Inside the Vault: How Iron Mountain Protects Your Data

Topics: Data Archive | Offsite Tape Vaulting

What seems like an ordinary office building from the outside is far from ordinary on the inside. Listen to part one of this podcast series for a live tour inside one of Iron Mountain’s many vaults. Hear first-hand about all the protections, backups and redundancies that go into protecting your data.

Listen to Inside the Vault: Making Secure Tape Storage and Retrieval Possible

Listen to Inside the Vault: Ensuring Security in Transit


[Traffic noise under announcer]

Announcer: From the outside, one of Iron Mountain’s Massachusetts vault facilities looks pretty much like any of the hundreds of other low-slung office buildings in that commercial area. Just three minutes’ drive from the highway, It’s a single-story, mostly windowless building. There’s no sign outside. The only way you’d even know this is an Iron Mountain facility is because of the logos on the trucks in the parking lot.
Pretty ordinary outside, but inside…

[Door slam]

…it’s a fortress.

[John: “Any part that has a glass window or door is going to have breakage sensors. There are no windows in the vault area. We have an alarm company that monitors for fire, burglar, smoke. There are also motion detectors at any entry to exit point. We’re ¼ mile from fire and police department.” (35:40)]

Announcer: That’s John Antista

[John: “I’m the transportation/operations supervisor for this data management facility. I’ve been here about eight years now.” (3:00)]

Announcer: He’s giving visitors a tour of the facility, one of 218 Iron Mountain vaults in 34 countries around the world.
This facility stores backup tapes, lots of them. They contain the most critical asset that Iron Mountain customers own: their data. Businesses ranging from financial institutions to high-tech companies to hospitals and universities keep this information on hand in case their business is impacted by anything from a fire to a hacker attack to an audit. These tapes help get them back online quickly. In some cases, they may save the company.

[John: “Currently we have about 2 ½ million tapes at this facility. Compared to other vaults in the US, where probably the third of fourth largest when it comes to volume of tapes.” (18:00)]

Announcer: Today’s backup tapes contain vast amounts of data, and they have lots of enemies; things like fire, water, heat, dust, condensation and even bugs and rodents can damage or destroy critical information. Customers entrust their data to Iron Mountain in order to properly protect and preserve their precious data. And Iron Mountain goes out of its way to deliver.

[John: “In this facility we have two separate CCTV systems. The video is kept for 90 days. We have two systems in this facility that have something like 80 cameras. Every exit and entry will have multiple cameras. And the reason we have two systems is if one system goes down we always have a second one… You’ll see bubble cameras above every workstation. If the tape ever was misplaced you can get tape level detail and you can track back.” (38:10)]

Announcer: That’s right. Two redundant closed-circuit TV systems.

[John: “You can’t go anywhere in the vaults without being on camera at any point” (1:10:30)]

Announcer: In fact, just about everything in the vault is redundant. If there ever was a redundant operation, it’s this one. There are two fire suppression systems, two generators, two climate control systems.

[John: “We have Liebert HVAC units with specific controls for humidity of 40 +/- 2 and temperature as 70 +/- 3. If anything falls out that range, it’s an immediate alert.” (13:40)]

Announcer: For fire control, the facility uses a chemical suppression system that literally sucks all the air out of the room in a matter of seconds. The backup system is water, but remember that water can be as big an enemy of backup tapes as fire. Iron Mountain has thought of that, too.

[John: “This is a pre-action system so it looks like there’s water in the pipes and there’s not. This system will only kick in and fill the pipes if a failure occurs. Essentially, the Halon would have to fail and only then will these pipes fill with water.” (54:40)]

Announcer: This facility houses five steel-hardened vaults, each with its own climate control. Four of those rooms hold tapes in seven-foot-tall closed metal racks, with 375 tapes per rack and 120 racks per row. That’s more than half a million tapes per room.
The fifth vault is full of sealed cases, mostly containing computer equipment. Entering the vaults is a two-step process. Authorized employees need an electronic key fob, but they can't get inside without also entering a PIN code known only to them.

[Sound effect: Alarm (1:59:50)]

Announcer: But what about outside the building? John Antista notes that tapes are never more vulnerable than when they’re in motion. And they’re in motion a lot. The vault has a fleet of 15 vans that continually shuttle tapes to and from customer facilities, day and night, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

[John: “You have your biggest risk and going from point a to point B ,so you try to minimize risk however you can.” (1:58:45)]

Announcer: The vans are like miniature fortresses on wheels. Again, to a visitor it seems that Iron Mountain has left nothing to chance.

[John: “Every vehicle has e-track backing to securely strap the containers down so they aren’t sliding around. Every vehicle also has a partition between the cabin and cargo area vehicle. That helps reduce the risk of someone being able to smash a window and get into the back. If someone were to hijack the van they still couldn’t get back there. Back here is the temperature control for the back of the vehicle. The driver can control from up front.” (2:00:45)]

Announcer: Just like the vault, security in the vans is redundant. Each one is outfitted with a security system made by Babaco that requires the driver to carry a second key. You can’t do much of anything without both keys.

[John: “Every key is specific to that unit number, there were only two made and Babaco is the only one that can make them. You can’t start the engine without both keys…one of the cool features is that you cannot have two doors open at once. If someone grabbed your keys and tried to open the side door…”

[Sound effect: alarm (2:03)]

Announcer: Those vans are constantly in motion. If one of them breaks down, a new one is dispatched and the tapes are carefully transferred so the driver can get moving again. And how does Iron Mountain know when a van has broken down?

[John: “We can GPS-track where the couriers are at all times. It also helps us to drive safety on the road. We get alerts every time there’s a hard braking or a speeding event. We can reach out to the courier and find out if they are okay and also maintain a space cushion around the vehicle. It also tells us if someone is going over 70.”

Paul: “So the safest drivers on the road are Iron Mountain drivers?”

John: “That is 100% correct.” (2:05)]

Announcer: In a business like this, you can bet customers wouldn’t have it any other way. This is Paul Gillin