Protect your data

Properly protecting your research data requires measures for both security and backups

Secure Your Data

Some data are sensitive or confidential and extra precautions should be taken to ensure that they are appropriately protected. Data security includes network security, physical security, and computer files and systems security.

Network Security

  • Do not store or transfer confidential data on the Internet or in cloud storage. 
  • Store sensitive materials on computers that are not connected to the Internet.

Physical Security

  • Restrict access to buildings and rooms where sensitive data or research specimen are stored.
  • Only allow trusted individuals to troubleshoot computer problems.
  • Keep physical paper files in locked file cabinets.

Computer Systems & Files

  • Ensure that the computers used in research and/or data storage have up-to-date virus protection.
  • Use passwords to secure files and computers.
  • Although unencrypted data is ideal for preservation purposes, encryption may be necessary for some sensitive data, especially if the data are being transferred over email or FTP. If you do need to encrypt your data because of its sensitivity:
    • Keep passwords and keys on paper (2 copies)
    • Don’t rely on 3rd party encryption alone
    • Review Georgia Tech's Encryption Standards

Don't forget to review Georgia Tech's Data Access Policy and Data Protection Safeguards for more information on your responsibilities as a Georgia Tech researcher, as well as information on how to best protect sensitive data. 

Data Backups

Keeping reliable backups is an integral part of data management.

Avoid the risk and cost of losing data through mechanical failure (e.g., hard drive failure or software faults), human causes (e.g., accidental deletion or malicious hacking) or other catastrophic events (e.g., fire or flood) by implementing a policy for maintaining data backups. Your personal computer, external hard drives, departmental or university servers are examples of tools used for backing up data. CDs or DVDs are not recommended because they fail so frequently.

At Georgia Tech, it is recommended that you contact your local IT support group for information regarding backups of your research data.

Please review Georgia Tech's recommended standards for storing data and backing up data

Questions to Consider:

  • Should you back up particular data files or back up the entire system?
  • How often should you back up?
  • Which media should you use?
  • What formats should I back up in?
  • Should I carry out incremental or differential back-ups?
  • Where should I store my back-ups?
  • How will I validate my back-up copies? 
  • How should I organize my back-ups?

File Checksums and Hashes

To help ensure that your data files have not been altered or corrupted, include a checksum or hash with the file. A checksum is a number that is calculated by an algorithm that analyzes your file. If nothing about the data file changes, you should be able to recalculate the checksum at any time, and the number will always be the same. If you recalculate the checksum and it is different, then you know the file has been altered or corrupted in some way. 

Some free tools that will generate checksums and hashes for your files: