Data storage

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 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 X: drive is now the primary recommended storage solution for research data. If you wish to migrate your data from Google Drive to X: drive, please refer to the guidance that has been created. Please consider this if you have large amounts of data stored in Google 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 can be 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 suitable for storing project research data, as it may need to be accessible to co-researchers or supervisors.

Postgraduate research students should enquire about access to research storage on the X: drive via their supervisor.

Learn more or request access to networked research storage (login required).

Google Drive

The University of Sheffield provides a cloud storage service through Google Drive. This service is a great collaborative tool, enabling working with project partners within and outside the University via access-controlled documents. 

Find information on how to access and make the best use of Google Drive (login required).

Sensitive research data should not be stored on Google Drive or Google Shared Drive as it is not a suitable location for such data due to its nature and need to be kept secure. Google Drive should also not be used as a data archiving solution or for storing high volumes of research data. Personal Drives are now capped at 15GB and Shared Drives are capped at 30GB.

For further information, please read this guidance from the Google Data Cap project (staff login required). Files created in Google Drive may also have to be reformatted when backed up or transferred to a different location.

Secure Data Service 

The University’s Secure Data Service maintains a secure, cloud-based platform for researchers working with sensitive data. If you would like to enquire about using this service to store research data, or if you have any concerns about the sensitivity or security of data in your research project, you can contact the Secure Data Service team to discuss this.

Other data storage options

Local drives

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

Research storage on the University networked filestore (X: drive) is backed up automatically between two geographically separated data centres, and is therefore recommended for master copies of research data.

If it is not possible to store research data on the X: drive, you will need to back up data manually. 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 the 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