Keeping data safe and secure is an important aspect of good research data management.  Backing up data helps to ensure against accidental or malicious loss and damage to your research data. There are a number of useful techniques and principles of good practice that you can follow to maximise the safety and security of your live research data.

'LOCKSS': Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe

You should always ensure that you back up copies of important data in multiple locations so that you can restore it quickly in case of data loss. The simplest way to do this is to use the College-provided Box service. Box is available to all staff and provides unlimited, backed-up storage for research data.

You can also use the College network storage, such as your H: drive or group storage, to keep secondary copies of important files or data.

For information on the various solutions that the College has made available for data storage visit the storing live data webpage.

Follow the 3-2-1 principle

If you choose to manage your own storage and backups we recommend following the 3-2-1 principle:

  • Ensure you have at least 3 copies of anything important;
  • stored on at least 2 different media (e.g. magnetic disc, CD/DVD);
  • with at least 1 copy in a different geographical location.

You should also regularly test to ensure you can restore your backups without errors. It is advisable to draw up a backup schedule at the beginning of your project and include this in your data management plan. You should also include information about how often you are going to check that your backups have not become corrupted. You can use a checksum tool such as WinMD5 Free to ensure the integrity of files.

Version your files

You may find that at various points during your research project you wish to access previous versions of your data or files. This may be because you need to re-run an experiment or process, you wish to track changes you made or a thought process that led to a certain decision, a file was erroneously saved over, or because your data or file has become corrupted. File versioning will make this process much easier.

Box has built in version control, meaning that every time you edit a file a new version is created. You can access the version history of a file at any time and make any instance of the document the ‘active’ version.

If you are not storing your data and files in Box then it is recommended that you save a new version of the file every time you make a significant change, including the version number in the file name (e.g. file_name_v1.1.2). This will make accessing previous versions and tracking changes much easier.
 

Encrypt your data

Protecting sensitive, confidential or commercially-valuable information is a complex task involving careful management of risks. If this affects you, talk to ICT to put appropriate safeguards in place as early as possible. If you are storing research data on portable devices or external systems the data should always be securely encrypted. For information on encryption and protecting sensitive information visit the Imperial ICT Be Secure webpages.

For more advice on keeping sensitive data safe see our webpage on storing sensitive and personal data.