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Data Storage

A common best practice for backing up and storing your data is the 3-2-1 Rule which says you should keep

  3 copies of your data on      

   2 types of storage media and

   1 copy should be offsite

Storage Options

  • Desktop computers/ laptops: While working on your data, you'll likely be using and saving files here. Make sure to save often and keep a master copy in another location. You can sync to OneDrive at CBU.
  • Networked Drives : TBD
  • External Hard Drives : Convenient places to keep a backup copy. If you are working with sensitive data, you can get an encrypted external hard drive for added security.
  • Cloud Storage: Storing your data in the cloud (Microsoft Onedrive, Google Drive, etc) is convenient for saving data 'offsite' and syncing your files.
    • At CBU we have access to Microsoft OneDrive. This is a good practice for data transfer and sharing among researchers, if the data is not sensitive. OneDrive can be password protected for added security.
    • CBU researchers may also have access to Compute Canada's Rapid Access Service, a modest amount of storage and cloud resources for PI's.
  • Flash Drives: Although these are convenient, they are not recommended. These are easily lost, broken and degrade over time.
  • The Sensitive Data Toolkit for Researchers Part 2: Human Participant Research Data Risk Matrix outlines acceptable places to store, share and retain sensitive research data.


Organize your files

File naming and folder hierarchy

Keeping track of research data and documentation is critical. Strategies include:

  • Spend time planning out both folder hierarchy and file naming conventions in the beginning of a project. Consider how you or others will look for and access files at a later date. Do you think about them by type, location, study or something else?
  • Establish a folder hierarchy that aligns with the project. Example: [Project] / [Experiment] / [Instrument or Type of file]
  • A good file name convention works for a group of related files, displays about 3 pieces of key information about a file and is easy to scan visually.
  • Use date format ISO 8601: YYYYMMDD.

Examples:  Experiment12_assay_v04.csv   for outputs generated from experiments.  20191221_DTeam_MeetingNotes.docx for meeting notes with a research group.  CityHIVnc_Manuscript_v23.docx for Manuscript drafts.

File Types

To enable sharing and reuse, file types should be common, standard types below.  If you are working with specialized software that forces you to use a proprietary or non standard file formats, you can consider converting file types upon completion of your project.

Standard File types

  • Quantitative Data
    • with minimal metadata : comma separated values file (.csv) ; tab-delimited file (.tab).
    • with extensive metadata : SPSS portable format (.por) ; eXtensible Mark-up Language (.xml)
  • Textual Qualitative Data : eXtensible Mark-up Language (.xml); Rich Text Format (.rtf) ; plain text format (.txt) ; PDF/A
    • Also acceptable: PDF; OpenDocument Text Format (.odf) ; HTML

  • Geospatial Data:  geo-referenced TIFF (.tif, .tfw); Geographic Markup Language (.gml or .xml)
    • Also acceptable: Keyhole Markup Language (.kml); ESRI Shapefile (.shp, .shx, .dbf); MapInfo (.mif/.mid)

  • Images: TIFF (.tif)
    • Also acceptable: JPEG (.jpg); PNG (.png); PDF/A

  • Video :vMPEG4 (.mp4)
    • Also acceptable: motion JPEG 2000 (.jp2)

  • Audio: Free Lossless Audio Codec (.flac);MPEG audio layer III (.mp3) (for spoken word only audio)
    • Also acceptable: Audio Interchange Format (.aif); Wave Waveform Audio File Format (.wav); MPEF audio layer III (.mp3)

  • Spectra: JCAMP

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD):  Extensible 3D (.x3D, .x3dv); AutoCAD DXF (.dxf)

    • Also acceptable:  PDF/E; Universal 3D (.u3d); Product Representation Compact (.prc); AutoCAD (.dwg, .dxf)