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Keeping data safe and sound

The Deltalis vault comes up in what once used to be Cold War-era army barracks.


December 22, 2013 5:22:56 am

Switzerland is building the world’s “largest data vault”,to be housed in a massive underground bunker in a secret location in the Swiss Alps. The Deltalis vault comes up in what once used to be Cold War-era army barracks,and will be hidden behind four-tonne steel doors built to withstand a nuclear attack. The centre is situated near the central Swiss village of Attinghausen,but its exact GPS location remains a secret. Entering the 15,000-sq m bunker requires one to have the necessary ID card,to clear a biometric scan,to go through a sensitive security portal,and finally to clear that anti-nuclear steel door. From there,a maze of concrete tunnels and corridors covered with Cold War-era military maps and dotted with large pools storing underground water lead to the 600-sq m Deltalis data centre.

*Located 200 metres inside the mountain and 1,000 metres below the peak,the pristine white room in use since 2011 houses row upon row of humming data storage systems,continuously gathering and storing data from individuals or companies.

*Business for Switzerland’s 55 data centres is already booming,built upon the country’s reputation for stability and its super-safe banks.

Earlier this month Google Inc opened its first two data centres for Asia in Singapore and Taiwan,to cater to the world’s fastest growing consumer technology markets. Taiwan,Hong Kong and Singapore are all popular with global tech companies because they boast well-established privacy laws,reliable power and fiber broadband infrastructure,and skilled workforces. Apple Inc,Amazon.com Inc and Microsoft Corp are also building data centres in Asia in Singapore,Hong Kong and Tokyo.

*The data centre in Changhua County,Taiwan,is the larger of Google’s two Asian facilities. Google will invest $600 million there. The data centre employs 60 full-time staff besides part-time and full-time contract staff. The cooling system chills water at night,when ambient temperatures are lower,storing it in large insulated tanks before pumping it through the facility to cool servers during the day.

*While the Taiwan data centre is on 15 hectares,the Singapore data centre in Jurong West is built on close to 2.5 hectares. It is designed as Google’s first urban,multi-story data centre,and is in the neighbourhood of a local primary school and publicly-run housing.

A massive data centre in Bootle,Liverpool,built by HSBC,that once handled most of the world’s electronic banking transactions,has been reopened after one year. The high-security centre that can operate for days even if the entire National Grid shuts down has been taken over by tech firm ITS-on-NET and relaunched as The Vault Datacentre. ITS-on-NET hopes companies will move their computer servers from Manchester and elsewhere in the country to Bootle once it starts selling space beginning next year. According to chief executive Steve Smith,“Typically it would cost something like northwards of £50 m to build (such a data centre) today.”

*Some 80 per cent of the world’s electronic banking transactions once passed through the hundreds of servers installed by HSBC at the eight-acre site,which was largely unknown to passers-by. The complex includes some 80,000 sq ft of data hall space,split across four separate buildings. It even includes whole offices,with dozens of desks,that companies can use in an emergency if their own offices become unavailable.

Located in Stockholm is the headquarters of Bahnhof,a Swedish Internet Service Provider that was formerly the home of Wikileaks. It is located 30 metres under the granite rocks of Vita Berg Park,in a former nuclear bunker and command centre during the Cold War. It took more than two years to blast out the 141,000 cubic feet needed to fit its backup generators and servers. The total space is roughly 1,200 sq m.

*Wikileaks chose Bahnhof for obvious reasons in 2010: Sweden’s oldest independent ISP had a tradition of never giving in to pressure from authorities to curtail free expression. In September 2013 though,Bahnhof put the Dell physical server from where WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 documents about the US war in Iraq and the 250,000 diplomatic cables up for auction on eBay. The $33,000 raised were donated by it equally to media freedom advocacy organisation Reporters Without Borders and to the 5th of July Foundation,an advocacy group for liberty on the Internet.

*Bahnhof specified that it owned the physical server and WikiLeaks only rented it . It added that the server was never used for any other client than WikiLeaks,and the data on it had been erased.

The Iron Mountain facility in western Pennsylvania is housed in a former limestone mine,located 200 ft underground and spread over 1.7 million sq ft. A section of it has been turned into an energy-efficient,nuclear attack-resistant data centre known as Room 48. The subterranean environment helps maintain the mine’s temperature at a steady 55 degrees and the limestone walls absorb heat,eliminating the need for typical data centre cooling systems that consume large amounts of power.

*Iron Mountain acquired the National Underground site for $39 million. Today more than 2,700 employees are known to work in the underground records vaults spread over 130 acres. About 150 of those are Iron Mountain employees,with the remainder working for the company’s many customers. The facility has its own restaurant,fire trucks,water treatment plant and back-up power infrastructure.

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