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Research Data Management

Learn how to better manage your research team's data throughout all phases of the research lifecycle.

2.3 Data Storage & Backup - Page Contents

Data Storage & Backup

Data Storage Defined:

Throughout your research, you’ll want to save and access your data frequently.  Data storage is different from data preservation; data storage deals with storage options during the research stage whereas data preservation deals with long-term storage options after the research is done.

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Data Storage Options

Storage Options:

There are several storage options that are available to you and they include the following: desktop computers and laptops, networked drives, external hard drives, optical storage, and cloud storage.  Let’s look at these storage options closer:

  • Desktop computers and laptops
    • During your research, you’ll probably save and work with your data on your desktop computer or laptop.  In case of an unfortunate event like theft or computer crashes, it is best that you save your work often and that you keep master copies in another location.
  • External hard drives
    • External hard drives are a convenient way to store and backup your data.  External hard drives even provide encryption for storing sensitive data.  As a rule of thumb, it is not a good idea to store your external hard drive next to computer in case of theft, disaster, or other unfortunate events.  It is important to note that external hard drives like flash drives are not meant for permanent storage as they will break down over time.
  • Networked drives
    • The institutional network or networked drive is a good place to store one copy of your data --- it is controlled by the university so they Machines linked to a cloudare quite stable and secure.  It is important to consult your institution about this drive and to consider the following things like: how frequent is the networked drive backed up and how secure is it?  And lastly, how much space do you have and how recoverable is lost data?
  • Cloud storage
    • Cloud storage, like Google Drive, Box, and Amazon S3, is convenient because provide offsite storage and can often be synchronized with your computer files which makes backing up files easy.  There are a couple of cautionary things that you should consider when using Cloud storage like: 1) Cloud storage options are owned by private companies who have the right to look  and might have the right to do as it pleases with your data 2) there’s no guarantee of long term security as the company may go out of business.  Cloud storage is NOT recommended to store sensitive data!
  • Optical storage
    • Optical storage include options like CDs and DVDs.  Like external hard drives, optical storage options should not be kept nearby the main computer for reasons of theft, disasters, and other unfortunate events.  Also, it should not be considered permanent storage, as CDs and DVDs degrade over time.

Data Backup

Best Practices:

Data backup best practices includes making 3 copies of the data for backup  with copies being geographically distributed --- i.e. the original (e.g. on Backup equipmentyour computer), external/local (e.g. external hard drive), and external/remote (e.g. online storage service).  Having one copy of your data backup offsite protects your data from unfortunate events like theft and natural disasters.



It is important that you regularly backup your data to provide ultimate and consistent protection; it will protect it from catastrophic data loss.  It is also important to copy data files to new media every 2-5 years after its first creation date.


Backup Strategy:

When considering a backup strategy, it is important to consider how frequent you are going to backup your files and your data backup budget.

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