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Data Management for Undergraduate Researchers

How to collect, save, document and preserve research

What is Data Security and Backup?


Data security refers to the protection of data from unauthorized access, use, change, disclosure and destruction and includes network security, physical security, and file security.

Storage and Backup

Data storage refers to holding your data files in a secure location that you can readily and easily access.  Data backup, in contrast, refers to saving additional copies of your data in a separate physical or virtual locations from data files in storage.

Resources on Data Security and Backup

Why Should You Secure and Backup Your Data?

Your data is the basis of your research. If you lose your data, recovery could be slow, costly, or impossible.  It is important that you secure, store, and backup your data on a regular basis.  Securing  your data will help to prevent:

  • Accidental or malicious damage/modification to data
  • Theft of valuable data
  • Breach of confidentiality agreements and privacy laws
  • Premature release of data, which can void intellectual property claims
  • Release before data have been checked for accuracy and authenticity

Keeping reliable backups is an important part of data management. Regular backups protect against the risk of damage or loss due to hardware failure, software or media faults, viruses or hacking, power failure, or even human errors.

Guidelines for Data Security and Backup


Security needs to be considered for all copies of your data, including your working data set, backup copies and archived copies.

  • Network security
    • Keep confidential data off the Internet
    • Put sensitive materials on computers not connected to the internet
  • Physical Security
    • Restrict access to buildings and rooms where computers or media are kept
    • Only let trusted individuals troubleshoot computer problems
  • Computer Systems & Files
    • Keep virus protection up to date
    • Don’t sent confidential data via e-mail or FTP - use encryption, if you must send data
    • Use passwords on files and computers
Storage and Backup

One of the most important data management tasks is keeping backups of your data. There is a real risk of losing data through hard drive failure or accidental deletion.

  • Remember to use the Backup 3-2-1 Rule* 
    • 3 copies of your data - 2 copies are not enough
    • 2 different formats - i.e. hard drive+tape backup or DVD (short term)+flash drive
    • 1 off-site backup - have 2 physical backups and one in the cloud
    • *see: 
  • Backup options
    • Hard drives - personal or work computer
    • Departmental or institution server
    • External hard drives
    • Tape backups
    • Disciplinary archives (repositories)
    • Cloud storage