Data Storage

Storing enduring data

Some considerations for data storage:

  • Access: who has permission to see and/or use the data
  • Accessibility: convenience and ease of access, e.g. is it possible to access from one or more locations
  • Backups: frequency that copies are made of the data
  • Security: safety of the data from loss
  • Speed: bandwidth
  • Space: storage capacity

Choosing data storage 

Visit the University of Toronto's Research Data Storage Finder for information about data storage options at U of T.

Backing up your data

Data should be backed up on a regular, scheduled basis to protect from accidental data loss. The best time to develop a backup strategy is at the beginning of your project. The backup schedule should be set for regular intervals as well as when modifications are made to critical files.  


  • Who will be responsible
  • Which files will need to be backed up
  • Frequency
  • Automation ability
  • Perceived value of the data
  • Level of risk associated with the data
  • Medium(s) you will use. 

Use the 3-2-1 Rule (a good 'rule of thumb'):

  • Maintain three copies of your data – the original copy, an external local copy, and an external remote copy
  • Use at least two different media types, such as a network server, external hard drive, and/or cloud server
  • Have one copy offsite in a different physical location

More information:

  • Safeguarding Your Data While Travelling (University of Toronto)
  • The Office of Research and Innovation provides online training around secure handling of data as it relates to human subjects (University of Toronto)
  • If working on a networked server, check with IT to find out backup schedules and storage capacity
  • When considering your backup schedule, media, and frequency, you should also consider if you have confidential or sensitive data as these data may need different treatment
  • If working on a cloud server be aware of bandwidth capabilities, any policies or terms associated with use, and legal issues and server location as servers may be located outside Canada
  • Backup copies should contain any metadata or readme files and you should have a documented contingency plan in place in case you need to restore lost data
  • It is also important to regularly check the security of storage locations as well as the completeness and integrity of stored data files