I have terabytes of videotaped interviews from a European project, dozens of pseudonymised transcripts and informed consent forms. European partners need access to the files for data analysis. What's the best storage strategy for me?

When choosing a suitable storage solution to fit your project's needs, a lot of questions need answering. For example:

  • How much storage space do I need?
  • Who needs access?
  • What precautions should I take to protect my data against loss?
  • Which storage solutions are suitable for personal data?

It is an important aspect of data management planning to determine what your storage needs are and select solutions accordingly. In the 'Adapt your DMP' section questions that need answering are covered in more detail.

Storage solutions overview

In the following, you will find an overview of different storage solutions. Factors that play a role are, for example, data sensitivity, ease of access, file size and overall data volume. Advantages and disadvantages are detailed as well as precautions you should take when working with personal (sensitive) data. Each solution closes with recommendations on what to look out for if you decide to use the solution in question.


Laptops, tablets, external hard-drives, flash drives and Compact Discs

  • The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) only permits personal data to be stored within the EU, unless:

    • Participants consent to the data being stored in another country (this needs to be real consent i.e. a true choice);
    • There are adequate and equivalent levels of data protection in place (e.g. the US/EU Privacy Shield agreement).

    However, researchers should assess whether they really need to store the data abroad. If data does need to be stored outside the EU then information sheets and consent forms should clearly identify this and explain the reasons why this is necessitated (See 'Informed consent').

    Further guidance on sharing data outside the European Economic Area (EEA) can be found from the Information Commissioners Office.


E.g. Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, a University’s OwnCloud, Open Science Framework and Tresorit


Desktop computers and personal laptops


Shared drives on university servers or NAS servers (Network Attached Storage)

Types of storage media

In addition to finding a storage solution that best suits the requirements of your project, you may be required to decide which media types to use for storage and backup of your data and documentation. This is of particular importance if backup and storage are not taken care of by the IT department of your university or research institute.

Tips for your storage strategy

The UK Data Service (2017b) recommends the following for any storage strategy: