All your research data needs to be appropriately stored during each phase of your project. This section lists some of the main storage options available at Oxford.
Local data storage provision
Data storage in Oxford is frequently provided at the departmental level. Many departments have storage on their own servers available for use by individual researchers or research groups. For information about what's available within your unit, consult your local IT support staff.
In some cases, provision is at the divisional level. For example, the Medical Sciences Division offers a range of data services for their members.
If local storage which meets your needs is available, it's generally a good choice: security, backup, and sharing data with collaborators will often be taken care of for you, and local IT staff have a wealth of experience and expertise in working with researchers in their area.
Centrally provided services
Centrally provided services are designed to comply with the University's security requirements.
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business is a file storage service offered as part of the University's Nexus365 service. It allows you to store, share and synchronise data. Each user is allocated 5TB of space. It is a useful data storage solution to consider because it offers a large amount of free, secure storage that can be easily accessed from anywhere. Data can be shared with anyone (internal or external to the University): guidelines are provided for doing this safely. The solution is approved by the University for use with all types of data, including confidential data. However, in a few cases, funders may have specific requirements (such as mandating that data is stored on servers located on University premises) which make Nexus365 services such as OneDrive for Business unsuitable.
OneDrive for Business is different from personal OneDrive accounts. Personal accounts are not covered by the specific terms and conditions that the University has negotiated with Microsoft, and thus are generally not recommended for storing research data.
It's important to be aware that a OneDrive for Business account is associated with a specific set of SSO credentials. Anything stored in that account will be deleted shortly after the account holder leaves the University, so some advance planning is needed to avoid data loss when this happens. The data could be transferred to another user's OneDrive for Business account, or be copied and stored elsewhere.
Microsoft Teams is also part of the University Nexus365 service. Teams is primarily used for communication (including text chat and video conferencing) and collaboration within a team, department or project, but can also be used to store material, and to share it within or beyond the University.
SharePoint Online is a further Nexus365 service. It allows groups of users to edit and manage documents securely. Divisions, colleges and departments should have their own site collection from which individual sites are created and managed. SharePoint can be particularly useful for sharing material that is being worked on collaboratively during a project.
Research File Service
The Research File Service (RFS) provides a reliable, resilient, secure, and scalable University-approved central storage facility for active research data. Storage is offered via SMB (network drive), across the University network or through VPN from outside the University. Up to 20TB of storage space per project can be requested.
The service is currently available to internal research staff only, and is for public and internal (non-confidential) files. Additional features will become available when the second phase of the service is launched: this is due later in 2023.
LabArchives electronic lab notebook service
LabArchives offers an electronic alternative to paper lab notebooks. The service can also be used to store research data alongside experimental records and other research materials. LabArchives is a secure, flexible, web-based system, and is available free of charge to all Oxford researchers, including graduate students. Notebooks can be shared with colleagues within the University and beyond.
Sustainable Digital Scholarship service
The Sustainable Digital Scholarship service (SDS) provides a Figshare-based platform for storing, working with, and publishing research data. While it is chiefly intended for material which will ultimately be made public, the platform can also be used for creating, collecting, and editing data during the active phase of a research project. The service launched in the Humanities Division, but is available to researchers across the University. Charges may apply for some categories of project.
Infrastructure Chargeable Services
For larger projects, the Infrastructure Chargeable Services team at IT Services offers managed server space for a fee.
If you opt to use private storage (e.g. personally owned devices, or equipment bought using a research project's budget), it will be your responsibility to ensure that data is stored in an appropriate manner and complies with all relevant security requirements.
In general, it is not good practice to rely heavily on storage media such as USB sticks and portable hard drives. This type of device can be useful for very short-term storage or for transferring files which don't need to be kept particularly secure, but they are not a robust long-term solution, as they can easily be lost or damaged.
If you do need to use portable storage, you should put in place working practices which transfer data from the portable device to a secure location as quickly as possible. If the material stored includes personal data, or information that is confidential or otherwise sensitive, you should always use encryption. You can encrypt individual files or folders or the hardware (e.g. laptop, hard drive, USB key, or mobile phone) on which the data is kept: see the section on data security below for more details.
Commercial cloud storage
Commercial cloud storage can often seem like a tempting prospect: it can be convenient and cost effective. However, there are reasons to be wary. This type of storage frequently fails to meet the University's security requirements, and may not be fully GDPR compliant, making it unsuitable for use with personal data.
As a general rule, if you are contemplating using an external service to store any data which you wouldn't be happy to make publicly available on the web, you should seek further advice. The University's Information Security team has a Third Party Security Assessment process which can help establish whether a particular service is suitable for storing research data.
Need help deciding?
If you're uncertain which storage solution is best for your project, you can contact Research Data Oxford to discuss your needs.
For information about what to do with your data after your project ends, please see the Post-project data preservation section.