Staff Photo: John Bohn Chris Behm, an area operations manager with Recall, explains working details of a document storage area.
NORCROSS -- Where do you turn when you want to store something as valuable as the Declaration of Independence?
Years ago, when the document came to Atlanta, the piece of American history spent its nights stored in one of several "top secret" locations of one of the world's largest document and data storage companies, headquartered in Nocross.
Behind air trap doors, fingerprint devices, vaults and security cameras -- a modern-day Fort Knox set up in a few Gwinnett office buildings -- are countless financial records, historical data and irreplacable facts and figures.
Even some tracks for famous hip-hop artists are kept secure inside Recall's vaults.
"Pretty much every industry needs our services," said Mark Wesley, president of the North American operations, who works at a Peachtree Corners office secured by vascular scan technology, which reads the arteries on each employee's hands.
With story after story of personal medical information or private financial data found in Dumpsters or on the auction block after leaving a storage unit, Wesley says the protection that comes from Recall often comes at a cheaper price than companies can find storing documents on their own.
And with more and more government regulation forcing companies to keep records for years, sometimes decades, the company is finding itself growing even in the current economic slump.
In fact, last month, Recall surpassed a huge milestone of storing more than 100 million cartons in one of its 300 centers, located in 20 countries on five continents.
Chris Behm, who checks two forms of identification for visitors and confiscates cellphones when you enter one of the storage warehouses, said the top two priorities are safety and security.
Secured by biometric fingerprint access and nine cameras, the 80,000-square-foot facility contains 600,000 cartons stacked high to the ceiling.
Inventory would take a year, but the company is the only storage facility with radio-frequency identification that allows a device to take stock while a person walks down the aisles.
Not only does the company store documents and data, but workers retrieve any information a client wants in a matter of hours, using specially secured vans to courier it throughout metro Atlanta.
A few miles away, a data storage facility is so secure that Recall's name isn't even on the unassuming warehouse.
That's where Karen Wilson kept the Declaration of Independence safe.
The facility has three levels of fire suppression, notably a halon gas system that would suffocate a fire without water, which could damage the thousands of disks, CDs, tapes and more that contain more gigabytes than anyone could imagine.
Before his death, some of Michael Jackson's original tracks could be found in the top-secret vaults, which now contain some old-school favorites from Mariah Carey, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy and Will Smith.
In a facility that is climate controlled with water bugs and security alarms, Wilson said she has had high-profile clients visit the facility to retrieve data in the middle of the night.
"Storage is only as good as recovery," Wilson said. "The electronic method is better for that."
In a day and age when information is money, data storage is a booming part of Recall's business.
In fact, Wilson points to a Forbes article framed in a hallway that tells the story of Cantor Fitzgerald, a global financial services company that lost 658 employees, two-thirds of its workforce, in the Sept. 11, 2001 collapse of the twin towers.
But because the data was stored in Connecticut, the business was up and running in a week.
"It's a lot about disaster recovery and business continuity," Wilson said of the business.
Down the hall, Tracy Boards leads a team of employees working to take documents and digitize them.
The service has become popular for businesses and governments, medical services and human resources information.
Last year, that one Norcross team created 17 million images, such as books that are read on iPads or Kindles or company data.
"It's unending to the extent of paper we have in the U.S.," Boards said.