'Private cloud' will handle Hennepin County's public information

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2013 - 3:56 PM

Atomic Data has won a contract to host the county’s website, which provides information about properties, job postings, constructions maps and the library system.

Jim Wolford, CEO and co-founder of Atomic Data, has just added a data-storage center in downtown Minneapolis.

Photo: Richard Tsong-Taatarii • rtsong-taatarii@startribune.com,

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Twelve-year-old Atomic Data, a fixture of the Minneapolis Warehouse District, just expanded into downtown’s Marquette Plaza building.

Atomic, a “private cloud” data storage and managed-services firm, recently struck a $1.3 million, seven-year contract with Hennepin County to host the county’s online content management and search-engine functions.

The company, which acquired the basement data center in the Marquette Plaza from departed XO Communications, has grown from 32 employees and $6 million in revenue in 2010 to an expected 84 employees and $17.9 million in revenue this year. Jim Wolford is CEO and the largest of three owners.


Q: Why did you start Atomic Data in 2001?

A: My partner, Larry Patterson, our chief technology officer, and I knew the future was in centralized data center computing and that there was no major player in the Midwest ready to handle what was going to come through “the cloud.”

We also knew the market needed deep, managed services wrapped with these new data centers. So we started Atomic Data to address these needs.

The recession of 2008-09 was the best thing that happened to the managed-cloud industry. The cloud is kind of like mainframe computers. You buy storage and computing services. A lot of chief financial officers and chief technology officers of organizations looked at the price of [owning computer storage], and most servers are used only about 18 percent of the time. They save money because we only charge for what you use. We’re local and very secure.


Q: You talk about offering a “private cloud.” What do you mean and how does that distinguish you against competition?

A: Our private cloud offering means that our systems are completely secure, housed in our 10 facilities around the world, and that we know exactly where our client’s data is at all times. The resources in our server farms are guaranteed to support what we sell our clients.

We do not allow ­customers to eat into other customers’ resources. Many of the public cloud providers do not guarantee the resources to their clients and their infrastructure does not keep each client completely separated from each other.


Q: Atomic will host the website for Hennepin County services, everything from property information searches to job postings to park and construction maps, the library system and household waste. Hennepin County provides the data. You’re the invisible back-end operator and data guardian. How did you win the business?

A: We are providing a secure, private, cloud platform to host their applications. The No. 1 selling point was security — our SOC3- certified cloud-based facilities and our 24/7 Network Operations Center monitoring services.


Q: Where are your data centers?

A: Four of our data centers reside in the Twin Cities … in northeast Minneapolis, downtown and Edina. The others are located in Hong Kong, Madrid, Toronto, Phoenix, Atlanta and Dallas.

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