According to a new European study by Iron Mountain, 46 per cent of IT teams will insist on keeping data close at hand on hardware they can see, touch and control when that data is confidential, sensitive, business-critical, frequently used, subject to strict regulation, newly created, or of potential business value.

First introduced by Forrester[i] in 2011, the term “server hugger” describes the desire to store data in the line of sight and reflects an enduring caution about moving data off-site or into the cloud. Iron Mountain’s series of in-depth interviews with senior IT professionals in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK[ii] reveals that although this mentality remains widespread, things are beginning to change ‒ often for very valid business reasons.

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Just over a third (37 percent) of respondents now include the cloud as part of a hybrid on-and off-site storage solution that includes tape, disc and cloud storage, while another eight percent plan to introduce cloud storage in the next 12 to 24 months. Surging data volumes and growing confidence in the security and benefits of the cloud are the main drivers behind this trend, but some sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing and financial services, remain cautious.

A UK healthcare firm with fewer than 250 employees explains that it stores everything on site because, quite simply, “we are not allowed to store data anywhere else”. A retailer of the same size says that it keeps all its data on site because it’s the nature of its information is too sensitive and business-critical to put at risk.

In the Netherlands, a financial services firm with just under 100 employees says it keeps all its data on servers on site in order to better protect it. “Given the kind of business we’re in, we cannot afford any kind of data breach.” However, it can work the other way. A Dutch telecommunications firm with more than 1,000 employees says there is no point to putting its information employees need to access frequently on an “old or slow responding server; their work will be hampered and so will the business.” The firm now relies on a private cloud to store its data.

A services firm in France with over 1,000 employees relies on a hybrid storage solution that includes the cloud. The company eventually decided to back-up some of the most frequently-used information it stores in the cloud on-site so that it doesn’t have to pay the high cost of data retrieval.

A Spanish firm in the same business sector with less than 250 employees faces the same challenge of how to handle ever-increasing volumes of information more efficiently. “We are now having to store data at an alarming rate. While we have budget reduction initiatives, we have little control over the amount of data produced.” The firm is now evaluating cloud options.

A media and broadcast firm in Germany with over 500 employees explains that its priorities for data have changed in the last few years. “Due to the growing volume of unstructured data, our focus has shifted from data protection and risk to cost-effective data storage.” The company has its own data centre and also uses tape, public clouds, internal servers and digital hard drives in a secure environment.

“In a world where more and more businesses recognise the value of information, data storage has become a business-critical issue rather than a back-office activity,” said Christian Toon, head of information risk at Iron Mountain. “The IT professionals we spoke to believe that getting storage right is an art rather than an exact science. Most still feel most at ease when they can see and touch their data storage racks – often for very sensible business reasons. However, evolving security risks and the growing need to harness the full value of information is making on-site server storage untenable in the long term. We would advise IT teams to transition to a rich, blended platform that includes a secure off-site data centre and cloud solutions.”

About Iron Mountain

Iron-Mountain-1Iron Mountain Incorporated (NYSE: IRM) is a leading provider of storage and information management solutions. The company’s real estate network of 64 million square feet across more than 1,000 facilities in 36 countries allows it to serve customers around the world. And its solutions for records management, data backup and recovery, document management and secure shredding help organisations to lower storage costs, comply with regulations, recover from disaster, and better use their information for business advantage. Founded in 1951, Iron Mountain stores and protects billions of information assets, including business documents, backup tapes, electronic files and medical data. Visit www.ironmountain.co.uk for more information.

[i] For information – background documents on the concept of ‘server hugger’
http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9222377/_Server_huggers_present_obstacle_to_cloud_adoption,
http://www.forrester.com/search?N=0&tmtxt=server+hugger&sort=3

[ii] Opinion Matters for Iron Mountain, April 2014. Ten interviews were conducted with IT professionals in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and The Netherlands, representing the manufacturing, healthcare, telecommunications, financial services, professional services, hospitality, media and broadcasting, advertising, retail and software sectors, with between 50 and 10,000 employees.