Arkivum is a young British company founded to solve a complex and unfashionable-sounding problem. Organisations are filling up with data – from business processes, research, analytics - for the most part without realising it even knowing where much of it resides. When they do grasp the scale of their data, knowing what to do with it can be a huge barrier to action. All the while, the volume of data continues to grow at a rate that can only be described as alarming.

Anyone doubting the seriousness of data growth should study the volumes of data now being accumulated by the UK universities alone, much of it generated by research activity. Techworld recently documented Arkivum’s estimates of how much data is held by these institutions – the total for the sector is now probably nudging one Exabyte.

arkivum

Data is everywhere, as a by-product of activity, as a business resource and, increasingly, as an expensive headache. There will be no stopping its growth. Data has been taken for granted but not long into the 21st Century, just as the information seers predicted, the days of data indifference and make-do look are surely coming to an end.

Arkivum believes it can ease the problem of data bloat by offering a long-term, secure place to archive it in ways that meet a raft of increasingly complex regulatory and information management demands.

“Long-term storage of data is not a new requirement for many organisations, but the massive increase in the volumes of data that these organisations possess is increasing to the extent that new ways of managing that data for the long term are required,” says CEO and co-founder Jim Cook.

“Using existing solutions to meet the challenges of preserving data for the long term, at the bit level, are prohibitively expensive and the Arkivum service is a straightforward and economical way to store and manage data for decade long timescales.”

Arkivum - university spin-out

Doing this turns out to be surprisingly complicated. Founded as long ago a 2011 as a University of Southampton spinout, Arkivum spent its early years hunting for customers that understood the problem, focussing rather fruitlessly on the bits of the UK media sector (e.g. post-processing companies) the company saw as having vast amounts of data that would need to be stored. According to Cook, after battering at the door for a while the firm realised that while this sector was awash with data they often didn’t own the problem of looking after it. The data belonged to someone else and its loss or long-term integrity was not their liability.

Running on modest funding and their own resources, the founders turned instead to the university and life sciences sectors, which turned out to be ahead of the private sector in understanding the data archiving issue. Three surprisingly small funding rounds later and the firm has matured with an impressive list of customers that now use its data archiving services.

All young firms that survive will point to customers but Arkivum makes a speciality of documenting them. Recent announcements have included the University of Salford, Sussex University, Loughborough University, and many others in higher education through the Janet Data Archive Framework agreement that offers preferential pricing and low upfront costs. The interest of universities is driven in part by the Medical Research Council (MRC) funding requirements that research data be held for 10 years for basic research and 20 years for clinical data but Arkivum is also looking after two Petabytes of data for the world-famous Francis Crick Institute as it constructs an imposing new London biomedical research facility near London’s Euston station. Applications for archiving seem to multiply.

Customers beyond higher education include the Tate Gallery, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, North Bristol NHS Trust and New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the latter a huge digital store of artworks and audio-visual material that will eventually amount to 6.2 Petabytes.

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