a private cloud require encrypted access.

What is a Public Cloud?

A public cloud is one in which a service provider makes resources, like applications or storage, available to the public over the internet. Public cloud services can be free or offered on a pay-per-usage basis.

The public cloud provides people the ability to access new capabilities on demand without investing in new hardware or software. Public clouds charge customers a subscription fee or allows them to pay for only the resources they use. A feature known as auto-scaling allows users and computing resources to be added as needed—often in real-time− as demand those resources changes.

A Hybrid Cloud: The Best of Both Worlds

A hybrid cloud integrates the private cloud with a public cloud. The configuration creates parallel environments in which applications move easily between private and public clouds. Sometimes, a customer’s databases will reside in their on-site data center and integrate with public cloud applications, like Microsoft Office. During times of increased demand, data center workloads can be virtualized and replicated to the cloud.

Cloud Services

There is a wide array of available cloud computing services. Most, however, are in one of the following categories:

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is public cloud computing that deliver applications over the internet through a web browser. The most popular SaaS applications for business are Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365; enterprise applications include, Salesforce and Oracle’s E-Business Suite. SaaS applications provide developers with extensive configuration options and development environments that them to create their own code modifications and additions.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

At a basic level, IaaS public cloud providers offer storage and compute services on a pay-per-use basis. The array of array of services offered by all major public cloud providers is considerable and includes highly scalable databases, virtual private networks, big data analytics, developer tools, machine learning, and application monitoring, to name a few. Amazon Web Services was the first IaaS provider and the market leader, followed by Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and IBM Cloud.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

PaaS provides sets of services and workflows targeted to developers> The services allow them to use shared tools, processes, and APIs to speed the development, test, and deployment of applications. Enterprises use PaaS to ensure developers have immediate access to application resources, adhere to specific processes, and utilize a specific set of services, while also maintaining the underlying infrastructure.

Salesforce’s Heroku and Force.com are among the public cloud PaaS offerings; Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry and Red Hat’s OpenShift can be deployed onsite or accessed through the major public clouds.

Collaboration platforms

Slack, Microsoft Teams, and HipChat are examples of collaboration solutions These messaging allow work groups to communicate and work together more effectively. The solutions are SaaS applications supporting chat messaging, file sharing, and audio or video communications.

Is the cloud secure?

Not surprisingly, the idea of storing personal information “somewhere in the cloud” makes many people nervous. However, the dominant public clouds (IGM, Google, Microsoft, AWS) have proven to be much less vulnerable to attack than the average enterprise data center.

Before moving to the cloud, it is critical to understand the possible security risks associated with it.  Each cloud service offering, IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS brings with it varying security requirements, processes, and responsibilities.

Establishing with certainty the identity of a user, which may include employees, contractors, partners and customers is crucial as sensitive cloud resources can be accessed from anywhere on the Internet.

Other risk factors to consider include:

  • Risk of outages
  • Long-term operational costs of public cloud services
  • “Shadow IT”: procuring cloud services to build IT solutions without explicit approval of management

The cloud offers advantages in scalability, collaboration, productivity, and application development. Whether you choose a public, private, or hybrid, the cloud is fast becoming the the platform of choice for businesses, large and small.

Choosing an Internet Service: Which One is Right for You?

Considering high-speed internet service? Do you know how the services differ? How will you choose one that is right for you? As you begin your research you’ll discover there are many types of internet services: digital subscriber line (DSL), cable, private microwave (also known as fixed wireless), and fiber optic. All can be referred to as broadband, meaning upload and download speeds are faster than a dial-up internet service. Understanding the key differences among these services will help you choose which type best meets your needs.

DSL Internet Service

DSL, commonly the slowest of the three, uses a phone jack and telephone line to provide dedicated broadband internet service.  DSL internet services are reliable, widely available, and affordable. Rural or underserved areas and small companies that didn’t have a need for heavy Internet used to find DSL service sufficient for email or browsing the web. DSL supports live streaming of standard video and music; however, high-definition video streaming can be a little slower.

Cable Internet Service

Cable internet service takes its name from its source: cable television. The pervasiveness of cable television makes accessing this service easy. Cable internet uses copper cable wires, rather than telephone wires, resulting in faster service. Cable internet has been an affordable solution for many businesses, from small start-ups and non-profits to large corporations.

Cable internet service can be more reliable than DSL. A 2016 Federal Communications Commission Broadband Progress report found most of cable and fiber internet providers delivered download speeds as fast as or faster than advertised. DSL providers did not.

It’s important to remember, cable internet shares bandwidth so download speeds can be impacted at times of peak use (everyone in your neighborhood live streaming Game of Thrones on Sunday nights). If the cable provider oversubscribed that area−selling customers more bandwidth than a network can supply, hoping that not all connections would use their maximum sending rate at the same time−speed can vary greatly.

Private Microwave   

Private microwave, also referred to as fixed wireless, is high-speed internet access that uses microwave radio signals rather than cables to provide internet service. The earliest users of private microwave services include people in areas that lack access to fiber optic cable, DSL or cable television lines. Private microwave and wi-fi have seen significant growth in rural areas that don’t have a fixed infrastructure or the resources to build one to access other Internet service options. Fixed wireless can be used for online gaming, live streaming, VoIP, and other applications that require low network delays.

Private microwave utilizes transmission towers and ground stations, maintained by internet service providers, that communicate with each other and with the subscriber’s transceiver location. Subscribers install transceiver equipment, consisting of a small dish or rectangular antenna with a radio transmitter, on their building to communicate with the fixed wireless ground stations.

Fixed wireless service often requires direct line of sight access between the subscriber and the ground station. Trees, hills or other obstructions can prevent it from being installed in rural locations.

Fiber Optic

Fiber optics are bundles of very thin glass or plastic strands that transmit data in the form of modulated light. The Fiber includes a core, a protective core cover that reflects the light back to the it, and a buffer coating that acts as a protective sleeve. Hundreds or thousands of these fibers are bundled into a single optic cable, allowing digital information to travel far distances with very little degradation in data quality.

Fiber internet service doesn’t use existing cable or telephone lines like DSL and cable, so installing new fiber optic cables is required to offer service in a given area. In some areas, fiber internet isn’t as widely available as DSL or cable internet service.

How do you choose?

Now that you understand the internet service options available, the next step is choosing the best service for your needs. Two factors to consider are:

1) What’s available where you live, and 2) how much speed do you require?

While your location may leave you little to no choice among internet providers, understanding the differences between the broadband services offered in your area and balancing it with your needs will enable you to choose the internet service that makes the most sense for you.

CDA Press.com: Outrage over online privacy rule change

Good story in the local paper this morning regarding online privacy:

CDAPress.com: Outrage Over Online Privacy Rule Change

A Note from Company President Mike Kennedy about Privacy

At Intermax we promise we will never sell your data. Ever.

April 5, 2017

Dear clients and friends,

This note is about you, your browsing data, and your privacy. It’s important because two days ago the president signed into law a repeal of consumer protections of Internet privacy.

Theoretically it benefits Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like ours. The repeal of the law would allow us to sell your browsing data if we wanted to – allowing us to make money on something that already exists, that we have access to, and if we sell it would make you a better target for other big companies looking to learn as much about you as possible.

I want you to know directly from me that Intermax announced today we will never sell client data. Period – end of story. Please see the attached press release which formally announced our position.

As I said in the press release I’m stunned at this change in the law. The only thing that’s clear is that it’s a major benefit to some of the biggest companies in the country – the major national cable companies and phone carriers (“Telcos”) who lobbied hard to win this.

Big “Telcos” will now have the explicit right to get access to their customers browsing and location data and use it and sell it to anyone who will buy it.

They may not care about your privacy, but we do. We are your neighbors in North Idaho and one of the many reasons we live here is because we value our privacy, our liberty, and that of our neighbors as well. Once you sell those things, there isn’t much left that can’t be sold.

I’ve read in some places that “…repealing this privacy rule doesn’t matter since there are so many other places where the big guys can get your personal information.” Maybe that’s true on some level, but we are taking a stand here and saying NO – not now, not ever. A business like ours needs to have the trust and confidence of our customers, and that’s why I wanted to write you directly.

Here’s a link to the actual information on Congress.gov.

The bottom line is we don’t work for those big companies – we work for you. We will never sell your data or information, and we’ll continue to try to provide competition for the Big “Telcos” who spent a lot of money to get this permission to sell your data and get a lot more.

Thank you as always for your business, and I expect you’ll hear more from us about this in the future!

Sincerely,

Mike Kennedy
President, Intermax Networks

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Google Names Coeur d’Alene as Idaho’s E-City

Idaho Business Review Story on Google and Coeur d’Alene

Intermax Networks, the largest independent fiber optic network in north Idaho, has installed 51 miles of fiber optic cable in the past three years in Kootenai and Bonner counties. Intermax serves 89 commercial buildings representing hundreds of companies in the Coeur d’Alene-Sandpoint corridor, company President Mike Kennedy said.

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