News Column

Involta expanding data storage in South Akron

January 23, 2014

By Katie Byard, The Akron Beacon Journal



Jan. 23--The amount of data is exploding and companies, hospitals, schools and other institutions need a secure place to store all the gazillion bits of information.

That's where places such as the Involta data storage center in South Akron come in. The name Involta is derived from the Italian word for "vault."

The Miller Avenue facility -- a concrete building surrounded by a tall security fence -- opened less than two years ago and already is expanding, increasing storage capacity by adding many more racks of computer servers, data and switches to hold and transmit customers' troves of data.

"We're almost at capacity," said Bruce Lehrman, CEO of Involta LLC, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. "We need this additional space. People are getting to know Involta in this area."

Early Involta local customers such as Summa Health System, owner of Akron City, Barberton and St. Thomas hospitals, are helping to spread the word about the secure, reliable third-party center, said Lehrman, who was in Akron earlier this month to check on the local operation.

Involta, formed in 2007, has six other data centers, all outside Ohio, and earlier this month said it would open a second center in Boise, Idaho, by the end of the year.

The Akron center -- with security that includes an iris-reading machine and more than 30 cameras -- hosts customers' data on its own equipment or houses equipment owned by its customers.

Companies "with aging equipment that starts failing and needs more maintenance" are choosing to move their data to third-party data storage centers such as Involta's, Lehrman said. "Data storage is not their core business."

Additionally, he said, it often costs companies less money to send their data to a third-party center than it does to build their own centers.

So far, Involta is the only third-party data storage center in Akron, said Tom Lang, manager of the Akron center. "Our closest competition would be in Canton, or up in Cleveland," he said.

The Akron Involta building already has one data "hall" -- a 5,000-square-foot room -- filled with cabinets, or racks, holding servers and other equipment that serves 15 to 20 customers. Now, the company is planning to install additional equipment for future customers in a second data hall -- a now empty room -- in the existing building.

"This is 12 to 18 months ahead of where we initially thought we'd be," Lehrman noted as he toured the Akron operation, built at a cost of $17 million on land that previously housed Brown-Graves Lumber Co. operations. The expansion will cost $4 million.

Data centers don't generate a lot of jobs but the pay is about $60,000 to $70,000 a year for full-time Akron staffers. The local operation employs five full-time workers and several part-timers. Lehrman anticipates hiring three by the middle of this year.

The new servers, switches and routers, like the existing equipment, will be hooked up to Involta's own electric substation. Two diesel generators are on hand in the event of an outage. A battery backup system holds the electrical load until the generators start.

"There are lots of layers of redundancy," Lehrman said. "It only takes a fraction of a second to go down."

Lang, the manager of the data center, pointed to a special overhead cooling system that is used to distribute cool air onto the heat-generating equipment. A matching system will be installed in the new hall.

It helps to keep electricity costs down, Lang said, noting utility costs are a major cost of operating a data center. Lehrman said the center daily uses the same amount of electricity as a small village.

Lehrman expects business to continue to grow, and he said that once the second data area hall is at capacity, "the next phase will be a whole new building." It would be constructed to the east of the current building. No timeline for construction has been set.

Involta received local and state financial incentives to construct the initial building in Akron.

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.

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(c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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Source: Akron Beacon Journal (OH)


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