Back up your research data

You can mitigate the risk of losing data due to human error, natural disasters, or other mishaps by following best practices for backing up data.

Why back up your research data?

Important data should never only exist on a single disk or a single computer at any one time. Computer hard drives can and do fail and mobile devices can be lost or stolen.

A best practice is to have three copies stored in at least two locations (in case of a failure at one location):

  • one local (i.e. your work laptop)
  • one local external backup (e.g. a Mac Time Machine backup or a lab server that synchronizes data)
  • one remote backup (e.g. a cloud service or SFU Vault).

Cloud backup services

Be cautious when using cloud services. Being able to easily share files with collaborators, and having the contents of a single folder automatically replicated, are very useful features and researchers frequently use them.

However ethical standards and current privacy legislation will not allow data involving human subjects to be stored in most cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive (for example), and doing so may expose you or your research to other liabilities. 

SFU Vault

In many respects SFU Vault provides the best of both worlds, offering Dropbox-style synchronization on SFU's own servers. SFU Vault comes with a free storage allocation of up to 50GB and can also be encrypted.

There may still be cases where SFU Vault is not appropriate, but we encourage you to use it instead of other cloud services whenever possible.

Note: Current policy means that when leaving the university, you will lose access to SFU Vault.

Compute Canada

If you need more storage than is currently available through SFU Vault, as a faculty member you are eligible for a free allocation on the Cedar cluster through Compute Canada.

As of June 2020, all faculty are entitled to 2 virtual machines and up to 1TB of disk space. This 1TB allocation is a project space meant for data sharing and back-up for group members on a research project.

Note: Compute Canada can provide some limited support with deployment, but this option will require some experience performing Unix sysadmin duties.

Additional resources

Data backup - UK Data Service
Explanation of data backup benefits for research data management, overview of data backup solutions and strategies.