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Research Data Management

Research Data Management

Storage and backup: storage solutions, information security and backup

If you lost your research data, through hard disk crash, human error, theft or otherwise, how long would it take you to reclaim the data? Would it even be possible? Consideration in storage and back-up are two crucial elements to preventing data loss as far as possible, and recover data efficiently in case of data loss.


Basic tips for storage and back-up:

  • Try the 3-2-1 principle- keep 3 copies of your data, on at least 2 different media, with as least 1 copy stored off-site.
  • As far as possible/permissable, try to store data on OneDrive. Physical media can degrade over time and are more susceptible to loss, theft etc. There may also be errors in the data when writing to physical media, such as CDs/ DVD.
  • Consider the security needs of the information when choosing where to store it. Are you working on a project where your funder/stakeholder requires the data to be stored in a certain place or way?
  • If you need others from outside the institution to have secure access to the files, it is more secure to use a Research Site to store the data and share/manage access from there than to email files or use free cloud storage. See below for more details on these.
  • Follow basic Information Security guidelines and training. Find out more via the University of Plymouth's Information Security pages.
  • Consider whether your data requires encryption- this renders the data into unreadable code unless the user has the key. This might be particularly of need when dealing with personal, sensitive or confidential information. For information on encryption, see the University of Plymouth's 'Protect your Research Data' page.

Explore the boxes below for further information/links to University of Plymouth Storage and Back-Up solutions and guidance.


This video from University of Edinburgh gives good advice and information about backup.



This video from University of Edinburgh explains different storage options and why storage should be planned for towards the beginning of your project.

Coursera: Data Management

Both of the videos from University of Edinburgh are also included within this Coursera course, which is highly recommended as a resource for developing your Research Data Management skills.

Storing Data

The University of Plymouth's Information Security pages provide links to policies and training to help you keep your data secure. The university's Information Security and GDPR training is available via these pages. In addition, the Information Security policy delineates different classifications of information/data that may help you to ascertain how to look after your data.

Legal and ethical aspects

The University RDM policy requires that research data is:

Kept in a manner that is compliant with legal obligations and, where applicable, the requirements of funding bodies and project-specific protocols approved under the Plymouth University Research Ethics Policy

University of Plymouth RDM Policy

Ethical guidance is provided by the University, professional bodies, and funding organisations. University Data Protection and Information Security policies also apply.

Find out more: University of Plymouth Research Ethics pages

Storing data in OneDrive for Business: Check funder requirements

OneDrive for Business is cloud storage and sometimes Research Funders specify that research data must be physically housed within the University. Always check your contract before storing your data in OneDrive for Business. If your Research Funder requires you to avoid cloud storage and host your data in-house do not use OneDrive for Business. More information on why the university OneDrive is preferable to personal cloud storage can be found here . If you have questions, contact the IT Service Desk for advice.

Providing access to your data

OneDrive allows you to share data easily with your collaborators, but you should think carefully about what you share, particularly if sensitive or valuable. With OneDrive you can share a file or folder via a link or require collaborators to login before they can access the shared file. Sharing via link is not safe as you have no control over who will access the data. You should always require login to access the data and remove the access rights once the collaboration has concluded. If you are working on a project with collaborators it might be more appropriate to set up a Research Site (see below).

Find out more: Office 365: OneDrive for Business

Office 365 Research Sites are a cloud hosted working space for University research groups and institutes. 

Research groups can use them to create, store and share everyday working files with University colleagues and externals as well as providing additional tools such as calendars, image libraries, announcements, discussions and web pages.

View Demo Research site

More information and to request a research site

Storing data on devices

You may want to store data locally, for example, if you are going to be working off-line, in the field, or you need to manipulate it in a specialist application. If you are saving or syncing research data locally, the device must be encrypted, password protected and set to lock automatically after a period of inactivity no longer than 15 minutes. You should only sync sensitive or valuable data to a device for short-term use.

Support with encrypted devices

Encrypting your computer If you need to retain data on your laptop, you must get it encrypted before importing any data. Contact the IT Service Desk to request the encryption of your device.

Encrypted memory sticks and hard disk drives

During your research project you may need to store data on portable devices such as memory sticks and hard disk drives. You should only use portable devices for short-term storage of sensitive or valuable data and they must be encrypted to latest security standards. We recommend that you include costings for encrypted portable devices in your research funding application and Data Management Plan (DMP). You can get further advice by contacting the IT Service Desk.