Skip to Main Content

Research Data Management

This guide provides best practices and resources for managing your research data for any discipline.

Storage and Backups

Active Data Storage and Backups are key components of your research data management strategy.  Active data are the data that you are collecting and analyzing for your research project.  Never rely on a single copy of data.  Keep your source (primary, or raw) data separate from your active data, and always make a copy of it before working on the data.  Document your data storage strategy and data backup policy.

Best Practice is to follow the 3-2-1 Rule: keep 3 copies of your files in 2 different locations, with 1 copy off-site, ideally in a different geographic zone. Accidents DO happen: hardware fails, media deteriorates, drives are lost, computers are stolen, data files are corrupted by viruses, power failures and even human errors.  

Backup often.  Select a schedule that works for you, and follow it.  Use a reliable medium and test your backups periodically by testing file restores.  Check the integrity of the data using checksum validation

Things to consider when selecting how and where to store your data:

  • Data protection
  • Confidential or Restricted data
  • Ease of Access
  • Collaboration - internal or external
  • Volume of data
  • Networked, Cloud, or Desktop

Cd's and DVD's are not reliable as long-term storage options.  Their life expectancy is only 2-5 years, and they need to be stored under the appropriate environmental conditions. Hard drives have a life expectancy of 4-6 years.  USB (thumb) drives are not a good option.  They are easily lost and stolen.  

Questions to Consider

Data Protection: Protect the integrity of the data, access to the data, and the system that holds the data. 

Confidential or Restricted data: Is your data non-sensitive, moderately sensitive, or highly-sensitive?  Are you working with confidential or restricted data? Do you have IRB requirements or a data agreement? 

Ease of Access: How important is it to be able to easily access the data?

Collaboration - internal or external: Do other researchers need to access the active data?  Are they at UVa, or at another institution? 

Volume of Data: How much data do you need to store?  5MB, 5TB, 5PB?  Does all of it need to be immediately accessible?

Networked, Cloud or Desktop: Which option works best for you and your data?  Are their institutional guidelines or restrictions?  Does your department or institution provide storage?

Data Storage Options

Storage Options:

Which option is right for you and your data?  That will depend on your answers to the items to consider in the previous section.

Research Computing (RC) is the support team at the University of Virginia whose mission is to empower researchers to achieve more through the use of cutting-edge computational resources. They have a great selection of User Guides covering High Performance Computing (Rivanna), Secure Computing (Ivy Secure), Storage, Cloud, Data AnalysisImage AnalysisData Transfer, Bioinformatics, and ACCORD. They provide FAQ's in three areas - Rivanna, Ivy, and Storage. their How To guides will help you get started: General, Rivanna, Ivy, and Storage. Their Learning Portal compiles workshop and tutorial materials offered by the RC, as well as by the UVa Library Research Data Services and the UVa Health Sciences Library. There is an extensive list of Topics and a data catalog. Their Projects page highlights some of the work that they have partnered on. 

Information about any of the UVa ITS services can be obtained by contacting the Help Desk.


OneDrive, accessible from anywhere, is an online cloud storage service from Microsoft and offers 5 terabytes (TB) of storage per individual. OneDrive is integrated with Microsoft Office Online, Office 365, and Office desktop suite applications. Office Online allows you to create and edit Office documents from any computer with just a web browser. With the OneDrive support in the Microsoft Office desktop applications you can also seamlessly access your OneDrive files from within those applications. OneDrive also supports collaboration features such as co-authoring, which allows multiple users to simultaneously work on the same document when it is stored in OneDrive.

To get started with OneDrive simply go to and login using NetBadge. 

General information is available from ITS on the Office 365 page and the OneDrive FAQs

You can search for answers to specific questions on the Office 365 Training Center

UVa Box

UVa Box is a cloud-based storage and collaboration service that gives eligible members of the University community the ability to access, store, and share up to 1 TB of non-sensitive and/or moderately sensitive University files securely—anywhere, anytime, on any device.  It is free, and there are Apps available that extend its functionality to Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, Androids, Blackberries, and many more.

To get started with Box simply go to and login using NetBadge.

What can I store in my UVa Box account?  What are my responsibilities? How do I upload files, send files as links, and manage my files?

UVa Box FAQs are a good place to start when you have additional questions.

Box has extensive Support available, and a users Community.