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Research Data Management for Health Sciences

Evaluation of Storage Options


Personal Computer

Data can start here but should be stored using another method. Never store sensitive data on your personal computer.


Storage Types Pros Cons Recommendation
CD-ROM / DVD-ROM Portable
  • Hassle to deal with
  • Unbelievably slow to write to
  • Lots of disks with possibly multiple versions of data
Not recommended for storage.  Use only when no other option is available.
Shared Drive / Server
  • Keeps data off your easily-stolen laptop
  • Not your problem to manage
  • Shared costs typically mean lower costs
  • Reliant on IT staff to manage.
  • Can have storage quotas. Difficult especially if you’re versioning.
  • Can be hard to share with collaborators outside the lab or the office.
If well-managed, a good choice for regular use, for onsite or offsite backup.
Cloud Storage / Service
  • Syncing
  • Cheap
  • If client-side encryption is involved, decently secure
  • Requires network connection, which can create security risks and can be inconvenient
  • Ongoing (and out of your control) costs, including in lean times
  • Reliability, security, privacy not guaranteed
  • Your backup is hostage to their business risks
Fine for offsite backup. A little risky for your only backup.
USB / Flash drive
  • Portable and small
  • Big enough for a wide variety of datasets
  • Forces you to organize your work
  • Easy to lose
  • Easy to perpetuate out-of-date copies
  • Hard to label
  • Backups just don't happen
Great for data transport.  Not a solution for data storage.
External Hard Drive
  • Relatively cheap
  • Lots of storage
  • You have to set up, maintain, and audit it yourself.
  • Some brands are not as reliable.
Used with automatic-backup software external hard drives are an okay choice for onsite backup.

Tape Backup

  • Regularly scheduled backups without effort
  • Highly reliable
  • Tolerably secure (not always on network)
  • Can be hard or slow to get data back
  • Not always audited as often as they should be
Good for onsite or offsite backup, if somebody else is running them, and you know they’re regularly audited.