Enduring protection

Features - Cover Story

Since 1968, Perpetual Storage Inc. has been securing its clients’ digital records and microfilm in a solid granite mountain near Salt Lake City.

October 30, 2015
DeAnne Toto

A monolithic laccolith: That is the geological term for the granite mass in Sandy, Utah, just outside of Salt Lake City, that houses Perpetual Storage Inc. (PSI). Since 1968, the firm has been storing digital information and microforms in a vault excavated out of its granite mountain.
 

A rare space

The formation is a rarity of nature, PSI says, as there are only five in the contiguous United States, two of which are in national parks or are national monuments.

Patrick Lynch, who co-owns the company with his wife, Susan, says the laccolith was an inexpensive purchase because it lacks fissures, meaning quartz was unable to intrude, so the structure does not contain minerals that would increase its value.

The laccolith sits on 152.15 acres surrounded by the Wasatch National Forest. The company originally owned 662 acres but sold 10 acres the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) in 1964, which operates a vault for its genealogy records less than 1 mile from PSI. In 1982 PSI sold 500 acres to the National Park Service in exchange for tax credits and cash, Lynch says.

The company’s physical location offers a number of benefits, including a constant temperature of 63 degrees. “No heating or cooling is needed—just lighting and humidity control,” Lynch says.

PSI also is protected against earthquakes. Its website states, “Earthquake shock waves pass through solid objects like our granite formation, which does not move because it is ‘book-ended’ on either side by the older mountain formation.”

Its location roughly 250 feet above the canyon floor also means flooding is improbable.

The company is protected against possible man-made disasters as well in the form of a fire suppression system.

However, Lynch says PSI’s focus on digital records helps to reduce the risk of fire at the facility. “Paper is fuel,” he says. “Digital records are not. We want our clients who store here to know that we know that.”

PSI targets security-conscious clients and protects its facility with highly trained armed guards, Lynch says, as well as with two outside security companies, electronic surveillance, motion detectors and a number of man traps and gating systems.

“It’s highly unlikely that anyone would gain access inside the mountain and live,” Lynch says of PSI’s security measures.

PSI’s vault has a half-acre footprint, measuring 35 feet high and 250 feet deep. “Our current and first vault system was not a cavern, cave or tunnel; it was purpose-built—blasted into the mountain. They did it in such a way as to maintain the integrity of the rock,” he says.
 


 
 

Ahead of its time

PSI has focused on digital information since Lynch’s father established the company. The firm had a vault division, a micrographics division that transferred paper documents to microfilm and a computer time-share division. Lynch says, “The reason that we had all three businesses is because it was a vertically integrated model where you would generate the data, make copies of it and put the copies in the vault.”

He adds, “We were a little ahead of our time. We had a slow adoption rate, if you will, at the beginning of the firm’s history.”

Lynch says his father’s friends thought he was “nuts” to invest in such a business.

However, “Time has proven him out,” he says. “It’s proven a very viable and sustainable business model.”

Perpetual Storage enhances DataVaulting service

Perpetual Storage Inc. (PSI), Sandy, Utah, says it has further enhanced its DataVaulting service by providing redundant and diverse network connectivity from Syringa Networks. The redundant circuit provides Ethernet service over buried fiber optic cables directly into PSI’s mountain facility, providing virtually unlimited bandwidth over an additional dedicated connection, PSI says.

With dual network paths, the company says it ensures immediate on-demand access to customer information, even in the unlikely event of a network interruption with one of its network providers.

DataVaulting is a natural extension of PSI’s core business of providing physical records storage in its privately owned and operated maximum security vault. The service combines virtual data security with the data center’s physically secure location inside of a granite mountain to provide a highly secure private cloud for backup, disaster recovery and archival information storage. PSI says this new service will enable customers to access their stored records and data more efficiently over a dedicated connection.

“Syringa Networks has a proven track record for providing reliable, secure connectivity over a robust, well-designed network,” says Aubrey Murray, PSI senior managing director of business development. “Having a buried fiber optic connection from Syringa Networks gives us an additional level of confidence that our DataVaulting customers will always have immediate access to their information.”

PSI says the additional connection enables cost-effective access to PSI’s DataVaulting service for thousands of businesses and organizations that can access Syringa Networks’ robust, ring-protected buried fiber network.

Lynch first entered the business in 1978 out of college. “That was propitious timing for me and the vault, and I started gaining large clients,” he says.

By the time Lynch joined the business, PSI already had sold off its computer time-share division. Shortly after joining PSI, he sold the micrographics division.

After five years with PSI, Lynch left to pursue a career on Wall Street, where he stayed for 27 years before returning to PSI in 2010 following the death of his parents.

“I continue investing in and reinventing the business to make it a sustainable business model,” Lynch says.
 

An evolving business

PSI stores microforms (microfilm and microfiche), CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs, hard disks and magnetic tape (largely LTO) for clients ranging from corporations to local, county and state governments to federal agencies. PSI’s corporate clients include insurance firms, financial institutions, hospital groups and manufacturers, as well as nonprofit organizations.

“Our goal is still to fill up the vault,” Lynch says. “Every time we get full, there is a technological advancement or leap in how data are compressed … and we go from 85 percent full to 35 percent full. We have gone through that oscillation several times in the history of the firm.”

Lynch says PSI’s focus makes it unique among records and information management firms. “We have companies that think they compete with us,” he says, adding that PSI’s focus on storing data sets rather than paper gives it a niche that caters to “very security conscious clients.”

He adds, “We have been pretty successful for a long time with our model. But we are evolving our model with our new DataVaulting service.”

Lynch refers to PSI’s data center, which is equipped with fiber cable from Comcast and Syringa Networks to facilitate high-speed data transport to and from its clients to store clients’ backup, disaster recovery and archival data. (See sidebar on the right.)

He says PSI can provide or facilitate other services, including digitizing microfilm through U.S. Imaging and similar firms.

Additionally, the company operates its own courier service, which is staffed by five full-time employees who provide service around the clock.

Lynch says PSI has been approached by government entities about creating vaults especially for them—a prospect that intrigues him. “I would like that, actually,” he says. “I think that would be a pretty nice project.”

PSI offers a carefully curated menu of services that focus on digital information. “We do very few things,” Lynch says, “but we do them very, very well.”

He adds, “You cannot screw up here.”

PSI takes that philosophy to heart, conducting regular penetration testing of its operations, initiating improvements based on those results when necessary.
 

Founded on trust

Lynch says PSI works to form “strategic vendor relationships” with its clients. “They keep us informed of what they are doing. We tell them what we find out about industry trends,” he says, adding that the company also talks with representatives from government agencies about industry trends. “It is kind of a holistic relationship between vendor, client and various outside government agencies that are fighting this data theft war,” Lynch says of PSI’s approach. “If you don’t approach it that way, you are going to lose because these people are relentless.”

This relentlessness has been good for business. “Market conditions are quite good because of the explosive aspect of cyber security,” he says.

Cyber security concerns mean PSI spends a lot of time educating clients. Lynch says, “We provide solutions; we don’t just try to scare the pants off of anyone.”

He says PSI’s employees also are critical to the firm’s success, and many of them have been with the company for more than 17 years. (Some have even logged upward of 30 years with PSI, while still others have more than 20 years.)

“I’ve always thought a high employee retention goal for a company is a valuable and best business practice,” Lynch says. “You invest a lot in people, and you want to gain a return on that investment; but, more importantly, you want to surround yourself with employees that you like and trust. We are in the trust business. We trust these employees to do the right thing and be very client focused.”

 

Business on the go

According to Perpetual Storage Inc.’s (PSI’s) website, http:// perpetualstorage.com, “Data protection solutions such as replication, external hard drives and tapes are important but provide only a partial solution for your company following a disaster.”

That’s why the Sandy, Utah-based company offers the patent pending GoBox in addition to various data protection solutions. In the GoBox, clients can store important recovery tools, diagrams and information, which PSI then stores in its vault that is located in a granite mountain.

PSI says clients need to make one phone call to receive via courier service everything necessary to restore their businesses within hours of a disaster.

 


The author is editor of SDB and can be contacted at dtoto@gie.net.