Backups & security

Back up your data

  • Make 3 copies (e.g. original + external/local + external/remote)
  • Copies should be geographically distributed (local vs. remote)

Data backup options

  • Personal computer hard drives, external hard drives, departmental or university servers
  • CDs or DVDs aren’t recommended, because they fail frequently
  • Tape backup system
  • MIT’s IS&T has free computer backup services
  • Cloud storage: several commercial options are available; each have different requirements, encryption, and storage fees


  • Unencrypted security is ideal for storing your data so that you and other can easily read it, but if encryption is required because of sensitive data:
    • Keep passwords and keys on paper (2 copies) and in a PGP (pretty good privacy) encrypted digital file.
    • Don’t rely on 3rd party encryption alone.
  • Uncompressed is also ideal for storage, but if you need to do so to conserve space limit compression to your 3rd backup copy.

To make sure your backup system is working properly, test your system periodically. Try to retrieve data files and make sure you can read them.

Need more help?

The UK Data Archive provides additional guidelines on data storage, backup, and security.