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Research Data Management: Backup

Bringing together University resources and services to facilitate researchers in the production of high quality data.

At a Glance

Backups of research data are essential to ensure that data and related files can be restored in case of loss or damage.

  • Make at least three backup copies of your data on at least two different types of storage media
  • Keep storage devices in separate locations with at least one off-site, where appropriate
  • Regularly check whether your backups work

Help@UCD: Personal Backup Plan

Backing up your Data

Backing up your research data regularly can protect you from the unexpected. Keep a few months' worth of backups and make sure the files can be retrieved if needed.

  • Before you backup it's important that you categorise your data according to appropriate needs for protection, handling and compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • If you are backing up encrypted data ensure your backups are also encryped.
  • The ideal backup strategy will typically include both an online backup cloud service (e.g., Google Drive, OneDrive, H:Drive) and an offline backup device (e.g., external hard drives, USB flash drives) to ensure your data is secure no matter what happens to your mobile device or computer. If you are working with sensitive research data, however you may need to think a little bit more carefully about your backup strategy.
  • Your critical data should never reside in a single place. Make sure your backups are stored in separate locations. For example, you could keep your External Drive backup locked in your office at work and your USB Flash Drive backup in a safe and secure place at home. However if you are working with sensitive research data this may not be appropriate.
  • When using online cloud backups make sure you use a strong and secure password and log out of the service when not using it.
  • Routinely test your backup solution to ensure you can recover your data in the event that you do actually need to restore from a backup.

To reduce risk as far as possible, backups should be made after every change to data or at regular intervals. You can use an automated backup process to back up frequently used and critical data files. 

Backup 3-2-1 Rule

Always follow the 3-2-1 rule:

  • Have at least three copies of your data.
  • Store the copies on two different media (Physical and in the Cloud).
  • Keep one backup in a different location.