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Data storage, backups, & security

Storage options

For storage and processing of your data during the active phase of research, there are several options:

  • IS&T offers Athena lockers, which provide storage for DLCs and research labs as well as courses and UROP projects; there are storage quotas.
  • IS&T also offers Dropbox accounts to all MIT students, faculty and staff, with unlimited storage capacity and access to data using any web browser.
  • For groups that need to run their own servers, IS&T maintains managed servers and server co-location.

High-performance computing resources include:

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 others 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.