Data Storage

Storing enduring data

Some considerations for data storage:

  • Access: who has permission to see and/or use the data
  • Accessibility: convenience and ease of access, e.g. is it possible to access from one or more locations
  • Backups: frequency that copies are made of the data
  • Security: safety of the data from loss
  • Speed: bandwidth
  • Space: storage capacity

Choosing data storage 

A data storage matrix has been created to help researchers identify solutions to meet their storage needs.
Click on the grid below for data storage options.

clickable data storage matrix thumbnail

Backing up your data

Data should be backed up on a regular, scheduled basis to protect from accidental data loss. The best time to develop a backup strategy is at the beginning of your project. The backup schedule should be set for regular intervals as well as when modifications are made to critical files.  


  • Who will be responsible
  • Which files will need to be backed up
  • Frequency
  • Automation ability
  • Perceived value of the data
  • Level of risk associated with the data
  • Medium(s) you will use. 

Use the 3-2-1 Rule (a good 'rule of thumb'):

  • Maintain three copies of your data – the original copy, an external local copy, and an external remote copy
  • Use at least two different media types, such as a network server, external hard drive, and/or cloud server
  • Have one copy offsite in a different physical location

More information:

  • Safeguarding Your Data While Travelling (University of Toronto)
  • The Office of Research and Innovation provides online training around secure handling of data as it relates to human subjects (University of Toronto)
  • If working on a networked server, check with IT to find out backup schedules and storage capacity
  • When considering your backup schedule, media, and frequency, you should also consider if you have confidential or sensitive data as these data may need different treatment
  • If working on a cloud server be aware of bandwidth capabilities, any policies or terms associated with use, and legal issues and server location as servers may be located outside Canada
  • Backup copies should contain any metadata or readme files and you should have a documented contingency plan in place in case you need to restore lost data
  • It is also important to regularly check the security of storage locations as well as the completeness and integrity of stored data files