Storage options

storage options

2. Making Back-ups

When choosing a system for backing up your research you should consider at its heart just what it is you need to back-up. What will you need to restore in the event of data loss?


  • Do you need to back up software as well as files?
  • Do you have data on more than one device or different data on different devices? How will you manage back-ups without losing the integrity of the individual data sets?
  • How will you deal with version control (i.e. the same file but saved with a different file name as it is a newer version. Versions of the same file are obviously useful when you make significant changes and you want to ensure that the original version remains intact in case you ever need it again).
  • How often do you need to back-up data?
  • How will you organise and label back-up files and media?

There are many other questions to consider through this process as well. For instance, the UK Data Archive argues that best practise for backing up should include the following:

  • Store data in non-proprietary or open standard formats for long-term software readability (we will talk about this in the section on software)
  • Copy or migrate data files to new media between two and five years after they were first created, since both optical and magnetic media are subject to physical degradation
  • Check the data integrity of stored data files at regular intervals
  • Use a storage strategy, even for a short-term project, with two different forms of storage, e.g. on hard drive and on CD
  • Create digital versions of paper documentation in PDF/A format for long-term preservation and storage
  • Organise and clearly label stored data so they are easy to locate and physically accessible
  • Ensure that areas and rooms for storage of digital or non-digital data are fit for the purpose, structurally sound, and free from the risk of flood and fire

In this book we will look at some of these questions in detail, starting with advice on making master copies of your research data.