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  • It's the most secure place on earth, the place were fortune 500 companies and the world's

  • wealthiest individuals keep their most precious treasures.

  • With vaults reaching deep under the earth, only one place can keep the most important

  • items in the world safe from nuclear holocaust.

  • The name is Iron Mountain, and it's on the lips of every person who has ever needed to

  • hide a priceless treasure far away from thieves.

  • In business since 1951, it specializes in records management, data backup and recovery,

  • and occasionally destruction of sensitive material.

  • Not only is this company popular enough to be a member of the S&P 500 stock index, but

  • virtually every powerful company in the world uses their service.

  • As of 2020, a full 95% of Fortune 1000 companies employ Iron Mountain for storage and management

  • of their most secure information.

  • But its beginnings were almost shockingly humble.

  • Herman Knaust was exploring Livingston, New York for the perfect place for his enterprise

  • - the biggest Mushroom farm in the area.

  • An abandoned iron ore mine gave him the land he needed to expand, and Iron Mountain was

  • born for only $9000.

  • But not long after his purchase, the mushroom market changed, and Knaust would have to shift

  • quickly if he didn't want to take a bath on his investment.

  • The good news was, his new purchase gave him a lot of land to explore - not just above

  • ground, but under it.

  • Times were tense, and security was money.

  • It was the height of the Cold War, and everyone was looking to the sky with fear of nuclear

  • war.

  • Businesses were looking to store their key documents underground.

  • Knaust created a network of underground vaults to store the most secret and valuable items

  • for businesses, starting with microfilm copies of deposit records for banks.

  • While Knaust went bankrupt in the 1970s and his company was acquired, new owner Vincent

  • J. Ryan had big plans for Iron Mountain.

  • They expanded outside of New York, acquired one data and security company after another,

  • and now operate around the world in sites that used to be everything from strip malls

  • to missile storage batteries.

  • But Iron Mountain is known most for one thing.

  • Welcome to the most secure place in the world.

  • When you talk about security, most people think about Fort Knox - where the government

  • stores over half the country's gold reserves.

  • And then there's Area 51, the highly classified government facility that may contain...well,

  • they're not telling, no matter how many people plan to storm the gates.

  • But those are only protected by the government.

  • Iron Mountain's facility in Boyers, Pennsylvania has a different clientele - just about every

  • rich person in the country who needs their most valuable possessions kept safe.

  • So what makes this powerhouse site so secure?

  • You can start with the location.

  • A former limestone mine, it's spread out over 1,000 acres and was initially used as

  • a storage facility by US Steel to keep its records safe in the event of a nuclear strike.

  • It operated as the National Storage Company until it was bought by Iron Mountain in 1998

  • - and its transformation began into a one-of-a-kind site.

  • While many storage facilities are little more than tightly guarded sheds or nuclear bunkers,

  • Iron Mountain leaves nothing to chance - starting with the fact that some of its treasures are

  • kept as much as twenty-two stories into the Earth.

  • Good luck getting down there without the right clearance.

  • But that's only the start of getting into this site.

  • The security starts long before you get into the compound.

  • As you enter the company's property, only accessible by car, you'll be herded into

  • gate-lined lanes and thoroughly searched.

  • You've probably only encountered security like this in your car if you've crossed

  • over a national border.

  • But things are about to get weirder.

  • You drive forward - and the road abruptly ends, leading you right into a rock wall at

  • the bottom of a steep cliff.

  • The cliff face has a massive tunnel, with the entrance sealed off by a huge sliding

  • gate guarded by armed security.

  • It almost looks like the entrance to a supervillain lair or sci-fi fortress.

  • But if you have the clearance to get in, the secrets within are worth the security.

  • Iron Mountain isn't one storage facility - it's countless storage facilities in the

  • largest private storage center in the world.

  • Each one guarded by red steel doors, the massive climate-controlled facility contains some

  • of the biggest secrets in the business world.

  • Celebrities both living and dead, and some of the most powerful tech companies in the

  • world, all use Iron Mountain's Pennsylvania facility to keep their secrets - and we only

  • know a small percentage of the secrets within.

  • After all, that's kind of the point of storing something in the most secure place in the

  • world.

  • But hey, they let us in, so let's take a little tour.

  • Are you a film buff?

  • Then you should rest easy that Iron Mountain had some of the biggest treasures in film

  • history under lock and key.

  • They stored over 1800 cans of nitrate film before they were collected by the Academy

  • Film Archive, where they're now stored in the world's largest collection.

  • These films were likely preserved from the early days of film, and while many classic

  • films have been lost forever due to damage or other hazards, these are sealed away as

  • a testament to the earliest days of the art form.

  • But that's not the only art form Iron Mountain is keeping safe.

  • Master recordings are the ultimate treasure in music, and the three biggest music studios

  • around all chose the same place to store them.

  • Universal, Sony, and Warner keep their masters under lock and key, with Universal choosing

  • the Butler facility.

  • They also have the original recordings of Frank Sinatra, proving Ol' Blue Eyes'

  • heirs know the value of his music.

  • But every time one of these recordings is checked out, there's a risk it could be

  • lost - which is why Iron Mountain has professional recording studios in its facilities, meaning

  • the companies can work with them without ever taking them out of their secure base.

  • But some celebrities have found other uses for Iron Mountain.

  • What do Princess Diana, Charles Dickens, and Charles Darwin all have in common?

  • The wills of these three late legends are all stored in Iron Mountain facilities.

  • Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, owns a massive photographic collection

  • through his Corbis corporation that specializes in licensing and digitizing artwork.

  • The company purchased the Bettmann Archive, which contains over sixteen million images

  • - the original copies of which are stored in the Pennsylvania facility in a refrigerated

  • cave.

  • But it's not the only use Bill Gates and other billionaires have for Iron Mountain.

  • One of the most important rooms in Iron Mountain's Boyers facility is twenty-two stories down,

  • with the unassuming name Room 48.

  • One of the facility's newer additions, it specializes in creating a more climate-friendly

  • environment for data centers.

  • Many major corporations have committed to tackling climate change, and computers eat

  • a lot of energy.

  • Room 48's geothermal energy systems use the surrounding environment to create a closed-loop

  • piping system that naturally cools the room, and they're researching ways to use the

  • mine's water directly to provide energy for the data center.

  • And that's good, because Iron Mountain processes a LOT of data.

  • Not only do top corporations use Iron Mountain's Boyers facility to store copies of their data

  • - likely including records of customer data that they've promised to safeguard - but

  • the US government has even gotten in on the game.

  • While many government documents are kept under lock and key in federal facilities like Fort

  • Knox, the government has outsourced the papers on government employee retirement accounts

  • to Iron Mountain, where the US Office of Personnel Management leases a cavern.

  • And that's likely just scratching the surface.

  • Hm, maybe you'll find the secrets to the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices down there.

  • So how does Iron Mountain keep all these secrets safe?

  • There are more levels of security than you can shake a stick at.

  • In fact, if you did shake a stick at them, you'd probably be tackled by the armed guards

  • who patrol the facility around the clock.

  • Companies can choose shared vaults, or register a private vault where no one gets in or out

  • without their approval.

  • Many of the items in Iron Mountain are fragile and one wrong move could make them crumble

  • into dust, so every vault in the facility has its temperature and humidity levels carefully

  • controlled - both for temporary and long-term storage.

  • While it's not easy to get in, the company is in regular contact with the property owners,

  • and all files can be shipped quickly on request or converted to digital formats for use while

  • the originals stay safe.

  • And that's not mentioning Iron Mountain's top security feature - its geography.

  • Built into the side of a cliff and heading straight down into the earth, Iron Mountain

  • is protected from most natural disasters ranging from floods to hurricanes and even earthquakes.

  • Once the gate is sealed, it's highly unlikely anyone would be able to break in, and even

  • if they did manage to enter the facility, every vault presents its own challenging security

  • measures and is equipped with alarms that alert the on-site security and record the

  • intruders.

  • And that's assuming they even get past the security fencing and crash barriers surrounding

  • the cliff.

  • It's no surprise that the facility gets the Department of Justice's highest security

  • rating.

  • So is Iron Mountain the foolproof answer to your security needs?

  • Well...not quite.

  • While the security on the hard copies stored inside the Butler facility is essentially

  • foolproof, the company's data storage history has a slightly spottier record.

  • The company has a history of losing or misplacing files, both in fires at facilities and in

  • transit.

  • Most famously, Time Warner loaded unencrypted data on 600,000 employees into an Iron Mountain

  • van, and somewhere along the way, the files just disappeared.

  • That led the company to start encrypting its tapes.

  • Other incidents involved fires in London and Buenos Aires, some set intentionally.

  • While the top security at the vaults is all it's hyped up to be, if you need your files

  • transported between sites, you may be taking a risk.

  • So how do you get into an Iron Mountain facility anyway?

  • Well, it's not exactly open for tourism.

  • A camera crew was allowed in briefly in 2015 and got a look at some exclusive photos, including

  • rarely-seen images of Albert Einstein and Rosa Parks, but the storage facility has fifteen

  • vaults - each the size of a big-box store - and is still expanding, so they barely got

  • to scratch the surface of the massive facility.

  • And even if you're storing something in there, the odds are you'll only get access

  • to your vault - not the rest of them.

  • The people who get to see the most of the Bowers facility are its tirelessly working

  • technicians and security who keep the place operating.

  • So there is an opening - but expect to go through a security vetting process that rivals

  • the ones you experience when applying to the FBI, followed by a long time working your

  • way up in the ranks of Iron Mountain before you're trusted with access to their top

  • facility.

  • But what does it take to get your family treasure inside that Bowers facility?

  • That depends on what you're looking to store.

  • Data storage at Iron Mountain can be very reasonable, starting with only $12 a year

  • for a single LTO-8 tape of 12 terabytes of compressed data.

  • But if you're looking for hard storage, the price is going to be a lot higher.

  • You'll be charged by cubic foot, with additional fees for every feature you need - starting

  • with transfer, climate control, and any labor involved.

  • Multiply that by the length of the stay, and while the initial numbers may look small,

  • it'll add up quickly.

  • For shared vaults and items that only need a small space, this can be affordable, but

  • if you want a private vault - well, there's a reason why the Fortune 500 likes this company

  • so much - they can afford it.

  • And so far, it's proven to be worth the investment.

  • For more on one of the most closely guarded places in the world, check outWhy No One

  • Can Break Into the Most Secure Place in the World (Fort Knox)”, or watch this video

  • instead.

It's the most secure place on earth, the place were fortune 500 companies and the world's

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The Most Secure Place on Earth

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/09
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