During active data gathering and analysis, it is vital to regularly back up your files. Computers fail or may be hacked, with serious repercussions. While the locations of your backups needs to be convenient, so you use them, those locations also needs to be secure, especially if you are working with sensitive files.
The rule of 3-2-1 provides a useful guide to backing up your data: Store 3 copies of your data and documentation in at least 2 storage media, with 1 of those media housed off-site.
If you would like support finding the right software with which to conduct your research, please look through our Research Software guide and/or contact the RRU Library for support.
Encryption is a process of securing digital information so that it is only readable by people with the correct authorization. Typically this authorization is a password. Medium or high risk data (containing confidential or individually identifiable information) stored on a device connected to the internet should be encrypted. Data stored on a cloud storage platform such as OneDrive or Dropbox must be encrypted.
- Mac users can opt to use 'disk image' to encrypt a file.
- Windows uses can opt to use either this guidance for Windows 10 users or this option for Office 365.
- Veracrypt is a third, free, open source option that works with MacOS, Windows, and Linux
Storage options for solo research
- PC or laptop: Simple, flexible, and usually indispensable for day to day storage. But hard drives fail and computers can be stolen. Always have a bare minimum of one back up set of files.
- External storage (USB thumb drive, portable hard drive, CDs/DVDs): Convenient and affordable options that may serve your need in the short term, but you should not rely on them. The storage devices can be lost or stolen, and the formats themselves are unreliable. If you need to rely on these platforms – for example if you are without wi-fi access during field work - follow the care and handling instructions of the media carefully. Encrypt the files, regularly check your files to see that they work and are complete, and make sure to make new copies on new CDs or USB drives over time.
- Commercial cloud storage - Services like Dropbox or Google Drive provide free cloud-based storage with automated syncing and (sometimes) data encryption. These tools are not appropriate for sensitive data, though, and the data protection licenses for these commercial services can be complicated or unsatisfactory - especially when the servers are located outside of Canada.
- University’s networked drives:
- OneDrive cloud storage - OneDrive access is provided to RRU community members free of charge. Royal Roads users can login to office.ca with their RRU ID and password to access. More information available here. OneDrive is a reliable option if you are working on a project on your own, but you should not house sensitive files there. If you really need to, though, at least encrypt them first.
- Your Z drive: Managed and backed up by RRU’s Computer Services, your Z drive is a reliable option if you are working on a project on your own.
Storage options for collaborative research:
- Rapid Access Service – Available to Compute Canada users with relatively small datasets, Rapid Access Service is a file storage and syncing solution that works well for collaborative research. Researchers can make a Compute Canada account by following the instructions here. Researchers can then sponsor research staff and graduate students to make accounts. (Users needing more storage can apply for access through one of Compute Canada's Resource Allocation Competitions.)
- Open Science Foundation – https://osf.io/ - Free collaboration platform to collect, organize, document and share projects, including files, data, code and protocols. OSF projects can be made public or private. Anyone can sign up for an OSF account but collaborators can be added to projects with differing levels of permissions set by the project owner. This tool is not recommended for confidential or sensitive data. Canadian accounts have their data saved on Canadian servers by default, but user information, wiki content, comments, etc are stored in the USA.
- Borealis - Researchers can house completed datasets and/or supporting documentation in RRU's share of 'Borealis: The Canadian Dataverse Repository'. Borealis is an openly searchable tool, but researchers can choose how openly available to make their data.