Data Backup & Storage

There are many options for data backup and storage depending on the use-case. Certain departments operate file servers or specify other means for storing data.

Some large research datasets often have special requirements and infrastructure. Other types of datasets have special requirements for confidentiality, called “restricted data.” This includes datasets regulated by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other federal laws. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and Personal Health Information (PHI) are defined and regulated according to California law. In some cases, the university is under a contractual obligation to protect data. This data may exist in research environments. You can find more about these at  https://security.ucsb.edu/faculty-staff/research-data-security.

For non-restricted datasets, here are some general guidelines on backing up working documents, and smaller data sets without legal or regulatory restrictions in a secure fashion.

Department Resources

If your department or division offers file storage that is backed up on a regular basis, you should first consider using that. If you store data on a personal computer or mobile device, you need to back that data up regularly.

Cloud Services

The university has contracts with multiple cloud service providers that offer virtually unlimited storage for file based data. If you are a Connect (http://www.connect.ucsb.edu/)  user, Google drive can be used for storage of data. Google Drive has the ability to synchronize or allow direct access to data between a personal computer and cloud storage (https://www.google.com/drive/download/). Google backup can be used to backup the contents of a personal computer. You can use this service for data that is not restricted as described above.

UCSB also has a contract with Box.com for storage. You can automatically create an account or get access to a previously established account at https://ucsb.box.com. Like Google Drive, Box offers the ability to synchronize or directly access files in the cloud. As with Google Drive, you can use this service for data that is not restricted as described above.

Both of these services have capabilities that distinguish them from alternative solutions. First, they are both highly reliable and available. Both use data encryption when files are transmitted between the server and your personal computer and while in storage in the cloud. Both offer the ability to keep track of versions of a file so that you can recover an earlier version if the current working file becomes corrupt or data are inadvertently deleted. Both offer the ability to share files with members of the UCSB community as well as those outside of the university. You of course must exercise caution when using this capability. It is possible to share files to a broad audience, even publically, with a keystroke. Pay close attention when using file sharing on these services.

Locally Stored Backups

Local backups may also be an option. USB connected portable drives and thumb drives are inexpensive. These may be good options, but there are several things to consider. In general these devices do not automatically encrypt data. You must keep these devices physically secure to ensure that they are not stolen or compromised. You can use encryption solutions like the open source VeraCrypt (https://www.veracrypt.fr/en/Home.html) as an added layer of security. Some departments specify solutions that must be used with removable devices. Check with your local IT staff.

You should speak to your department IT staff if you need to store restricted data as described above. You can also contact the UCSB Chief Information Security Officer, Sam Horowitz, for guidance.