Data Storage

When considering where to store your data, you should also plan to back up your data on a regular, scheduled basis to protect yourself from accidental data loss. The best time to develop a backup strategy is at the beginning of your project. You should consider who will be responsible, which files will need to be backed up, the frequency needed, automation ability, the perceived value of the data, the level of risk associated with the data, and the medium(s) you will use. The backup schedule should be set for regular intervals as well as when modifications are made to critical files.  

Back up Your Data:

  • 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

If working on a networked server, check with your IT group to find out backup schedules and storage capacity, and 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. 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. The Office of Research and Innovation provides online training around secure handling of data as it relates to human subjects.

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 (checksum).