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Iron Mountain Cloud Archive returns vendor to cloud storage

Iron Mountain was one of the first players in cloud storage, but exited the market early on. Now, it's back with a resurrected archive service based on EMC's ECS.

Five years after Iron Mountain Inc. shuttered its Virtual File Store and Archive Service Platform cloud services, it has returned to the market with the Iron Mountain Cloud Archive.

Iron Mountain Cloud Archive is a public cloud service based on EMC's Elastic Cloud Storage (ECS) object storage platform for long-term data retention. Customers can move data to the Iron Mountain Cloud Archive via the Amazon Simple Storage Service API, OpenStack Swift, EMC Atmos or cloud gateways from Nasuni, Panzura, Seven10, Ctera or EMC's CloudBoost, CloudArray and Isilon CloudPools.

Iron Mountain will store the data in its Boyers, Pa., underground data center. The data center features perimeter security, armed-guard checkpoints, metal detectors, mantraps, biometric access controls and cameras for production data, backup and data retention. The Iron Mountain Cloud Archive will function as a back-end cloud repository with enterprise-level service-level agreements for compliance.

"We are differentiating ourselves because of the security aspect," said Susie Keeton, director of product management at Iron Mountain. "We consider ourselves best-of-breed, so we offer extra security to our storage and a clear chain of custody. We know exactly where the data is and it never leaves the Iron Mountain data centers."

Iron Mountain's cloud background

Iron Mountain was among the earliest vendors to deliver a cloud storage service, but stopped accepting customers for its Virtual File Store and Archive Service Platform in April 2011 because of low adoption. The following month, Iron Mountain sold its digital storage business, which included its Connected cloud-based backup and recovery for PCs and Macs, as well as its LiveVault cloud backup for servers and applications, for $380 million to U.K.-based Autonomy Corp.

Iron Mountain's history is rooted in physical storage, mainly the transferring of physical tape and disk storage from customers' sites to its underground storage facilities. Iron Mountain still has a cloud storage backup service that focuses specifically on the healthcare industry.

"That was their forte, but then the world started changing," Arun Taneja, president of the Taneja Group Inc., a consulting firm in Hopkinton, Mass., said of Iron Mountain's tape vaulting business. "I was disappointed when they [exited the cloud storage market in 2011]. It was a natural extension to what they do really well. It was the same business, but with a different twist. I'm encouraged they are back in the game, and ECS is a decent choice."

Is pricing key to Iron Mountain cloud success?

Iron Mountain Cloud Archive offers a pay-as-you-use pricing model for data retrieval and a separate pricing for moving data out of the cloud. There is no charge for PUTs and GETs.

Since Iron Mountain left the cloud archive market, the market has matured and has a more sophisticated customer base.

"There are a number of players now," Taneja said. "Yes, they lost a huge opportunity. It was a mistake to get out of the business. It was a knee-jerk reaction because the revenue was not coming in as fast as they wanted. [But] the market was there. They were just not making strong enough inroads."

Taneja said Iron Mountain can make up for lost time through smart pricing and by offering the right data migration services so customers can move petabytes of their data into the company's data centers.

"They have to be prepared," he said. "It's crucial to deliver cloud services at the right price. They can make up for lost time, but it will take three years to rebuild the practice."

Next Steps

Benefits of using cloud for cold data storage

Everything you need to know about cloud archiving

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Dig Deeper on Public Cloud Storage

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What does Iron Mountain have to do to be successful with its archiving service?
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One thing they need to address is the durability of their storage solution. Amazon Glacier offers 99.99% reliability and 99.999999999% durability of data.
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It will be interesting to see what the effect of the EMC-Dell acquisition is on this.
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