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File Storage Options

T-Storage

T-Storage (you might know this as the H: drive on your computer) provides a central location on campus for users and departments to store files and is available to all Knoxville faculty, staff, and students. T-Storage is provided by the university, and more information can be found here:https://oit.utk.edu/accounts/Pages/T-Storage.aspx. Information about storing sensitive information is available in the OIT Knowledge Base(http://help.utk.edu/kb/).

EECS Storage

EECS provides a limited amount of disk storage for members of the EECS department. EECS-provided storage is not certified for storing protected information (HIPAA, FERPA, etc). Storage options include:

  • EECS Personal Storage: Your Linux home area (also known as your I: drive on Windows) is available on any managed Linux system or departmental Windows systems to EECS students, staff, and faculty. Students have a 5GB quota. This storage is backed up at most once per day, daily backups are kept for up to 30 days, and monthly backups are retained for up to 12 months.
  • EECS Research Storage: Available as shared storage for a research group, this is accessible from the /research directory on Linux systems (contact EECS IT for Windows access). This storage is backed up on the same schedule as the EECS Personal Storage, described above.
  • EECS General Storage: This storage is available under the /storage directory tree on Linux systems and may be requested for class or research use. This storage is RAID-6-protected, but not backed up. This allows EECS IT to allocate more space, but it is not suitable for storage of long-term, critical results.

Backup Recommendations

Too often the EECS IT staff must inform a user that their only copy of a file, directory, or drive has been lost and is not immediately recoverable. Whatever the reason (unintended actions, hardware failure, theft), the results of not having backups can be devastating.  Professional data recover of a failed hard drive can cost many thousands of dollars (last case was $4,289) and there is no guarantee that any data can be recovered. You do not want to suffer through this experience.

If some or all of your data is important to you, you should identify where your data is located and make regular copies of the data to two or three discrete locations, depending on how important the data is and your risk tolerance.

A user might say:

  • “My laptop is brand new.  Failures are not likely for a few years. I am safe from data loss.”
  • “I backup my laptop data to a SD card in the laptop.  I am safe from data loss.”
  • “I backup my laptop data to an external hard drive in my office.  I am safe from data loss.”

If you think about it, none of these are very safe.  Traditional hard drives and newer SSD drives can fail at any time.  If your primary storage and backup storage are in close proximity to each other, you are not protected from data loss.

A more confident user might say:

  • “All of my data is stored in T-storage.  I am safe from data loss.”
  • “All of my data is stored in EECS storage.  I am safe from data loss.”
  • “All of my data is stored in dropbox.   I am safe from data loss.”
  • “All of my data is stored in the OneDrive/Google.   I am safe from data loss.”

Certainly all of these on-premise and cloud services are more resilient than a single hard drive in a computer, however each of these services is one administrative domain subject to intentional/unintentional actions that may put your data at risk.  Likely?  No. Possible? Yes.

A very confident user might say:

“My primary data is stored in EECS storage. Once a week, I make copies (synchronize) my data to T-storage.  I am safe from data loss.” 

This is a much better plan, since your data is stored in two administrative domains, but is it safe enough?  It depends on your risk tolerance.  Not to be morbid, but what happens if something devastating happens to UT or Knoxville?  In this very unlikely scenario, your data is likely lost or possibly unavailable for a long period of time.

A supremely confident user might say:

“My primary data is stored in EECS storage. Once a week, I make copies (synchronize) my data to T-storage. Once a month, I copy files to a cloud backup service. I am safe from data loss.”

Now you are about a safe as you can be, barring an attack on planet earth.  Most users may not require this level of protection, however it is your choice.

Other considerations:

  • RAID 1, 2, 3, … drives protect against the loss of one or more drives in the RAID array.  RAID arrays do not protect against intentional/unintentional actions, multiple hardware failures, and theft.  Use of RAID arrays are no substitute for proper backups.
  • Is is possible that Google will ever lose some or all of your Gmail?  Is is possible that Dropbox will ever lose some or all of our files?  Either is possible.  If you cannot tolerate loss of data stored in the cloud consider making periodic local backups.
  • According to Wikipedia, “Ransomware is a type of malware that restricts access to a computer system that it infects in some way, and demands that the user pay a ransom to the operators of the malware to remove the restriction.”  All mapped drives and UNC paths mounted under Windows are susceptible to ransomware attacks. A successful ransomware attack may encrypt all local files including the local cached copies of Dropbox and OneDrive, for example.  Dropbox and OneDrive will then synchronize the newly encrypted local copies to the cloud.  Recovery from ransomeware attacks are much easier if the backup files are offline (or in the cloud) when the attack occurs.

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