Storage and backup

Your research should ideally be both safely stored and regularly backed up.

Storage sign, image by Flickr user Todd LappinStorage

Storage of data is typically done in an easily-accessible, secondary location. The data are typically mirrored, which means that the data in the secondary location is identical to the original version.

An example of data storage would be the AFS system. Any time you access your AFS storage space, you see exactly the same files and folders that you see on your desktop machine. AFS is nearly as easy to get to as your local files, but the data are stored in a physically separate location.

Check out our list of storage solutions for more options.


No backup, no lunch!, image by Flickr user Cesar AstudilloBackup

Backup of data is typically done in a separate physical location that may be harder to access than your regular storage space (though not necessarily). Backups are snapshots of the information in your files at a given point in time. Usually only one version of the backup is kept, not multiple versions.

The Time Machine software on a Mac is a good example of a backup system. It captures exactly what your files contained at a given point in time. Older versions are purged as newer versions are created.

Some systems, like AFS, have both storage and backup functionalities. Check out our list of backup solutions for more options.


Doctor viewing films, image from Stanford All-Image ExchangeSensitive data

Many researchers on our campus work with patient health or other personal information. These types of data are classified into different categories, each requiring its own level of security. Check out our page on sensitive data, which includes more information on data classifications and on storing and backing up sensitive data.


Preservation Hall sign, image by Flickr user Miikka SkaffariPreservation

Keep in mind that backing up your data is not the same as, nor is it a replacement for, long-term preservation. See our page on data preservation, including information about the Stanford Digital Repository for more information about preserving your data for the long-term.


Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at StanfordCase Study

"As Dr. Srinivas watched the charred fragments of his lifetime's work crumble in a fireman's hands and fall to the ground, the scholar wept."

A similar fate could be awaiting any researcher who lacks good data management practices! View this case study