Storing and sharing data

Storing and sharing data

Before deciding on how to store and share your data, you should familiarise yourself with the University's Information Classification and Handling Policy which explains the options for storing and handling different categories of information while ensuring the appropriate level of security.

Storing data
How do I know if my data is confidential?

In line with the University's Information Classification and Handling Policy, it is important to understand the classification of data you are collecting and to ensure data storage procedures are appropriate.

The three classifications of data are defined as:

  • Highly confidential – the highest classification, such data has the potential to cause serious damage or distress to individuals, or serious damage to the University's interests if disclosed inappropriately, for example medical records, sensitive personal data
  • Confidential - has the potential to cause a negative impact on individuals' or the University's interests, such as salary information, dates of birth of living individuals
  • Non-classified – Information not falling into either of the confidential categories, usually data which cannot be used to identify a living individual or is already in the public domain, like staff work email address, published financial statements.
What are my storage options on campus?

The storage options for standard Windows PC users are:

  • University networked storage
    • All data held on University networked storage is backed up centrally
    • Remote access is available via VPN and remote desktop
    • Personal storage (H: drive) is private so good for confidential or draft material
    • Shared storage (SAN) alerts you if a file is already in use allowing you to control versions
    • Not suitable if you are working with large files or want to share data with colleagues at other institutions
  • Personally managed storage such as computer home directory or filestore (C: drive on Windows), laptop or external hard drives:
    • You are responsible for managing back-ups
    • Access and security are dependent on the protection you install
    • Can be very affordable for large capacity and often portable
    • Laptops and external storage can be easily damaged, lost or stolen
    • Only suitable for non-classified information

Researchers using Unix-based systems like Linux or Mac OS X are best to contact the IT Helpdesk with specific storage queries.

Can I access my data when off campus?

Few researchers work from a single location so you will probably need remote access to your data. The kind of storage you use will affect how easy and secure it is to work remotely. You may also want to give others access to data, or explore options for data sharing.

Can I use portable storage media?

Basic portable storage media such as CDs, DVDs and memory sticks (also known as USB sticks, flash drives, thumb drives, memory keys) can be risky as they are not backed up centrally and are highly vulnerable to loss and damage. It's best not to rely on these devices as your only copy of important data and they should never be used for confidential information unless they are encrypted. They are very convenient though and useful for:

  • Temporary copies or moving files, such as taking a presentation to a conference
  • Secondary, backup copies
  • Files only one person at a time needs access to
  • Non-confidential data
  • Data you can afford to lose

How should I store confidential data for backup or transport?

Encrypted USB devices such as IronKeys are a secure alternative to basic memory sticks. They are password protected and will lock down or even erase data if they are tampered with or after multiple incorrect password attempts. They are also usually waterproof and shock resistant, therefore less vulnerable to damage than traditional memory sticks.

IronKeys are used primarily to transport or back up confidential data. Information Services can supply IronKeys; contact the IT Helpdesk for more information (there may be a charge for this).

Sharing data
What considerations should I make when sharing data with my collaborators?

Data protection, ethics and data security should be considered whenever you create or share research data.

It is usually easiest to share your data by storing it in a location which everyone can access. Choosing the most appropriate place to store your data can be difficult.

How can I share data with my collaborators at GCU?

You can use the University's shared network storage (SAN) to store your data and provide access to collaborators at GCU. Contact the IT Helpdesk if you require a new shared folder or access permissions changed on an existing folder.

Alternatively you can use OneDrive to store and share your data, especially if you are working with larger files (staff have 1TB of storage available).

How can I share my data with external collaborators?

If you want to share data with external collaborators during your research, consider:

  • Microsoft OneDrive, a cloud based file storage system licensed and managed by GCU
  • Online file sharing services such Google Docs, which store a copy of your files online and allow you to grant others access
  • Secure file transfer software in which you post your data online for download by colleagues
  • Using portable storage media like memory sticks (sent by post or courier as required). Make sure you use encryption if you're posting sensitive data
How do I share my data once my project has finished?

The practice of sharing your final research data once your project is complete is called archiving and is mandated by many research funders. Before archiving your data you should consider which data you want to share, whether there are specific requirements you must adhere to, and rights restrictions which may apply to your data. Please see our webpage on archiving research data for more information.