Guidance on storing and backing up research data, including some recommended data storage solutions.
About data storage
Digital research data should be stored securely and backed up regularly, with access available only to those who need it. You are advised to store only what you need to keep.
Data storage methods should comply with the following:
- The University of Sheffield research and ethics policies (by ensuring security appropriate to data’s level of sensitivity)
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
- Commitments made in consent forms and requirements of data providers and funders
The sections below contain suggestions and advice on storing your data, including types of University data storage (University login required).
If you have non-standard data requirements, or have any questions about data storage, contact IT help and support (University login required).
Recommended data storage solutions
University networked filestore (X: drive)
The University filestore (X: drive) is recommended for storing master copies of your research data. It provides shared storage which is secure and accessible on and off campus. It is also backed up several times each day and gives the option to restore earlier versions.
Research groups are allocated up to 10TB of storage. This includes both personal and group storage with access control, enabling collaboration and file-sharing between teams.
Please note that your personal U: drive is not appropriate for research data storage, as it is not accessible to others involved in your research.
Find out more about using and requesting networked research storage from IT Services (login required).
The University of Sheffield provides a cloud storage service through Google Drive (University login required).
This service meets data security and privacy requirements (University login required) and enables access-controlled collaboration with project partners within and outside the University.
Personal Google applications should not be used for data storage, and the University Google Drive is not recommended for highly sensitive data.
Files created in Google Drive may also have to be reformatted when backed up or transferred to a different location.
Other data storage options
A PC or laptop may be used to store data on a short-term basis but should not be relied upon for storing master copies, due to the risks of technical failure, theft or loss.
In some cases, extremely sensitive data may be stored on a highly secure local drive, provided it is unconnected to a network, encrypted and rigorously backed up. However, you should contact IT Services before using a laptop to store master copies of data.
External portable storage devices
External hard drives, USB drives and CDs/DVDs can be useful for temporary storage or data backup. They are not recommended for long-term storage or storing master copies, as their longevity is uncertain and they are easily damaged.
These devices should be encrypted, especially if they contain sensitive data, to guard against theft or loss.
Backing up research data
To avoid and protect against loss or corruption, the researcher is responsible for ensuring data are backed up regularly, ideally automatically, and to several locations.
The University networked filestore is backed up automatically and is therefore recommended for master copies, but you will need to manage the backup of data stored elsewhere. These backups should be checked on a regular basis to ensure their efficacy and integrity.
When backing up data manually, the ‘3-2-1-rule’ is a simple way to remember best practice:
Keep three copies of important files
On two different media
With one copy stored in a different location
Find out more about backing up your data from IT Services (University login required) and UK Data Service.
Non-digital research data
Non-digital textual data should ideally be digitised to facilitate long-term preservation and sharing. Items such as audio and audio-visual tape recordings, photographic prints and microscope slides may also be digitised.
If your research data consists of physical objects that cannot be digitised, these should be stored securely so that access may be permitted on request.
For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.