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last updated: 6/12/2013

Storage and Preservation

Researchers must carefully consider how their data will be backed up, accessed by others, and preserved. Following are some points for consideration when creating data storage plans:


  • Backup does not equal preservation. It’s tempting to think that data is safe because you’ve copied it to an external hard drive. While such a solution may be satisfactory in the short term, what about the long term? You may want to work closely with librarians, many of whom specialize in digital preservation, to make sure that your data is adequately described, secured, and stored.
  • Sensitive data storage has its challenges. Commercial data storage is not ideal for storing sensitive data. IU has HIPAA-compliant storage, but it is not encrypted. Student lab assistants regularly walk off with the lab’s thumb drive. How will you plan for secure data storage, given these difficulties? To get started, check out the California Digital Libraries’ Guide to Securing Your Data. The IU Science Data Management Librarian can connect you with the campus resources you need.
  • What are your sponsor’s storage, retention, and archive requirements? Do you need to keep your data available to them after your grant is finished? Because so much of a researcher’s work is dependent upon receiving grant funding, and also meeting funder requirements once funding has been secured, strict attention must be paid to any sponsor requirements.
  • How will your data be accessed and shared? Sensitivity and size are two factors that influence how others are able to access and share your data; community standards are another. Contact your local librarian to set up a consultation to determine what features your data storage solution requires.
  • How much data will you produce? How long do you wish to keep it? How will you access it in the future? Generally, IU Libraries recommend keeping your data for the life of the project plus three years (at the minimum). The more data you have, the more intensive (and expensive) are the resources needed to store it. IU Libraries and UITS offer free, long-term, unlimited data storage and preservation services—contact the IUB Data Management Service to find out more.

Storage Types

  • Local Storage includes your lab computer’s hard drive, external drives, flash drives or departmental servers. These options are best for backing up your data, especially data that is still being analyzed, but not for preserving it. Keep in mind that local storage is vulnerable unless kept in a secure location and sensitive data are encrypted.
  • Cloud Storage usually refers to commercially-managed remote servers such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, and Google Drive. These providers are good for backing up your data in the short term, but steer clear of using them to store anything that is sensitive in nature. Cloud storage is also not a recommended preservation mechanism.
  • Campus Storage options include the Scholarly Data Archive (big and small, “dark” data) and IUScholarWorks Repository (big and small, open and embargoed data). These options are free to use for IU-affiliated researchers, and require a minimal amount of effort. However, these services work best for “fixed” data that is at the end of the research life cycle. They are best used as data preservation platforms. See the full list of IUB Data Storage, Preservation, Access, and Discoverability Services on the IU Data Management Service site.

Tools and Resources



last updated: 6/12/2013