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
Research Data Store
The Research Data Store (RDS) is a new central service for storing and collaborating on large volumes of research data.
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.
The RDS cannot be used to store personally identifiable data. For advice on how to store and manage access to personal or sensitive data contact ICT Security.
One Drive for Business
If you do not have access to the Research Data Store, we recommend using your College One Drive for Business account to store your research data.
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.
For more information visit the One Drive for Business webpage.
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 advice on how to store and manage access to personal or sensitive data contact ICT Security.