http://www.wired.com/news/business/0,1367,48104,00.html By Julia Scheeres Nov. 14, 2001 In an era of growing insecurity, having your computer equipment tucked into a hole 85 feet underground has a certain appeal. That's the selling point of Underground Secure Data Center Operations (USDCO), a server farm located in an abandoned gypsum mine near Grand Rapids, Michigan. USDCO execs are stressing the bunker-like qualities of their 750,000-square-foot mine in the wake of the terrorist attacks and subsequent data and equipment destruction. Most data centers are above ground and vulnerable to the kind of cataclysmic attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, a company spokesman Ryan McGrath pointed out. But this underground stronghold would even have weathered the crash of Flight 93 on Sept. 11, which dug a 25-foot crater in rural Pennsylvania. "It's a disaster-proof environment," said co-founder Irvin Wolfson. "We've got 85 feet of solid rock over us." Acts of God pose little threat either: There are no earthquake fault lines in Michigan and any groundwater seepage is controlled with a couple of sump pumps. The 100-year-old mine is naturally suited for housing computers, he added. The temperature hovers at a chilly 50 degrees with 79 percent humidity, which reduces computer-generated static electricity that can short out equipment. The mine harvested gypsum - a mineral used in plaster - until the 1940s. Then it was inactive for almost two decades before being converted into a gigantic refrigerator for warehousing food and other perishables by the Michigan Natural Storage Company, which still owns the mine and is a partner in the company. The layout of the cavern consists of a main 40-foot-wide corridor that branches out into a series of smaller chambers with 10-foot ceilings. The mine is equipped with back-up generators and multiple DS3 Internet pipes. The company leases rack space for as little as $100 a month or an entire chamber for much more, depending on the client's requirements. Since USDCO opened its shaft for business in July, 25 customers have signed on. The surging demand for data centers has paralleled the growth of the information technology sector. Many companies mirror their in-house servers at co-location facilities such as USDCO so they can seamlessly switch to the hosted servers if disaster strikes, allowing them to never go offline. According to research firm Yankee Group, the data center business generated $9 billion in revenue last year and will grow to more than $47 billion by 2003. Data centers are an important niche in the IT field. For most companies, the loss or interruption of critical data can lead to punishing financial damages. A switch failure at the New York Stock Exchange in 1998, for example, halted trading for 59 minutes, causing multi-million-dollar losses. Some data centers advertise their fortress-like locations to soothe customers' fears. Consider The Bunker, a British hosting company located in a former NATO nuclear bunker outside of London. Or HavenCo a managed co-location business based on Sealand, a WWII-era gunnery off England's coast that is also the world's smallest principality. Other companies hawk their rigid security measures. At San Francisco's UPNetworks , the computers are safeguarded by four consecutive doors that require swipe cards, said CEO Richard Leslie. Clients are escorted by staff to the center's bowels and are monitored by surveillance cameras even when they're alone with their equipment. Q9, a data center in Toronto, uses both proximity cards and fingerprint scanners to access the computer room, which is entered through a bullet-proof revolving door that allows only one person through at a time. "The whole idea is that someone can't force another person to let them in," said Q9 CEO Osama Arafat. "It's just part of the due diligence that people demand." - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
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