Storing data during Research

Active data is data that will be subject to change throughout your research. Properly structured and annotated data ensures that your data is properly preserved, making it easier to decide what to publish, archive, or discard.

If you want to learn more about data in the final phases of your research, please consult the guides on Preserving data & Publishing and Sharing Data.

Data in the different stages of the research lifecycle

To properly store your data, consider the following good practices:

Choose storage media wisely

Not all storage locations are equally suitable for all types of storage. When it comes to choosing where to store your research data and artefacts, there are many points to consider. Creating a plan for your data storage will help you with this. Consider the following:

  • How much data will be created?
  • Will you require access to the data when off campus?
  • Who will need to access the data (e.g., are you in a research group)?
  • Does this option have automatic backups? If so, how long can they be retrieved?
  • Are you working with Confidential or Sensitive data?
  • Will you need to access the data once you leave the University?
  • Are there any restrictions around where the data is stored?
  • Does your faculty/Research have a preferred Data Storage option?

Common Storage options for Research Data can be categorized as follows:

  1. University network drives
  2. Portable Devices
  3. Cloud Storage
  4. Dedicated Research Data Storage Repositories

Manage versions, copies of and back up your data carefully

In your day-to-day research, make sure you manage the different versions and copies of your data carefully in the following ways:

Structure files and folders clearly

Think about naming conventions and a logical folder structure before you start a project. It is easier to maintain a manageable number of files and versions with a clear naming and folder structure and can save you a lot of frustration. If files are to be shared in a shared file space, standardized file-naming conventions are even more important.

Describe and make your data understandable by assigning metadata

Data without metadata and documentation are often just a bunch of numbers that cannot be interpreted. Without any documentation, you may still be able to understand what you meant after a few days, but how about after a week, a month or a couple of years? Be sure to provide all the information that you and your (future) collaborators will need to (re)interpret your files and folders or see what you are doing in your research project.

For more information, please refer to the guide Metadata and documentation.

Use standard file formats

File formats refer to the form in which data is stored. The format is indicated by the file extension at the end, such as .wmv, .mp3, or .pdf. Not all formats are equally widely accessible or future-proof. For enabling access and use of your data by others, we recommend using formats that are:

  • non-proprietary (e.g., .xlsx can only be opened with Microsoft Excel);
  • using open documentation;
  • supported by many software platforms;
  • wide adoption/common usage;
  • no (or lossless) compression; 
  • no embedded files or scripts.

For the most common file types, you can make use of DANS's guide for preferred and acceptable formats for research data. Note that when converting files to a different format, important information could be lost. If possible, work in the standard or most widely used format from the start to ensure maximum reuse after your project ends.

Secure your data files

When you need to share your data during research, take into account the wishes of rightful claimants to the data (research subjects, co-authors, partners from industry, etc.) and make sure you are compliant to relevant legislation.

For more information please refer to the guide Handling Personal Data

IT-solutions for storing data

The Data Storage Finder is a guide through the range of IT solutions for storing and managing data. You can find it here: Tools | Data Storage Finder (