VFS combines an on-premise server and portable hard drives with storage as a service (SaaS) over the wide-area network (WAN). Customers send data to an Iron Mountain cloud data center in Pennsylvania or Missouri by pointing file servers or applications at the on-premise device. Encrypted portable hard drives, which Iron Mountain calls "data shuttles," are used for seeding the first data to the cloud or for large restores.
The offering is similar to Iron Mountain's LiveVault or Connected Backup online backup services, but those services include software that crawls the user environment looking for incremental changes to active data. With VFS, customers determine what data is inactive and send it in whole files to the storage device, according to Steve Blumenau, vice president of technology and digital archiving at Iron Mountain Digital.
"There are plenty of tools that crawl the customer's infrastructure out there, and users typically already have them," Blumenau said.
Laura DuBois, program director for the storage software practice at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC, said Iron Mountain may need to find partners to be successful with VFS. That's the route backup software vendor Atempo Inc. went with Nirvanix Inc.'s cloud storage. "They will have to qualify [software vendors] and data movers to get data in … [with] a clearer,
VFS could also be integrated with Iron Mountain's other cloud-based services for a full file lifecycle service, but that's a long-term vision, said Adam Couture, principal research analyst in Gartner Research, based in Stamford, Conn. "That would be nirvana, but I think I'll be long retired before anyone can do it," he said.
Early adopter reduces backup data
Elliott Townsend, IT manager at data center facilities design firm Bruns-Pak Corp. in Edison, N.J., said he uses VFS to cut the size of backups by sending inactive files to the cloud.
Townsend, already an Iron Mountain LiveVault customer for backup, got into the file archiving service to reduce the cost of the LiveVault service. "We don't delete anything," he said. "I have data going back to 1989."
And he was backing it up on a daily basis. Townsend says Bruns-Pak has cut daily backups from more than half a terabyte to approximately 200 GB, and Townsend estimated he'll save $5,000 a month by backing up less data. "The file archiving service costs a tenth of what LiveVault costs," he said.
Townsend said he hopes LiveVault and VFS add data deduplication for transmission over the wire. "It would reduce transmission time and reduce my overall bill by reducing the amount of data actually stored," he said.
Iron Mountain isn't disclosing exactly what VFS costs. The firm's Blumenau said there will be three components that make up the price: a onetime appliance installation, setup and configuration services engagement; a recurring appliance rental fee and 24/7 support; and a fee based on the user's capacity. Blumenau said Iron Mountain is not publicly disclosing the entry price for any of those components.
IDC's DuBois said cost is a top motivator for companies seeking cloud services, but a service provider's reliability and name recognition ranks second among customer priorities.
"Iron Mountain is not going to be a cost leader and I don't expect them to be," she said. However, Iron Mountain can offer expertise in document management and compliance that may be worth a premium to some companies.
Blumenau said Iron Mountain does not serve as a custodian of data, but is qualified to be a "designated third party" for information storage under SEC Rule 17a-4, which sets retention requirements for stock brokers. It can also provide security authentication and chain-of-custody information for regulatory inquiries. A retention schedule for each file is also built into VFS.