Great Scott! 1.21 gigabytes of data!!!
The conundrum is not ‘Where can I store massive amounts of information’, but ‘How can I quickly share massive amounts of information all at once?!’
I’m certain this is a topic we have all wrestled with before, so here are 5 quick ways to send research data out to your colleagues.
1. USB Drives
Where allowed by institution (some prohibit their use due to the ease at which one can walk away with sensitive research and other data), USB flash and hard drives are one of the fastest ways to move data around. With storage sizes ranging from one to hundreds of gigabytes it is science on the go: in the lab, on the road, and even between special equipment that isn’t connected to a network.
Leave antiquated CDs and DVDs behind.
2. Email attachments
Regularly share data with labmates? E-mail is still a favorite method. But be careful: organizations are notorious for setting hard limits on how big file attachments can be. Exceed the limit and an entire message is often deleted without warning! It’s a good idea to check with IT before regularly sending files larger than, say, about 10 megabytes, as a general rule of thumb. For gigs of data, try another method.
3. Network drives
Best for the labs that are separated by great distances on campus, and those souls working the graveyard shifts. Network drives are perfect for sharing data amongst many people because everything is accessible 24/7. Backups are regularly scheduled and automatic. With well organized directories, it’s easy to find everything you need from any PI and any data from any experiment.
4. Secure file servers
A solution to email limits. One can upload data files onto a secure FTP (file transfer protocol) server for a colleague to download later. This option is a little more complicated because it may require use of specialized software, an understanding of transfer protocols, possibly encryption codes and navigation of unfamiliar file servers. However, it is an excellent way to be sure that data remains in-house and always goes to a small group of people.
5. Laboratory Management Systems and Cloud Storage
Cloud, or internet, services can be extremely useful for sharing data within a core group of people because access is always just a desktop or mobile device away. Labs that embrace online laboratory management systems (LMS), like LabGuru for example, instantly benefit from having all of their research and project data stored in a single location. LMS eliminate the frenzied search for locating data that was once stored on various USB or network drives, file servers or e-mail archives and the time it took to distribute it to colleagues. Data is now accessible to everyone on-demand.
Cloud storage acts as a virtual drop box – much like a network drive, or file server at an institution. The biggest difference is that it’s not entirely under your direct control. Cloud storage has the potential to be useful for sharing gigabytes of data, worldwide, from one person to the next, but it’s important to consider where the data will be stored, who can access it, and that the data package doesn’t contain any proprietary or sensitive information.
You’re a scientist, you dabble in data. How large was your largest data set, and what was the most efficient way to share it with your colleagues?