By Monica Mendoza
Flood water mixed with diesel fuel and other contaminants rushed into the computer server room of the Veterans Administration Hospital in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Among other items, any of the medical records kept on standard compact discs and tape were destroyed.
At the time, the hospital had just started to use a new kind of storage device called ultra density optical discs. Administrators had moved some of the medical records to the new UDO discs.
Those discs survived.
“We cleaned it up … and they recovered all of their data,” said Chris Carr, president and CEO of Colorado Springs-based Alliance Storage Technologies, manufacturer of UDO discs and libraries.
UDO discs look like regular compact discs but they hold more data. A lot more. A collection, or a library, of these discs can hold up 76 terabytes of information. One terabyte can hold 1,000 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
It helps to think of the UDO library as a series of filing cabinets locked in a room where they cannot be harmed by disasters such as flooding.
“It’s industrialized in the sense that the UDO cartridge, where the media and the data reside, is completely protected,” Carr said.
So sure of the technology, Carr guarantees the safety of data stored on UDOs for 50 years.
Carr, who has an engineering background, began his career working on laser navigations for fighter jets before getting into laser-disc drives. In the early 2000s, he worked for a company manufacturing optical disc drives and when that company folded, he bought the devices that he had designed and started Alliance Storage.
UDO technology was developed in the early 2000s by a British company, which had its manufacturing plant in Colorado Springs, Plasmon LMS. The company ran into financial trouble in 2009 and declared bankruptcy. That’s when Alliance, which had been a reseller of the Plasmon UDO technology, bought all of Plasmon’s assets, from its patents to the equipment. Alliance moved into Plasmon’s 47,000-square-feet manufacturing plant on Federal Drive in north Colorado Springs.
Like the recovery efforts at the Louisiana VA hospital, Alliance has spent the past 16 months in a recovery of its own. Carr had faith in the UDO technology, he just needed to come up with a better business plan than his predecessor.
“There have been some challenges there — getting vendors back in place and getting parts that had been discontinued back in place,” Carr said.
Carr hired some of Plasmon’s employees and his first priority was to seek out those customers who had purchased Plasmon products and to make sure Alliance honored their service and maintenance contracts. It took a while to persuade some of them, but eventually many that had held off finally signed on with Alliance.
“There has been a lot of personal satisfaction in what we have achieved,” Carr said. “We’ve been growing at a pretty steady rate.”
The company, which has 41 employees and annual revenues of about $10 million, has been hiring about two employees a month in recent months.
Carr’s team has hit the international trade shows from Japan to Australia to promote the company’s UDO libraries, which range in cost from $7,000 for smaller units to $130,000 for the “Enterprise” library, which holds 76 terabytes.
Demand for the UDO libraries is highest from companies or government agencies that are heavily regulated, including financial services, insurance and health care providers — companies that must keep records for long periods of time or for the lifetime of a client. He just sold an archive system, through Lockheed Martin, to Schriever Air Force Base.
With a UDO system, “you have an option to have a room full of paperwork with filing cabinets or you can have one of these, which basically does the same thing, except in a lot of smaller space, and a lot quicker access time,” Carr said.