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Data Management: Security and Backups

Faculty, students, and staff will find information on this guide about managing their research data.

Why Backup?

Just about the worst thing that can happen during your project is for you to lose some or all of your data. It is essential that you backup your data at regular intervals throughout your project so that if something happens, you still have other copies. Some things you need to consider when choosing where and how to backup your data are:


  • Do you have confidential information in your data? If so, it should be kept off the internet and other shared networks.
  • Is your data physically secure? Is it on a public computer or other storage device? Who has access to these devices?
  • Is your virus protection up-to-date? 
  • Is your computer password protected? Should individual files in your project be password protected?


  • How many copies are there of your data? Aim for the 3-2-1- rule: 3 copies in 2 different formats + 1 stored remotely (in another location or in a "cloud" service)
  • Examples of backup devices are:
  1. External USB or hard drives
  2. Campus file-server
  3. Cloud storage (Google Drive, Dropbox)
  4. Your email

Automatic Backups

Setting automatic backups takes some of the pressure off you to remember to save your data regularly. The following are some different services that automatically backup your data:


If you are using passwords to protect your computer, mobile devices, and individual files, is it also essential that your passwords be well-formulated. Some tips for creating good passwords are:

  • The longer, the better
  • Avoid names, places, and dictionary words
  • Change up things like capitalization 
  • Don't reuse the same password

Some tools and tips for managing and creating passwords are: