Iron Mountain Puts File Archiving In The Cloud

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Document archiving giant Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM) hopes to make data backup and archiving a little easier with a new hosted storage service.

The 58-year-old company — best known for its core paper-based retention and archiving business — is expanding its online efforts with Virtual File Store (VFS), a hosted data storage archiving solution that provides on-demand access, retention policy provisions and search capabilities.

Using VFS, enterprises can move static files over the Web to one of two U.S.-based data centers owned and managed by Iron Mountain. The vendor said it’s a cost-efficient alternative to tape or disk backup strategies.

“This is an enterprise-class solution that demands no capital outlay and offers scalability,” said Steve Blumenau, Iron Mountain’s vice president of technology for digital archiving.

Iron Mountain estimates that 50 to 65 percent of stored data is inactive but remains housed on high-end storage arrays. “We’re targeting lowering the storage cost of that data,” Blumenau said.

The new product comes as companies strive to cut costs and improve efficiencies while handling an increasing amount of data. The need for archiving is driven by compliance mandates, e-discovery laws and an overall demand for more cost-effective storage strategies.

User files are typically strewn across desktops and servers, and file archiving can wind up on costly front-line storage for a few reasons. For starters, there is a need for quick access, which is difficult with tape. In addition, moving files to cheaper storage can be time-consuming or complex.

By going on-demand, however, Iron Mountain is aiming to avoid those issues.

“This kind of hybrid solution is fairly unique, as it’s the first that connects that on-premise environment to an off-site service and provides on-demand access,” said Brian Babineau, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

“It’s hard to build up a service model that can do this well,” said Babineau, explaining that the approach has to be profitable while providing good security and easy management for customers.

The VFS retention policy gives companies greater management of data to be stored, he noted, and the basic search function is valuable when dealing with meeting legal requirements.

“With tape, you can’t do either,” said Babineau.

Data Management Rivals

For Iron Mountain, the effort is another step toward duplicating its dominance in physical data record keeping in the competitive digital records industry.

The company launched its digital storage service in 2000 and has been gradually adding to its online portfolio. In May 2008, it joined forces with IBM (NYSE: IBM) to combine its Accutrac software with Big Blue’s FileNet Records Manager, creating a tool for managing both paper and digital records.

But IBM is also working on its own data archiving innovations, as are some other players. One of IBM’s biggest moves in the space was acquiring storage services pioneer Arsenal Digital. And nearly every other data storage vendor from EMC (NYSE: EMC) on down has been moving into the online storage space.

Iron Mountain declined to discuss how much it plans to charge for VFS. Blumenau said there is a one-time professional fee for setting up the necessary file server and software, and then there are recurring fees based on the amount of data archived and stored.

As with other hosted software and services plays, the company says its approach cuts costs compared to on-site deployments. The company said the total cost of ownership is lower than traditional file archiving strategies, which involve buying more storage hardware and paying operational costs for housing and infrastructure management.

“A lot of times, the storage planning goes wrong and enterprises find they need to make a huge capital expenditure to deal with more data than expected,” Blumenau said. “This … approach smoothes that all out and puts them in complete control.”

Article courtesy of

Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl
Judy Mottl is an experienced technology journalist who has served as a senior editor, reporter, writer, and blogger for InformationWeek, Investors Business Daily, CNET, and Information Security Magazine, as well as other media outlets.

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