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Storage and Backups


Storage and Backup

Storage, backups, and security are fundamental aspects of a data management plan. Ensuring them may involve working with your local IT unit, CITES, and, where appropriate, with NCSA to choose appropriate options for your data.

There is an important distinction to be made between short-term and long-term storage. On this page we are referring to short-term storage as where you collect and manage your data while you are processing and analyzing it, rather than where you might archive the data for longer term preservation, curation, and sharing purposes.

Backups refer to the creation of additional copies of your data that can be used to restore data if the original is damaged or deleted. The general rule of thumb is that you should have three copies of your data:

  • Original
  • Original + local
  • Original + remote

Security involves maintaining the integrity of the data on the storage system and backups, as well as ensuring that sensitive or confidential data is managed in a way that is compliant with university, state, and federal regulations, in addition to the requirements of the funder. The CITES Security group maintains a page focused on sensitive data.

Issues to consider in this area:

  • What is the expected growth rate of your data? Is data collected in an automated fashion (e.g. sensors) or is it gathered by staff?
  • Are there particular security issues you need to consider with the data? Do you need to comply with regulations around sensitive or confidential data?
  • Do you need to manage data so that only specific users are authorized to access it? Do you need to grant collaborators from off campus access to the data? Do you need to have an audit trail that tracks access and/or changes to the data?
  • Is the data backed up reliably and adequately? Are the backups securely managed? Are there policies or regulatory requirements to encrypt sensitive data that is backed up? In many cases, particularly when working with medium to large size datasets, you should contact your local or college level IT unit for assistance with storage, backups, and security. These units can help you identify the cost of storage and the needed infrastructure for security and backups. If there are security assurances that you will need to provide to the funder, you will want to contact the CITES Security Group for assistance. As always, the earlier you talk with your IT unit in a grant planning process, the better!

DescriptionType of ServiceSize and costAccess and securityNotes
External hard drives Also known as hard disk drives Storage and often used as a backup option Varies; 2 TB for $100 and up Not secure unless kept in a secure location and sensitive data are encrypted. Higher end hard drives can be protected by passwords. Should be regularly tested as hard drives can fail over time. General life span is about 1-5 years.
Portable media Flash drives, CDs, and DVDs Storage and often used as a backup option Varies; 64 GB for $154 Not secure unless kept in a secure location and sensitive data are encrypted Should be regularly tested as hard drives can fail over time. General life span is about 1-5 years. Note that CDs and DVDs can have high failure rates.
Departmental or college server or storage network Your department's IT unit may offer storage on their server or network Storage and often used as a backup option Varies Generally protected by user accounts and passwords, but you will need to discuss security needs with your IT Unit Contact your department's IT unit for information
UofI.Box.net A web-based service for storing, sharing, and editing files Storage and backup 50 GB Free to UIUC faculty, staff, and students NetID restricted; can add permissions for campus or external users The University's contract with Box includes language that reflects the University's data security policies and practices, including FERPA
CITES Enterprise Backup Service CITES Backups service provides automated, centrally managed, reliable backup facilities for a variety of workstations and servers Backup only 99 cents per GB/year Protected by user accounts and passwords. Sensitive data can be encrypted. Often included if your workstation is managed by the CITES Workstation Services Group
Third Party Cloud Storage Amazon S3, Dropbox, and others Storage and backup services Varies Varies University of Illinois has no negotiated terms of services with these providers. For sensitive data in particular be aware of the guidelines from the CITES Security group.
IDEALS Digital repository for research and scholarship — including datasets — produced at the University of Illinois Archival storage and backup Free to UIUC faculty, staff, and students Can be shared with the public or restricted to specified UIUC users Accepts materials as discrete files in final unchanging form only. Materials will receive a permanent URL and will be maintained indefinitely.

Chart structure and language borrowed from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Research Data Services site