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10 10, 2017

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.

21 09, 2017

Telling the Story

Hi everyone,

I would like to welcome you to the refreshed Intermax Networks blog. Over the last few months, a team from across the company has been discussing and researching topics we hope you’ll find timely and relevant.

Our goal? To help you make sense of the rapid technological changes happening across our industry so you are prepared meet them head on. Our aspiration? To provide content that empowers, enables, and inspires you.

We’ll have articles on cyber security, internet privacy, and cloud computing, written by Intermax and industry-focused subject matter experts (SMEs). They’ll apply their expertise to provide tangible, actionable guidance to you and your business.

We’ll keep you up to speed on trends in software tools, IT services, and network management so you can stay focused on your clients and stay ahead in the marketplace.

We’ll also take you inside Intermax Networks, introduce you to our team, and share with you why we think this place is so special.

Most importantly−and the most fun−we’ll be sharing the successes of you, our customers. Intermax is honored and proud to have been a part of the success of businesses and non-profit organizations across North Idaho. These stories highlight a few of the clients we’ve been fortunate enough to assist in addressing their business needs.

Have a successful outcome, a story you’d like to share, or a topic you’d like to see us address? Contact our Chief Storyteller, Anita Parisot, and she’ll set up time to talk with you.

Enjoy!

 

21 09, 2017

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.

21 08, 2017

Intermax Networks Expands High-Speed Internet Services in Sandpoint

Fiber-Fed LTE Technology Provides Faster Better Access for North Idaho

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2017

Contact:  Anita Parisot – aparisot@intermaxteam.com

COEUR D’ALENE— Intermax today announced the expansion of their fiber-fed high-speed internet services in Sandpoint.

Intermax’s investment in Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology, a standard for high-speed wireless communication, is the largest by a North Idaho based fixed internet service provider. The technology will expand and improve services to Sandpoint residents and businesses.

“This is a game changer for North Idaho internet consumers,” said Mike Kennedy, President of Intermax. “LTE technology will allow for better streaming, faster speeds, and non ‘line-of-sight’ deployments.  We are leap-frogging old cable and DSL systems with fiber-fed LTE technology.”

A few of the advantages of LTE technology include:

  • Ease of deployment of high-speed internet and services
  • Improved performance, faster speeds, and lower latency
  • Lower cost per Mb of bandwidth versus cable or microwave technologies

Sandpoint is the first deployment of LTE for Intermax, which will be followed by Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas in the fourth quarter of 2017

“We are committed to cutting-edge technology that will better compete with the old-school Cable and DSL services that North Idaho residents have struggled with, “Kennedy said. “It allows us to continue to expand our footprint in North Idaho and provide dependable broadband services to residential and commercial clients no matter their size or location.”

21 08, 2017

Fiber Line Expands to Businesses

SANDPOINT — The city’s fiber network recently expanded to two businesses, Timberline Helicopters and Tamarack Aerospace.

Greg Green, president of the fiber installation company Fatbeam, said it is the perfect example of a private/public partnership after helping get the two companies lit up.

“We turned both of these aerospace companies up at the request of the city,” Green said, adding that City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton deserves much of the credit. “It’s the first time we’ve ever tried to do a public/private partnership, and it’s worked.”

Stapleton said Tamarack was in the position of wanting to keep their headquarters in Sandpoint, but desperately needed a better network to do their business.

“We had moved into this facility three years ago and had the promise of high-speed internet access as part of the build and the move, and we just have never been satisfied,” said Brian Cox, chief operating engineer with Tamarack. “We’ve never really had high speed internet access here. So yeah, it was kind of exciting to get that rolling and now have it.”

Tamarack is located at the Sandpoint Airport as is Timberline. The city buildings, from the water treatment plant to City Hall were lit up with fiber earlier this year. Public Wi-Fi is also offered on the city fiber at Jeff Jones Town Square.

The city had two goals with its fiber-backbone buildout, Stapleton said. The first goal was to get better service delivery for the city, as an entity itself, with higher speeds, lower rates, and more reliable service. The second goal, she said, was building a backbone which could serve as the structure for service providers to build off of, improving and bringing new services to residential and commercial in the community.

The city has been working with the county as well, and the next phase is the buildout from the county administration building to the sheriff’s office and jail. Stapleton said originally, the plan of that second phase was a spur off that route to the airport, which would run along Industrial Drive for service to the city shop, as well as bringing service out to the FBO at the airport for the county. But due to cost considerations, she said, the Industrial Drive spur was dropped from the plan.

So the city entered into an indefeasible right of use agreement with Fatbeam, which is also the company contracted to build a $2.8 million, 49-mile infrastructure for the Lake Pend Oreille School District’s Fiber Wide Area Network throughout the district’s 13 locations. The school district’s core buildings in the Ponderay and Sandpoint areas were lit this summer, and the more rural schools will be completed in the spring and summer of 2018. Fatbeam was able to work with the city to obtain some of the infrastructure it had be installing underground over the course of several years, and then the city was able to get some help from Fatbeam for the Industrial Drive area.

Stapleton said the city had about $20,000 left in funding allocated through SURA, and city crews dug the spur down Industrial Drive to the city shop. Fatbeam then came in and pulled the wire and a product called MaxCell through the conduit to hook up the shop, extending the service to Tamarack and Timberline.

“It was a good example of where we were really able to work in a public/private partnership model to get the services we needed to provide better service delivery to our citizens via the city, but also to get that commercial service out to the businesses at a lower cost, and in an expedited fashion,” Stapleton said. “Also, this is a perfect example of how critical the fiber infrastructure is, and the improved bandwidth is for the business in our area in retaining our jobs and retaining our businesses in the community.”

“A private company working with the city and economic development can make things happen, and this is just a great success story,” added Green.

While Fatbeam is a company that builds the fiber infrastructure and then leases it to other service providers, it is the service provider for the city. Green said the company is “a bit like a wholesale provider.”

Stapleton said there are three players coming in on the city fiber. Fatbeam, whose service is predominantly focused on the schools and service to commercial clients. Intermax Networks is a North Idaho company that provides commercial and some residential service, and Ting, which will be coming in this fall, and primarily focuses on residential and small business.

“So we kind of have a mixture of all three going on,” Stapleton said.

Intermax has provided fiber services to commercial businesses in Sandpoint for several years already, said the company’s president, Mike Kennedy in an interview with the Daily Bee. In May, it became the first company to enter into all of the required agreements with Sandpoint to provide service on the city’s fiber network. The city’s expansion, Kennedy said, has allowed Intermax to get into some places it otherwise would not have been able to.

Kennedy said three commercial clients in Sandpoint will be live on fiber in the next three to four weeks through Intermax. On the residential side, the company is announcing its fiber-fed LTE, which is a residential-based, higher-speed bandwidth for homes and small businesses.

“We will be rolling that out, which will provide much faster bandwidth, particularly for the citizens right in Sandpoint proper, to give them better streaming, better uptime, and faster speeds,” Kennedy said. “… We can’t wait until Sandpoint customers have yet another option for higher speed, better streaming, in town and we’re excited about it.”

LTE, or Long-Term Evolution technology is a standard for high-speed wireless communications, and Intermax’s investment is the largest by a North Idaho-based fixed internet service provider, Kennedy said in a statement.

A few advantages of the LTE service include, of course, faster speeds and lower latency, but also lower costs per megabit of bandwidth versus cable or microwave technology. Sandpoint is the first deployment of the LTE for Intermax, and will be followed by Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas.

“We are committed to cutting-edge technology that will better compete with the old-school cable and DSL services that North Idaho residents have struggled with,” Kennedy said in the statement. “It allows us to continue to expand our footprint in North Idaho and provide dependable broadband services to residential and commercial clients no matter their size or location.”

Ting had Sandpoint on its radar for some time before the city went live on fiber, and is currently working on getting a central office set up near City Hall. The space has been secured, and the company’s director of networks, Adam Eisner, said they plan to get the office built in September. Shortly thereafter, he said, Ting will start construction on the network.

“We have been working with the city to develop and submit construction plans, so we are in that process right now,” Eisner said. “As that gets firmed up, we are hoping to begin construction. So we don’t have a precise date yet when we will start. I would be disappointed if we didn’t have shovels in the ground this year.”

Ting plans to start with coverage in Sandpoint proper, with hopes of expanding to surrounding areas in the future, such as Dover, Kootenai, and Ponderay.

Eisner said Ting just had its first Sandpoint employee start, and the company is in the process of securing facilities in the area. Along with the central office, Ting will need a warehouse for storing equipment.

“In the next few weeks, in the next couple of months, you will really see us start to ramp up both our presence and our work there, which we are pretty excited about,” Eisner said. “We are almost there. We know people have been waiting awhile, but the rubber is starting to hit the road now.”

Link to original story

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.