How to store and back up scientific data at SLU

Last changed: 20 December 2023

There are several options available for storing scientific data safely at SLU. This guide will help you navigate the different options.

Content

  1. Before you choose storage solution you need to know
  2. Support at SLU
  3. Data storage alternatives at SLU
  4. Factors to consider when choosing a storage or backup solution
  5. Storage, publishing, archiving – what is the difference?

Before you choose storage solution you need to know

  • That in this guide, the term storage refers to storing working files during a project's active stage. Read more about archiving and publishing scientific data further down: Storage, publishing, archiving – what is the difference?
  • That data should be kept safe! This means you must prevent data loss and unauthorized access.
  • Who needs to have access to the data. Are you collaborating with someone from another SLU department, or with an external partner? Are they from Sweden or from another country? Should access to data be limited because of personal or sensitive information, or agreements with external partners or study participants?
  • Whether or not your data contain personal or sensitive information, such as the location of threatened species. If so, you need to make sure that the data is kept safe and that you are complying with laws and regulations.
  • How much data do you need to store, in terms of volume. A single Excel sheet or terabytes of genetic data?
  • How active the data are. Are you currently working with them or are you planning on storing them for a longer time period?

Support at SLU

If you are uncertain about any of the points above, read more below, book a data date with DMS or contact us directly (dms@slu.se) and we will help you! DMS (Data Management Support) is a unit at the SLU University Library that supports SLU employees in matters concerning the management of scientific data.

Data storage alternatives at SLU

Factors to consider when choosing a storage or backup solution

There are a number of factors that influence the best place and method to store scientific data. In the list of data storage alternatives at SLU, the characteristics of each solution are listed. Below, more information about each factor is presented.

Access, sharing and collaborations

Who needs to be able to access data is an important factor to consider when choosing storage solution. When sharing data with a collaboration partner, finding the best storage solution depends on whether the partner is from SLU or from another organisation (and if so, from the EU, or somewhere else?).

For a collaboration project with external partners (i.e., outside SLU), agreements on data management throughout and after the project must be in place from the start, including which party will be responsible for archiving research material and whether SLU will take the role of personal data controller (personuppgiftsansvarig). Keep in mind that Swedish archive legislation is different from that of other countries. You need to consider how the agreements and (possibly) differing legislation affect the choice of storage solutions.

Security

To decide how to safeguard data properly, you should consider the consequences of files becoming contaminated, destroyed or lost, as well potential consequences of an unauthorized person accessing the data.

The physical storage location affects how secure data is. The data could be stored at SLU where storage is administered by the SLU IT department. In some cases, external storage may be a better solution, but external solutions are maintained by other organisations (i.e. not administered by SLU). Storage location is important to consider when collaborating with other universities, public authorities and private enterprises and in case of privacy-sensitive data. According to GDPR, personal data should be stored within the EU.

  • Read more about security classification according to the three information security aspects confidentiality, accuracy, and availability at SLU information security.
  • Information from the Swedish National Data Service on data security: Protect the data

Sensitive and personal data

Personal data is any kind of information that can be linked to a living person – not necessarily confidential or sensitive information. Collecting and storing personal data is necessary in many contexts in order for operations to function, and GDPR allows it, for instance for a university performing research.

Data containing personal and sensitive information require higher levels of protection than data not containing such information. All personal data must be handled with care, but if sensitive personal data should be disclosed, the consequences for the organisation will be more serious. Thus, not all storage solutions are allowed or appropriate for personal and/or sensitive data.

Costs

Some of the storage options at SLU are available for all employees without cost, others have to be paid for by the departments or the projects. The cost varies with e.g. security level, access, volume and additional functionalities.

There are also costs to consider if sensitive, confidential or personal data are disclosed to the wrong people. Even if it was done unintentionally, SLU will be liable.

Backup

Backup is needed to protect your data against hardware and system failures, software faults, thefts, and more. The backup copies of your files should be kept in another physical location than the main files.

If a particular backup solution is suitable for a project also depends on whether personal data or sensitive information is part of the data.

Version control

A version control system is a tool for managing changes to data files. Version control can help you restore data to a specific point, e.g. because of software malfunction or mistakes, and could be an important tool for good data management and the ability to maintain the integrity of the data.

  • Read more about versioning in the section Process and analyse data in SLU Data Management Guide.

Storage, publishing, archiving – what is the difference?

In this guide, “storage” means storing data files during a project’s active stage, when the project participants still need to work with them. Research data, as well as data from environmental monitoring and assessment, should also be archived. Furthermore, SLU data management policy states that scientific data from SLU should be made openly available, e.g. through a data repository unless there are specific reasons why this is not possible. Read more with the links below.