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UMass Amherst Libraries

Managing Your Data

Take care of the products of your research -- the tips here will help your work be available long into the future!

Backup Your Data Regularly

Determine your backup plan to avoid accidental loss of data. 

Backups also let you go back in time to previous versions of your data or your work, acting like a project-level version control. This shouldn’t be the only type of version control that you do, but it definitely helps! 

Some general tips include: 

  • Incorporate backing up data into your workflow. 
  • Automate your backups. 
  • Assign one person to monitoring your backups - to ensure all files and sub-directories are captured, that backups are happening on schedule, and that your backups are identical to the original copy. 

Writing out your backup plan can help remove any ambiguity, but also deter any ‘risky’ backup behavior, like backing up data on devices that are less stable (e.g., USB flash drives), or backing up data on a partition of the same hard drive on the same machine.  

Questions To Think About

Questions to think about:

  • How do you protect your data from unintended deletion or overwriting?
    • Raw data should be kept raw. 
    • Make your raw data “read only” -- this will force you to make working copies of your data, so that you won’t accidentally overwrite some important information. 
  • Where is data stored?
    • Backups should be in at least two locations; one that is off-site and trusted (e.g., commercial storage facility, campus file-server, cloud file-server)
  • How often is data accessed?
  • What data formats do you use to store your data? 
    • Try to store data in open, stable formats instead of proprietary formats. 
    • If this is not possible or is challenging to do in your workflow, make plans to transform your data into a stable format when you complete your project. 
  • Who checks up on your backup plan, and makes sure it is running smoothly?
  • Who ensures that data can be completely restored?
  • How will you document what data will be archived? 
  • How will you save information that is related to your data, e.g., code, programs used, software or hardware required?
    • Readme files and sharing your data with supplemental materials - like code - can help a lot with this

Activity

Write out your backup plan. 

Describe how you will backup your data. You can write up your own plan, or answer a few questions in the worksheet, below, to get started.

Further Reading