Storage and Security

A well-organized and consistent storage and security system is essential for the short-term storage needs of research project data. Data that are safely stored are much easier to access, understand, discover, and share with both the scholarly community and the general public.

A data storage strategy—for both digital and non-digital materials—is critical to the long-term preservation of data. Since all digital and physical storage media are inherently unreliable and will ultimately become obsolete, a data storage strategy should be developed prior to the start of any project.

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Storing Data for the Short Term

Short-term data storage needs consist of elements both similar to and distinct from long-term preservation requirements.

Things to consider in planning data storage:

  • What is the volume of data being created?
  • How many people will access data?
  • What level of security will be required?
  • Are private or confidential data password-protected or encrypted?
  • Is antivirus software installed on your computer(s)?
  • How often is data backed up?
  • Where are backup files located?
  • How long are backups stored?
  • Is the location secure?
  • What are the costs associated with short-term storage?
  • Are master files stored in a separate secure location?
  • How long will data be stored?

Storage Media

Accessibility of any data is dependent on the quality of the storage media on which they are stored and the availability of appropriate data-reading equipment.

If selecting optical (CDs, DVDs) or magnetic media (hard drives) for storage, be aware that both are sensitive and vulnerable to improper handling, changes in temperature and relative humidity, as well as air quality and lighting conditions.

The speed of technological advances directly affects the pace of media and equipment obsolescence.

For these reasons, data files should be copied and saved (called migration) onto new media every two to five years. All media should be checked regularly for quality and readability. See below for details on migrating files.

Data loss can be caused by:

  • Hardware failure
  • Software or media failures
  • Virus infection or malicious hacking
  • Power failure
  • Human error, such as changing or deleting files, losing storage device
  • Acts of nature, such as floods or fire

If using cloud computing storage facilities, consider where the data resides and under what jurisdiction. Other factors to consider include:

  • Long-term costs
  • Longevity of service provider
  • Security and privacy of data
  • Content of intellectual property and data protection agreements

Backing Up Files

Backing up files refers to the creation of file copies. These copies should reside in a separate physical location from the working or stored files. Arranging a regular backup schedule mitigates the possibility of data loss and backup copies can be used to restore damaged or lost original files.