Data Storage for research in progress
When considering storage for research data, you need to consider where the data will reside while you are working on it and where it will be deposited for long-term storage once it is finalised.
Storage options during your project
It is recommended to use storage that is managed or contracted by the University wherever possible. The University’s recommended storage facilities also have options to help with collaborative working and sharing data with colleagues at the University and elsewhere.
If you are working with any data which is subject to data protection legislation or which requires ethical approval or is provided to you under a confidentiality agreement, you will need to select appropriate storage to meet those requirements. Please read IT’s guidance on Best Practices for Confidential Data and refer to the project initiation workflow for research involving personal data.
IT Services provides a range of data storage options:
- Microsoft Sharepoint storage, with OneDrive and Teams, is suitable for most types of research data (use Teams where access by another member of the University is required on an ongoing basis).
- The network drive (usually J:\) is accessible through the remote desktop services.
- Nextcloud provides cloud storage that remains on-campus, with functions for data sharing and group collaboration (please note that Nextcloud is not a back-up service).
For more information on these storage options, see the IT Services file sharing guidance.
In order to conduct your research you may need to use tools or storage with functionality which is not offered centrally by the University (for example Github for projects producing software). Researchers using Git or Unix-based systems are advised to contact local IT support with specific storage queries.
Some Schools may have their own networked storage and opt out of the centrally provided offerings.
If researchers choose to use these options, they should check that they meet minimum requirements for data security, and also be aware that they are not supported by IT Services. If handling any sensitive data you must also comply with the requirements of data protection legislation, ethical approval and any confidentiality agreements in place.
It is not recommended that consumer-oriented cloud services such as DropBox, iCloud or Google Drive are used for storing live research data. These services have inherent risk, such as:
- There is often no guaranteed retention or back-up of data.
- The servers they use could be based outside the UK/EU which can have implications for data protection and may breach funder requirements.
- A lack of clarity on ownership and rights over the data.
Use of OneDrive and Teams, provided by the University as part of Microsoft Office 365, is also not recommended if the research funder has stipulated that data must be stored physically within the University.
Personally-managed storage like your computer home directory (C:\) or external hard drive is not recommended for research data.
- You are responsible managing back-up.
- Access and security are dependent on the protection you install.
- Laptops and external storage can be damaged if dropped / mishandled.
Portable storage media such as CDs, DVDs and memory sticks (also known as USB sticks, flash drives, thumb drives, memory keys) are risky as they are not backed up centrally and are vulnerable to loss and damage. It's best not to rely on these devices as your only copy of important data. Can be useful for secondary, back-up copies, files only one person at a time needs to access, non-confidential data, and data you can afford to lose.
Backing up your data
IT Services performs regular backups of the University's centrally managed network file servers. Users of Standard Staff Desktop (SSD) and Common Student Computing Environment (CSCE) workstations will automatically be provided with access to a network file server.
You are responsible for backing up all other files. For more information, see UK Data Service’s Backup guidance.
Contracting out storage
It may be that your data needs are sufficiently unique that you want to make your own arrangements for storage in an external service like Arkivum. If this is the case, we recommend you speak to us first, and then we will help you to liaise with IT Services.