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All About Underground Data Centres

Although data centres have existed in one form or another since the earliest days of computing, mainstream adoption of cloud-based storage and has seen a huge increase in demand as of late. Coupled with recent data storage concerns, both virtual and physical, some data centres have taken a unique approach to their facilities. Specifically, many companies are now hosting underground data centres as a means of providing their customers with the maximum amount of physical and virtual security.

In fact, companies like Iron Mountain Cavern Technologies and InfoBunker have already established underground data centres in various locations throughout the United States and Canada, including defunct war bunkers, former mines and empty caverns. Seagate and EMC have even begun to adopt underground storage solutions for their own needs.

According to Eileen Sweeney, senior vice president and general manager of data management with Iron Mountain, explained how underground data centres are beneficial to organizations as well as end-users. She was quoted as saying: "Our collaboration with EMC means companies can protect their data offsite, improve their disaster recovery processes and benefit from the scalability and efficiency that the cloud provides."

Primary Concerns

While there are many advantages to underground storage, many companies in the IT industry are still hesitant to embrace the technology. Common issues cited in underground storage include lack of proper cooling, installation of large-scale fire suppression systems and considerations for the human employees working in these underground environments.

John Clune, president of Cavern Technologies, explained the sudden demand for underground data centre storage. He was quoted as saying: "The underground data center space is experiencing rapid growth due to the efficiency and speed to market it offers." He continued by saying: "One of the bigger challenges has been the perception of underground data centers. People are imagining a tight cubbyhole with a guy with a light on his helmet. The reality is that we’ve got 18 foot ceilings."

Benefits and Advantages

Despite the aforementioned drawbacks of underground data centres, these facilities also boast a number of benefits and advantages. For starters, construction costs can be greatly reduced due to the preexisting structures of the cavern, bunker or mine. Because of this, underground facilities are, generally speaking, quicker to establish than their aboveground counterparts. Additional cost-savings can be realized through disaster-proofing these facilities, as many of them provide natural protection from disasters.

Real World Examples

As mentioned, there have already been a number of underground data centres established throughout North America. Iron Mountain, who currently safeguards over 7 million gigabytes of data, operates their data centre from a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania. InfoBunker has converted an ex-military bunker into their underground data center in Iowa, which features 65,000 square feet of usable space. Cavern Technologies, which also exists within a former limestone mine, boasts more than 300,000 square feet of underground space.

While some companies have already established their underground data storage centres, others are just getting started. BastionHost has recently announced their plans for "Dataville," which include a series of underground data centres in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Mountains West Exploration is currently pursuing ex-military ammunition bunkers for conversion to highly secure data centres.


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