The question “How do I store my data?” is a simple one but has as many possible answers as there are researchers.

“A data storage strategy is important because digital storage media are inherently unreliable and all file formats and physical storage media will ultimately become obsolete" UK Data Archive

What are basic storage issues?

  • Will my data be securely stored over time – will integrity be preserved?
  • Is its storage reliable - will data be lost?
  • Can the data be accessed to be used and reused?
  • Is it appropriate for both immediate and long-term needs?
  • Does storage meet relevant standards and requirements of the university, my funder, and legislation?
  • What is appropriate storage for sensitive, identifiable, pseudonymised and anonymised data?
  • How much storage do I need now and will I need in five years?

Refer to funder data storage requirements.

“Research organisations will ensure that EPSRC-funded research data is securely preserved for a minimum of 10-years from the date that any researcher ‘privileged access’ period expires or, if others have accessed the data, from last date on which access to the data was requested by a third party; all reasonable steps will be take to ensure that publicly-funded data is not held in any jurisdiction where the available legal safeguards provide lower levels of protection than are available in the UK”
EPSRC expectations

Challenges and demands of research storage solutions

What is needed:

  • During the lifetime of the project
  • When working on the move
  • Using mobile devices e.g. digital recorders, laptops etc.
  • To support collaboration between researchers
  • Beyond the life of the project

A challenge to us all

WhoTypical Storage Question
PhD student Where do I safely keep my data from my fieldwork?
What is safe as I travel?
Individual researcher How can I best keep years worth of research data secure and accessible for me to use and re-use it?
Research team/group How can I best keep years worth of research data secure and accessible for when I need to re-use it?
How will others who will need it be able to use and re-use it?
University How do we ensure compliance to funders’ requirement for open access to data? Can we promise to provide storage for 10+ years?
Supra-university How can our research collaborations share data?
How can we make data available once research is complete?

(Adapted from “Taking Care of the University’s Research Data”, Jeff Haywood, University of Edinburgh, IDCC11, Bristol, December 2011)

Where to store your data at the University 

Network data drivePurposeSecureAutomatic back-upOff campus accessDesigned for sharingDesigned for research


Research data







Shared Departmental













What quotas apply to network drives? - Storage quota information

Research File Storage (RFS)

This is a demand led service, introduced in 2012, for the secure storage of the University’s research data.  It provides a free at the point of use, scalable, reliable and secure centrally managed storage service for use by academic staff, postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate research students.

The Research File Storage (RFS) service allows for large scale storage – in terms of 100’s of Tb – and has been designed to expand over time.

RFS features

  • Secure: only specified people can access these files
  • Backed up: IT Services backup these files so they can be restored if lost
  • Off-campus access: You can give access to these files to other people who you work with
  • Designed for sharing: a number of people can access these files
  • Large storage space: research data is typically many gigabytes in size

What does it cost? 

This service is being developed following the “free at point of use” principles as described in the IT Services IT Strategy.

How do I get it?

To gain access to the service researchers will need to register and the Research Computing Management Group (RCMG) will monitor these requests.  Potential users should register as soon as they perceive they have a need. The University is aware that the demand for this service may exceed supply and users should anticipate higher than normal lead-times during 2012 as the new service is introduced.


Portable storage media

Portable storage media such as CDs, DVDs and memory sticks (also known as USB sticks, flash drives, thumb drives, memory keys) present a high level of risk when being used to store research data.  They are not backed up centrally, and are vulnerable to loss and damage.

Portable media are particularly vulnerable to loss, damage and degradation over time

In general terms portable media can be of use in relation to:

  • Data you don’t intend to keep long term
  • Data you can afford to lose
  • Data that only one person at a time needs access to
  • Making temporary or secondary copies of things
  • Data that is neither confidential nor sensitive

For detailed advice refer to the University Information Security Policy
Refer to the IT Help website for detailed information.

IT Services also provide Linux and High Performance Computing services (ALICE and SPECTRE) – intended for anyone who has a requirement for either a Linux environment or processing power beyond that available on a desktop PC is a potential user of these services.

“The desktop metaphor was invented because one, you were a stand-alone device, and two, you had to manage your own storage. That’s a very big thing in a desktop world. And that may go away. You may not have to manage your own storage. You may not store much before too long.

I don’t store anything anymore, really. I use a lot of e-mail and the Web, and with both of those I don’t have to ever manage storage. As a matter of fact, my favorite way of reminding myself to do something is to send myself e-mail. That’s my storage.

The minute that I don’t have to manage my own storage, and the minute I live primarily in a connected versus a stand-alone world, there are new options for metaphors.” Steve Jobs, 1996
Steve Jobs’ Cloud Services Vision at NeXT