Techniques for organising and keeping digital data safe

Your data management plan should include how to preserve your data.

  • Assess the durability of the file formats you will use.
  • Account for technology changes and possible hardware failures.
  • Consider security and accessibility over five to ten years.

Refer to these points as guidance or use as a checklist:

Guideline

Ownership and access

  • Divide responsibility for data preservation to a member of your research team
  • Determine who will need access to your preserved data files. Who will have ongoing responsibility and ownership of the data to avoid lost data if staff move on?

Durable formats

  • File formats may become obsolete over time
  • Is your format:
    • Endorsed and published by standards agencies such as Standards Australia or ISO?
    • Publicly documented, i.e. complete authoritative specifications are available?
    • The product of collaborative development and consultative processes?
    • Widely used and accepted as best practice within your discipline?
  • A guide to current robust file formats is the UK   Data Archive
  • ANDS Guide to File Formats

Software

  • Like file formats, software may also become obsolete
  • Choose software that is widely used and well supported
  • Deakin’s recommended software programs and tools are in the Deakin   Software Catalogue

File organisation and file naming conventions

  • Organise your files in a tiered folder structure. Use descriptive folder and file names of the contents
  • This helps to ensure particular files and data are easily located
  • A suggested naming convention is QUT’s Document Naming Convention

Version control

Version control is very important. It can be difficult to track changes when many members of a research team have access to the same data files.

  • Does the software you are using support version control (e.g. Microsoft Word)?
  • If not, you may need to set up explicit rules to ensure version tracking of files
  • This could include keeping a single master copy of the files, and including date/times as part of the file names
  • A suggested process for version control: Version Control Chart (University of Leicester)

File store media

  • Store your data on a network drive. It is properly backed up and can migrate to other media if needed

Back-up strategies

  • Are you using removable media? Guard against media degradation and move your data onto a network drive
  • Ensure you have a robust backup strategy that includes off-site storage
  • Many tools and services perform automatic backups at scheduled times. For instance, Windows’ own built-in tools will do this
  • Regularly restore and check files. This will ensure that your backup strategy is working as expected

Retention

  • How long do you need to keep your data?
  • Not sure?

Data repositories

At any stage of your project, you can deposit your data in a repository such as Deakin University’s data store, Deakin Research Online (DRO) or a subject-specific data centre or archive. This can be a requirement of the funder or publisher of your research. Some examples of subject-specific archives include: