Storing live data
Storing live data effectively and securely is an important part of the research data lifecycle. The College expects researchers to store and maintain research data appropriately in relation to its sensitivity and value. Therefore, it is important to decide how you will do this in the early stages of any research project. On this webpage you will find information about facilities provided by the College to help researchers with their data storage needs.
College storage options
Box data storage
Imperial College London has purchased an institutional licence for the use of Box. Box is a cloud content management and collaboration platform which provides unlimited storage at no cost to all departments, staff, researchers and academics.
The Imperial College London Information Governance Steering Group has approved the use of Box for the management of research data as part of a commitment to provide infrastructure and support to researchers to help them meet their data management requirements as set out in the College Research Data Management Policy (pdf). Box is the recommended venue for storing live research data at the College.
What is Box?
Box is a file content and collaboration tool that allows you to keep all your content in one place and to access the content from anywhere.
- allows access to online content from desktop and mobile devices via a browser;
- allows content to be shared safely and securely within and outside College;
- allows granular levels of access to groups and individuals including retention policies and expiry dates for shared information;
- allows a large variety of files to be viewed directly in the browser including text based files, presentations, images, audio and video files, and 3D files;
- provides powerful indexing and metadata management to allow you to find and consume your content faster;
- provides a variety of productivity plugin and integrations such as Office365, Google docs and over 1000 popular applications;
- provides automated backup and disaster recovery provision with guaranteed service level availability.
The Box platform and organisation are fully compliant with all aspects of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
- Click on Continue.
- Enter your College username and password as instructed on the page.
- You will then be logged in to Box!
To log out securely - please log out of your account within Box and close your browser session.
Research Data Store
The Research Data Store (RDS) is a new central service for storing and collaborating on large volumes of research data.
Key features of the RDS include:
- ease of use: accessible as a fast network drive across the college network, and directly on the RCS's compute systems;
- cost-effectiveness: generous standard allocations for research projects, with metered rates for additional storage;
- security: the RDS will become an ISO-certified system for secure data storage.
The RDS offers two tiers of service.
- Single Copy: Data is held on a single file-system supported by multiply-redundant disk storage system. This space provides snapshots, allowing you to retrieve deleted or earlier revisions of files.
- Dual Copy: As the standard level, but with an additional copy kept at a second geographic site, allowing data to be recovered in the case of a site-wide disaster.
All research projects with a unique entry in the college's grant management system are entitled to 2TB of RDS allocation free of charge. If you need more space or you do not have an entry in the grants management system there will be a cost. For more information on the RDS and pricing visit the Research Data Store webpage.
One Drive for Business
OneDrive for Business provides everyone at the College with 5TB of cloud-based storage.
Files can be saved and shared online to be accessed from any device, so you and your contacts can work on them together. Documents, spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides can all be edited at the same time by multiple collaborators. You can also sync files locally to a PC or Mac drive for offline working or storage.
The OneDrive for Business space, accessed using your College credentials, is authenticated to meet College's standards for data security and resilience ensuring compliance to ISO27001, HIPAA and FISMA, EU-US Privacy Shield, EU Data Protection Directive model clauses. Our contract with Microsoft ensures that data is only held in the EU. Your data can only be accessed or viewed by you as the owner of the file, those you choose to give permission to for collaboration, and not by Microsoft or anybody else.
This is the recommended data storage solution for Masters students that do not have access to Box. For more information visit the One Drive for Business webpage.
Group Space and H: drive
Research Group Space
Group space on the College’s secure central network can be set up for individual research groups and allows file sharing and collaboration between those with access.
Pricing is £100 per 100GB for up to 2TB (2000GB) of storage and £75 per 100GB for additional space beyond 2TB. The price is valid for three years. After three years, you can renew the space or request it to be removed.
The cost includes standard daily backup, providing a 90 day data recovery window. Windows users will also be able to recover files and folders using the Recover Deleted Items function. Instructions for recovering deleted files on Windows machines can be found on the Home directory (H: drive) webpage.
To enquire about the setup of a group space please log a request via ASK ICT.
Staff and postgraduate students are allocated up to 8GB of secure storage on their Home directory or H: drive. You can access your H: drive from any computer connected to the College network, via wireless, wired network or remotely. Data stored on H: drives are secure and backed up daily.
Further space can be requested from ICT at a cost if necessary. See the file space quotas webpage for more information on pricing.
However, data stored on H: drives are not easily shared as this is a closed environment. Therefore, this is not recommended as the primary location for storing research data, but could be used as a backup location for important files or documents.
Compare the College’s different options for live data storage using this table.
Where possible, we recommend using College maintained services to store your research data, however there may be occasions where this is not practical and it is necessary to use external media devices or storage facilities to collect and/or store research data. Whilst portable storage devices and commercial cloud storage are often convenient and easy to use they can also increase the risk of data loss and unwarranted data exposure. There are a number of factors to consider when thinking about using these options.
Portable storage devices
Many researchers keep copies of their research data on personal laptops, external hard drives, USB sticks and other portable storage devices. These can provide a useful way of transporting or backing up data but should not be relied upon as a primary method of storage. This is because:
- data stored on USBs or hard drives can easily become corrupted;
- personal laptops or hard drives are at risk of being lost or stolen;
- portable storage devices can break or become faulty with use.
We would therefore recommend that regular checks are carried out to ensure that any data held on personal devices are still accessible, only use portable storage as a secondary storage option in conjunction with College storage provision, and securely encrypt any data that is being kept on a personal device. For information about encrypting personal devices please see the Imperial ICT webpage.
Commercial cloud storage
There are a number of commercial cloud storage services available including Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud and others. Many provide a certain amount of free space before charging for extra storage. Whilst these services can seem convenient there are a number of factors to consider before using them.
- There is no guarantee that a commercial service will not be withdrawn or terminated. For instance, your account may be closed without notice if the company feels their service has been misused or if they encounter financial difficulties.
- It may not be apparent where your data is being stored. Some research data, particularly personal or patient data, must be stored within the EU and this cannot be guaranteed with commercial cloud storage options. Therefore commercial cloud storage is not suitable for patient data or other personally identifiable information.
- Backups may occur infrequently; different companies have different policies regarding how often they back up data. Depending on the provider it may also be impossible to retrieve earlier versions of a document.
- It is not always clear who can view and access the data. For example, under certain commercial cloud storage companies’ terms of service employees may have the right to access or even use your data. This should be a concern for all researchers, but is particularly important to bear in mind when dealing with personal, sensitive, or commercially valuable data.
We strongly recommend using College maintained services rather than commercial cloud providers for the storage of research data. Commercial cloud storage should not be used to store sensitive or confidential data.
For information on keeping data safe please see our webpage.