Storage is the act of keeping your data in a secure location that you can access readily. Files in storage should be the working copies of your files that you access and change regularly.
Backup is the practice of keeping additional copies of your data in separate physical or cloud locations from your files in storage.

Good storage and backup practices help protect your data and research from losses due to hardware failure, natural disaster, or file corruption. You spend a lot of time collecting your data, so ensuring you have a good system for backing up your data will prevent you from having to spend time trying to recover your files, recollect data, or redo any cleaning or analysis.

Storage systems often provide mirroring, in which data is written simultaneously to two drives. This is not the same thing as backup since alterations in the primary files will be mirrored in the second copy.

Backing up data can be done manually or automatically, depending on your comfort level with those systems. If doing manual backup, you’ll want to determine how often you should back up your data—you’ll need to weigh the benefits of having up-to-date backup copies against the work involved with frequent backups. Once you’ve determined how often you should back up your data, you should set a schedule for regularly doing so. Backing up your data doesn’t require backing up every bit of data every time. You can do an incremental backup, or choose to backup only the files that have been changed or added since the last backup. Incremental backups require less time and storage than a full backup.


  • A granting agency may require that you retain data for a given period and may ask you to explain in a data plan how you will store and back it up.
  • Storing and backing up your data ensures that it will be there when you need to use it for publications, theses, or grant proposals.
  • Good preservation practices help make your data available to researchers in your lab/research group, department, or discipline in the future.

Storage Options

OptionDescriptionSize and costAccess and securityNotes
Campus Computing Infrastructure (CCI)Shared, scalable, secure options for a variety of needs, from home/group directories to long-term archivingVaries. Scale-Out Storage costs $0.20/GB/yr, based on actual usageNetID restricted. Can add permissions for campus and external users, via Manifest, a tool that allows departments to authorize users to log in to their resources using groups of NetIDs, and allows for the creation of new NetIDs for UW affiliates and collaborators.Contact CCI for restricted data needs. Shared Storage can scale up to hundreds of TBs. Contact CCI to schedule a meeting with the CCI Engagement team to discuss your needs.
UW G SuiteGoogle Drive (Docs, Slides, Sheets, Sites, Keep, Hangouts) provides a cloud-based solution for storage and collaboration. Unlimited storage, free to UW-Madison faculty, staff, researchers, and students.

NetID restricted; can add permissions for other campus users, using their NetIDs.
Not a secure environment for restricted personal data
The UW-Madison enterprise agreement protects the intellectual property rights of UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students (unless shared with others outside the university).

Google Drive can be more useful for real-time collaborating than Box.
UW-Madison BoxA cloud solution for storing, managing, and sharing files provided by UW-Madison.

Box should not be used as a primary data back-up repository or for the storage of data that is not intended for regular access and use.
Unlimited storage, free to UW-Madison faculty, staff, researchers, and studentsNetID restricted; can add permissions for campus or external users.

In order for the UW-Madison Enterprise Box Service to be used in a way that is HIPAA-compliant, additional controls must be added. See UW-Madison Enterprise Box for HIPAA data for more information about requirements.

See Information about security of Box apps

Versions your files automatically.

Stores and transfers files securely.

Information about security of Box apps.

Box provides useful fine-grained controls for sharing files and folders outside of Box.

The UW-Madison enterprise agreement protects the intellectual property rights of UW-Madison faculty, staff and students (unless shared with others outside the university).

LabArchivesAn electronic lab notebook software licensed by campus for researchers, staff, and student performing research activities.Unlimited storage with a individual file size limit of 4GB.Accounts must be created at request of the PI by the ELN team.

The UW-Madison LabArchives instance provides extra data security such as encryption and firewalls.

May not be appropriate for sensitive data, human subjects data, or other restricted data types.Consult with the ELN team, IRB, or your local security officers.
Accepts many file types, allows versioning, securely stores files.

Supports multiple user roles, permissions.

The UW-Madison enterprise agreement protects the intellectual property rights of UW-Madison facstaff and students.

LabArchives is currently on a multi-year license and the ELN team suggests keeping an exported archival copy of your notebook at the end of a project.
Departmental server or storage networkYour department's IT unit may offer storage on their server or network.VariesProtected by user accounts and passwords.Contact your department's IT unit for information.
External hard drivesAlso known as hard disk drives.VariesNot secure unless kept in a secure location and sensitive data are encrypted.Best for short-term storage (approx 1-5 yrs) since disk failure can occur.
Portable mediaFlash drives, CDs, and DVDs.VariesNot secure unless kept in a secure location and sensitive data are encrypted.Best for short-term storage (approx 1-5 yrs) since media formatting can fail.
Third Party Cloud StorageDropbox and others.VariesVariesUW-Madison has no negotiated terms of services with these providers. See Guidelines for use of non-UW-Madison applications for research for help evaluating your risks and rights.

Backup Options

OptionDescriptionSize and costNotes
Bucky BackupA managed service for data backup and recovery solution that utilizes IBM's Tivoli Storage. Provides high reliability, availability, and redundancy for files, applications, and servers. Bucky Backup is available to faculty, researchers, and staff. Three levels are available:

Enterprise: Managed backup for enterprise applications and mission critical data

Lite: Affordable, managed backup that is great for backing up files, computers, applications and departmental servers

Archive: Cost-effective, long-term archival storage
Varies, depending on the frequency of file revisions and number of versions stored. For some scenarios, the cost is approximately $1/GB/yr or lower.Allows you to schedule automatic backups for critical data.

The archive service should not be used for backup and files you will need to overwrite. Archiving is for preserving files as they are.
Departmental serverYour department's IT staff may offer backup.VariesContact your departmental IT staff for details.
External hard drives and portable mediaExternal hard drivesVariesRemember to have another backup copy available as hardware can fail. Flash drives are also available, but remember that they are easily lost and easily corrupted.