Five Questions: Jeff Anthony

Iron Mountain's entertainment industry guru talks data preservation
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Data backup is a crucial step in all of our daily processes. But archiving information is a long game. In the digital age, how do you ensure that the work you create now will remain protected and preserved for posterity?

Iron Mountain is the largest provider of analog and digital archive services in the world; it’s been storing and managing information since 1951 for government agencies and industries ranging from banking to energy; its entertainment division partners with major media companies like Paramount Pictures and Universal Music.

But data management services aren’t just for the major players. I sat down with Iron Mountain Vice President Jeff Anthony to learn about resources and best practices for project studios.

Can you tell me a little bit about your role as head of Iron Mountain’s entertainment services?

I am responsible for the overall direction of the division, including P&L, product management, and business development/acquisitions.

I think sometimes musicians, producers, and engineers working in project studios think of Iron Mountain as a resource that’s exclusively for top-level facilities. What kind of services do you offer to independent music makers?

It is true that we work with all of the major labels to help them protect, preserve, and digitize their priceless one-of-a-kind recordings. But it is also true that we help hundreds of very small producers, engineers, and artists to do the very same thing.

In fact, because we preserve so many assets—more than 28 million worldwide—we can bring industry-wide best practices to virtually every situation, including assisting small independent producers in protecting and preserving their life’s work.

Audio engineers are aware of the potential fragility of many physical formats. What are the biggest challenges in future-proofing digital data?

Future-proofing, or archiving digital data, is almost an oxymoron. Digital data is a wonderful format for production, editing, and distribution, but problems with long-term archiving are enormous. Hardware and software obsolescence, media migration over time, check sum validation, and data integrity overall are just some of the issues we face with managing digital data for the long term.

Tape is still the most reliable and sturdy format for the archiving of valuable music recordings. We have tape dating back 50 years or more in our vaults, and while there are some issues with tape, it has stood the test of time as the best long-term archive format available.

How can musicians and engineers get up to speed on best practices for archiving their work for posterity?

First and foremost, get your music off of hard drives. We see it time and time again where hard drives simply don’t spin up after as little as a few years and the data on those drives is essentially lost forever. The LTO (Linear Tape-Open) format has become the de facto standard in so many industries and that is also true for the music industry.

Put your music onto the latest LTO format, which today is LTO6; two copies preferably, and geographically separated, and you can rest assured that your data will be safe for many years to come.

Iron Mountain is supporting The Grammy Foundation’s Living History Initiative to help preserve cultural and historical content. Can you tell me about that and other ways you’re committed to preserving musical heritage?

We are honored to help the Grammy family in so many ways. From the Museum to the Foundation to the P&E Wing, our partnership with the Grammys is deep and long-term. We are working with the Grammy Foundation to help protect and preserve interviews from some of the most notable personalities in the industry, including B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Brian Wilson, and dozens of other music pioneers.

We work with countless estates and current artists in helping them to preserve our musical and cultural heritage. Our most important mission at Iron Mountain is to “preserve our past and protect our future”: a job we take a lot of pride in.