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Storing Data in a Mountain… So What?

Posted by Tammy Bangs

Nov 30, 2016 11:15:00 AM

Ozark mountains south of Branson

It’s no secret that pirate folklore included countless tales of buried treasure. One famous pirate, Captain William Kidd, was even noted as having buried his loot off the coast of Long Island because to him, the safest place to store what was most important to him was under the ground.

Today, the same principle is being applied to many financial institutions around the world (in a more positive light this time around). Many banks and credit unions rely on their data so much that a crucial malfunction resulting in the loss of that data would be devastating to both the financial institution and their customers. In an effort to preserve their data, these FIs have opted to bury their information underground … literally!

The rise in data centers hosted inside underground caves and mountains has grown exponentially over the years, as it has the added benefit of providing a natural barrier against Mother Nature. A traditional data center may or may not withstand an F5 tornado or a category 5 hurricane, but a mountain is not going anywhere! That’s why Jack Henry & Associates stores its data deep inside the Branson Mountain Complex.

It’s funny when I get questions about our facility located near Branson, Missouri. The questions range from likening it to the Bat Cave, to MI-6 Head Quarters, to NORAD. That last one is actually my personal favorite. Being an actual underground facility dedicated to hosting and protecting data, there are few places that compare to in in the world, especially within the FinTech marketplace. Everyone has DA/DR sites. Everyone has data centers. But no one has a DA/data center in a mountain.

Underground facilities, and more specifically the Branson Mountain Complex, offer many unique benefits compared to traditional data centers. The security – both physical and cyber-based – at these facilities are without match to a non-government grade site. Traditional data complexes have only reinforced concrete to protect important customer data from natural disasters.

Mountain complexes, on the other hand, combine both reinforced concrete with hundreds of feet of unmovable, impenetrable rock and compacted dirt that have been around since before humans roamed the globe. The Branson Mountain Complex, for example, is located some 160 feet below the surface of the mountain but over 100 feet over the nearest dam, and has nearly 2 million square feet of un-occupied space we can expand into, as the demand grows.

I’ve even been lucky enough to co-host many tours of this facility over the past two years, and let me tell you, almost every time I find a new “nugget” that amazes me. From the meticulously planned facility infrastructure, power resources, geothermal cooling, fire prevention, even the methodic way the network cabling is laid out – the facility is unlike any other. These facilities are absolutely one of a kind. Any FI looking for a unique way to keep their customer data protected from the forces of the world should look into the possibility of utilizing some sort of underground storage. What better way to preserve data than relying on something that has stood the test of time like a mountain or a cave being used as a shell for a data center?

Many banks and credit unions are currently outsourcing the protection and storage of their core data. For additional security, data centers hosting FI core data can be replicated into underground mountain facilities for a bolder disaster avoidance posture. This model is preferred for lessening worries about what happens when a tornado or hurricane or earthquake strikes a bank or that banks current data center! This is considered much better from a recovery standpoint as that FI will continue to have their information hosted in a complex impervious to Mother Nature’s wrath. That combination of facility, technology and business processes provide the peace of mind financial institutions are looking for.

Tour the Branson Mountain Complex


Tammy Bangs celebrated 14 years with JHA in 2015 and has 10 years of community banking experience. She has been hosting Educational Risk Mitigation Seminars for FI’s from coast to coast encouraging community bankers to engage in conversations with their peer banks and vendors about how best to mitigate risks within their own institutions.

Topics: Risk Mitigation, Data Management

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