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Storing Your Files

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There are many different storage technologies and devices. This page identifies some of the things you should consider when storing your files.

Why...

Having a resilient storage strategy for your digital files is an extremely important aspect of managing digital information. This is because many physical storage media are inherently fragile. The use of popular online services for storage may not be desirable because of issues around storing potentially reserved, restricted or protected data on 3rd party servers.

How...

Storage Options

There are quite a few options available when looking at the storage of your data.

  • magnetic media - such as Hard Disk Drives (HDD) and tape
  • flash storage - such as USB and Solid State Drives (SSD)
  • online services - such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon S3, etc, that may make use of a mixture of some of the above.

Your choice will depend on the amount of data you wish to store, how safe and resilient that data needs to be stored, how your data is classified (reserved/restricted/protected/public) and how easily you'd like to be able to share your data.

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  • We recommend contacting your institutions IT to discuss your storage options. They will be best placed to provide you with the services that will help you to adhere to the guidance set out below.
  • The University of Warwick has Guidance on Appropriate Cloud Services. Any organisation's IT services should also be able to advise on this.


Backup

Data can be lost in a number of ways, either accidentally or maliciously, through means such as:

  • hardware failure
  • loss or decay of media (such as HDDs, USBs or CDs)
  • software failure
  • power failure
  • human error (such as accidental change or deletion of files)
  • virus infection or data theft
  • bit rot

A suitable data backup process can help to mitigate against these risks.

If you are part of an organisation your IT services backup will cover your needs (different locations, more than one copy etc).

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  • If you are managing your own files or are responsible for those of a small organisation with no dedicated IT services make at least two copies of your files. However if the files have sensitive/personal data in them bear in mind how and where they are stored. You should also practice version control.
  • Copies should be stored on different storage technology such as those outlined above.
  • Copies should be stored in geographically separate locations. If disaster strikes one location, your photographs in the other place should be safe.
  • Backup your data after every change or at regular intervals.
  • Check your copies at regular intervals to make sure you can read them and that they have not been accidentally or maliciously altered. The integrity of copies can be quickly validated using checksums.

  • Create new media copies every five years, or when necessary, to avoid data loss.

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Data security needs to be considered in order to prevent unauthorised access to your data. This is especially true if you are handling reserved, restricted or protected data. The University of Warwickissues guidelines on Handling Electronic Information as may your own institution or organisation.

Effective data security involves three aspects:

  • Physical security - controlling and logging physical access to the rooms where data is stored (server rooms, rooms where storage media sits)
  • Software & file security -
    • Controlling and logging access to computer systems by making use of password protection.
    • Controlling access to files by using password protection or other encryption methods. However if it is material that you intend to deposit with an archive or data repository you will need to make sure that they are available for staff in these places to access.
    • Making use of appropriate up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software.
    • Ensuring operating systems incorporate the most up-to-date security patches and upgrades.
  • Network security -
    • Controlling and monitoring access to the computer networks used by implementing firewall protection.
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  • If you are a member of staff at the University of Warwick consult the Handling Electronic Information for advice and guidance around data security.
  • If handling reserved, restricted or protected data make sure you store on protected storage using protected networks. Portable storage technology should be encrypted in order to mitigate against the risk of it falling into unauthorised hands.
  • If considering cloud storage as an option please refer to the University's Guidance on Appropriate Cloud Services or equivalent guidelines.
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  • Avoid using consumer orientated online storage services such as Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox when handling reserved, restricted or protected data as they may not necessarily be permanent or secure.


Data Disposal

Data that is not suitable for long-term preservation and retention needs to be disposed of. Merely deleting files from your chosen storage medium or indeed formatting the storage medium does not prevent the data being recovered by experts with the appropriate tools. It's also worth noting that different techniques are required depending on the storage medium you have chosen to use.

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  • Magnetic storage devices such as HDDs can be 'scrambled' by rewriting to the storage until all references to your data has been removed. There are applications available that will do this but it is best to contact your institution's IT to discuss the best options.
  • Physical destruction of storage media is considered the most reliable way of securely disposing of data. CDs and DVDs can be securely destroyed using appropriately configured shredders (DIN 4 or above). USBs, HDDs and SSDs can be removed from their casings and physically destroyed.