Demystifying the Cloud - Know Your Cloud Services and the US Signal Cloud

November 16, 2023

Depending on the source you consult, cloud computing originated in the 1960s, the 1990s, 2002 or 2006 (with the launch of Amazon Web Services.) Regardless of when it started, the cloud has now become an integral part of how both IT and business is done.

So it’s surprising that a lot of people still don’t understand what the cloud is, how it works and why some cloud services are more suited for some purposes (and some companies) than others. While answering these questions would require far more than a blog post, the following provides an overview of some of the key information to know about the cloud — including the US Signal Cloud.

Cloud Characteristics

In simple terms, the cloud is a network of connected remote servers that operates as a single ecosystem. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) specifies that it’s comprised of five essential characteristics, although not all of them may be included in every cloud solution:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service

Cloud Deployment Models

The cloud is also classified by how it’s deployed. There’s the:

  • Public cloud. Also referred to as a multi-tenant cloud, the public cloud enables consumers to use computing resources as they would a utility. They pay only for what they use, and get the impression of unlimited capacity, available on demand. The cloud service provider (CSP) is responsible for maintaining the underlying infrastructure.
  • Private cloud. Also known as a single-tenant cloud, a private cloud is deployed for the exclusive use of a single organization or customer. It’s accessed from behind the organization’s firewall. A private cloud may be owned, managed and operated by the organization or a third party.

Some companies offer private clouds that are actually in a multi-tenant environment but employ logical segmentation. When a third party manages it, it is called a managed private cloud. When it is hosted and operated off premises, it is called a hosted private cloud.

  • Hybrid IT, hybrid clouds and multi-clouds. The hybrid IT approach employs a mix of infrastructure options including on-premise, public cloud and private cloud infrastructures.

Hybrid cloud is a model within that IT strategy that spans across private and public cloud networks. Multi-cloud refers to the use of multiple cloud and storage services as part of a single network. This enables applications to migrate between different cloud providers or to even operate concurrently across two or more cloud providers.

Cloud Service Models

There are different cloud service delivery models, including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service.

  • IaaS. This is the model that’s behind public and private clouds (including those offered by US Signal). It provides network access to processing, storage, networks and other traditional computing resources that allow the customer to deploy and run arbitrary software. The customer doesn’t manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications, as well as scaling.

IaaS providers typically supply resources on-demand from their large resource pools installed in data centers. Pricing is typically on a usage or reservation basis.

  • PaaS. PaaS provides a software platform on which users can build their own applications while hosting them on the PaaS provider’s infrastructure. The software platform is used as a development framework to build, debug and deploy applications. It often provides middleware-style services such as database and component services for use by applications.
  • SaaS. With SaaS, cloud providers install and operate application software in the cloud. The application is licensed to customers either as a service-on-demand, through a subscription, in a “pay-as-you-go” model, or at no charge when there is opportunity to generate revenue from streams other than the user.

US Signal Cloud Services

US Signal offers private and public cloud services using the IaaS service delivery model. These services can also be used in hybrid and multi-cloud approaches.

US Signal's private cloud offers customizable control, robust security and high levels of dependability and performance with single-tenant or multi-tenant storage resources to meet customers’ unique needs. (View the data sheet.)

The public cloud service provides pools of dedicated or flexible virtual compute resources in a multi-tenant environment. (View the data sheet.) The management portal allows customers to manage their servers with policy-based user controls from anywhere with Internet connectivity.

The US Signal Network Factor

There are numerous CSPs, including the so-called hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud. Why would a company choose US Signal cloud services? (Our blog – Bigger Isn’t Always Better – provides several good reasons why.)

The US Signal network is a major factor. It’s comprised of 14,000 miles of fast, reliable lit fiber optic connectivity. Lit fiber connections carry data at much faster speeds than traditional copper cable, so our network is ideal for providing the required speed for data-intensive applications and cloud applications.

It’s wholly owned and maintained by US Signal, monitored by our Technical Operations Center (TOC) 24/7/365. If an issue arises, it can be resolved before it becomes a problem for customers. US Signal has its own crew to deploy if physical repairs are ever needed, resulting in much quicker response times and less downtime.

The network extends throughout 10 states, including Virginia — home of the US capitol of the Internet and Ashburn’s “data center alley, which is widely renowned as America’s most important hub for Internet traffic and network infrastructure. It includes access metro rings in 20 Midwest markets, bringing network services closer to where customers are, enhancing network monitoring capabilities and improving network reliability. (Get more network details here.)

US Signal Date Centers

There are also the US Signal data centers, which house the underlying infrastructure of US Signal’s cloud services (SLA-backed for 100% availability). All eight regularly undergo independent audits to ensure compliance and/or certification with HIPAA/HITECH, PCI DSS, SSAE 18 (SOC 1 and 2), ITAR, FBI CJIS, GDPR, and Privacy Shield.

The data centers are strategically located in mid-sized cities throughout the Midwest — considered one of the safest geographical areas in the U.S. (Get more details in Climate Matters: Data Center Location.) Most are at least 200 miles apart and all are on separate power grids to minimize the effects of natural disasters.

Cloud pods are located in our Southfield, Detroit Metro and Grand Rapids East data centers in Michigan, as well as in our Indianapolis, IN and Oak Brook, IL data centers. These facilities are equipped with the specialized equipment to power cloud services and can serve as “edge data centers”. By being positioned close to the end-users, they can deliver fast services with minimal latency.

US Signal has also partnered with DTE Energy and Consumers Energy sustainability programs to make all our Michigan data centers and offices powered by renewable energy by 2026. In addition to helping us reduce our carbon footprint, this can help clients meet their sustainability goals, reduce their own carbon footprint, and save with rebates and other opportunities.

The Service Side

The big CSPs offer an incredible amount of resources and make it easy for customers to start using their services – at least those customers who know what they need and are well versed in cloud setup and usage. But many customers prefer to draw upon the expertise of a CSP. This is where US Signal shines.

It starts with a consultative approach in which our team gets to know customers in the pre-sales stage. We ask the right questions so we can better understand the challenges they face and identify the problems that need resolution. This enables us to help them develop a roadmap for transitioning from how they currently handle their IT operations to a consumption- or cloud-based model that can meet their business and technical needs.

We recognize that not every customer can or should immediately jump to the cloud. For example, there could be compliance issues that necessitate keeping some workloads on-site. In these cases, US Signal can customize and rightsize solutions that accommodate customers’ requirements — directly or in conjunction with MSPs and resellers.

Dedicated project managers work with US Signal’s solution architects to ensure exceptional service delivery and successful implementations. They know the pitfalls. They know which best practices work best. They know the importance of staying in communication with customers throughout the process to keep things on track. Once a project is completed, the service and support is ongoing. A dedicated professional services team is also available to take on migration and special projects.

Technical Support

A lot of CSPs offer technical support and may even offer it 24/7/365 like US Signal does. What most can’t do, however, is answer calls within 30 seconds — and resolve most issues within 30 minutes.

US Signal’s TOC is staffed by subject matter experts that specialize in all aspects of cloud, data center, and network services. The professionals who answer the TOC line are trained to handle just about any IT issue that could arise. There's no putting you on hold or passing you off to a series of other technicians.

Cloud Benefits

What can customers expect when they move to the US Signal Cloud? There’s the ongoing consultation and commitment from US Signal to help them meet their IT and business needs, and future-proof their IT infrastructure. There are also the proven benefits of the cloud in general, including:

  • Cost savings and reduction. Capital expenditures are reduced facility that houses it. Plus, IT leaders can easily right-size cloud computing resources according to their specific business requirements, reducing wasteful spending.
  • Eliminate End-of-Life Concerns. Without hardware to deal with, organizations don’t have to worry about obsolete legacy equipment, application life cycles or contract terms. They simply pay as they go for crucial cloud capabilities and take advantage of updates as they become available.
  • Sustainability. Moving to the cloud eliminates the majority of hardware, so it ultimately reduces environmental waste.
  • Increase Business Agility. In the cloud, over 99% of what you need is available on-demand. Organizations don’t have to wait weeks or months for hardware components and installations.
  • IT efficiency. It’s easier and quicker to implement updates and patches with the cloud as opposed to dealing with hardware. This saves time and energy for the IT staffs charged with implementing them.
  • Accelerate Growth. It’s easier to integrate new acquisitions to existing platforms in the cloud. Companies can also scale rapidly with demand using auto-scaling functionality and flexible data management services.
  • Innovation facilitation. With the cloud, users can start small and experiment. There’s no commitment to a long-term capital expense.
  • Communication and collaboration. Cloud services enable anytime, anywhere access to applications and data. They also enable connections between end users, vendors, and others, making it easier for them to securely share information and work together in real-time.
  • Interoperability. The cloud supports greater interoperability, making data available for easier distribution and for generating insights.
  • Business process improvement. Cloud services can facilitate workflow automation and the digitization of manual and paper-based processes.
  • Security. Most CSPs invest in top-of-the-line security technologies and highly trained security professionals. They stay on top of the latest threats and vulnerabilities and employ best practices, such as zero trust.

More Cloud Info on the Way

Watch for future blogs and resources that provide more insights into the cloud — including how to optimize both usage and costs. To start exploring and/or planning your move to the cloud, contact us.