Where Should I Save Files

What is this article about?

There are many considerations you should take into account when you're saving the file you've been working on for hours. Most of the time we simply hit save, and call it a day. However, every file you create is different. Some are important and unique, such as a thesis paper, while others are easy to replicate, for example tonight's grocery shopping list, and do not cause much stress if they were to be lost. The files that are unique should be saved in locations that help minimize the possibility of them being lost. We suggest that you take a few moments to read this article and consider some basic recommendations for saving files, as well as technical solutions for accomplishing these recommendations.

Contents

 

Considerations

Generally speaking data files, whether they be documents, spreadsheets, source code, pictures, music, movies, etc. can be associated into one of two very broad classifications.

  • Individual
  • Group

Notice we spoke about associations, not file type, or kind! The reason for starting off with this distinction is that it is very important to understand both what is the file, as well as who will be accessing the file. This premise influences where and how we should save the files we create. If the file is just a brief grocery list for your next shopping trip you probably don't need to worry about anyone else reading it; however, if you're working on research project with a group of people you'll probably want to save the files associated with the project in a place easily accessible by everyone in the group.

Below is a quick reference guide for choosing between an individual vs group storage solution.

Individual Group
  • You don't plan to share the file.
    The files you place in individual storage solutions are private until you share them. Selecting OneDrive for Business or Google Drive is your best option for draft documents or personal documents that no one else needs to see.
  • You plan to share files individually and with a limited scope or lifecycle.
    You're writing an article that may not be associated with a project, and you'd like a few friends or colleagues to review it before you submit it. In this case, you expect people to use the document once without needing additional storage or context information. All they need is the link to the file and editing permission.
  • You can't identify an existing group where the file belongs, and you don't think the purpose of the file warrant creating a new one.
  • You want team members to recognize the file as being relevant to an on going project.
  • The file remains relevant to the group even after your association with the group is over.
  • You want to spread ownership and permissions across a wider collection of people. If a document is important to the success of a project, it’s a good idea for there to be people other than yourself who can control what happens to the file.
  • You want permissions to be granted on a site basis, instead of on individual files. If people have access to the group site, then they have access to files stored in the site.
  • Other project-related files are already saved to the group site storage, and others expect to find it there.

 

Storage Options

There are a number of file storage services available to the university community for you to save your files, each of which may meet some, or all of your requirements.

  Service Data
Encrypted
Storage
Allocation
Approved
for
Sensitive
Data
Off-Campus
Access
Designed
for
Sharing
Audience Notes

Individual

Microsoft OneDrive for Business Office secure file storage 5 TB FERPA,
HIPAA
Data is available from off campus Files can be shared

Students,
Staff,
Faculty

1
Google Drive for Education Offers secure file storage Unlimited FERPA Data is available from off campus Files can be shared Students,
Staff,
Faculty
1

Group

Google Shared Drives Offers secure file storage  Unlimited FERPA Data is available from off campus Files can be shared Students,
Staff,
Faculty
 
Microsoft Teams Offers secure file storage 25 TB FERPA,
HIPAA
Data is available from off campus Files can be shared Students,
Staff,
Faculty
 
Microsoft SharePoint Offers secure file storage Varies FERPA,
HIPAA
Data is available from off campus Files can be shared Staff,
Faculty
 
Shared Departmental Drive Varies Varies FERPA,
HIPAA
Data is available from off campus Files can be shared Staff,
Faculty
2
Custom Shared Storage Varies Varies FERPA,
HIPAA
Varies Varies Varies  

Other

Removable Media (e.g. USB Storage Device) Most removable media does not offer secure storage Varies   Data is available from off campus Removable media can only be accessed by one person at a time Anyone  
Computer Desktop/Documents N/A Varies     Data stored on a device can only be accessed by one person at a time in most cases Anyone  

Notes:

  1. Files stored in these locations remain available only for the duration that the individual is affiliated with the University of Alaska.
  2. Off-campus access to shared departmental drive shares are only accessible by using the university's Virtual Private Network (VPN) service to create a secure network tunnel from your device to the university's network.

Service Options

With a wide variety of storage options available and the ability to store, access, edit, comment, and share files in real time from any device we recommend the use of OneDrive for Business for individual data, and either Microsoft Teams or SharePoint Online for group collaboration. However, both the Microsoft and Google services offer comparable features for storage and collaboration. Using either service offerings is a more secure way to store your valuable files when compared to using flash drives or depending on the hard drive of a dedicated laptop or desktop computer.

 

OneDrive for Business

Microsoft OneDrive for Business is a file storage and synchronization service that allows individuals to store, update, share and sync their files and access them from virtually anywhere.

This is the recommend place to store files that are generally accessed by a single individual, or drafting documents that will later be shared with colleagues. However, in the case of files that should be shared with other departments or groups it is strongly recommended that once the drafts have been completed the final revision should be stored on a non-personal storage solution such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, etc.

Pros

  • Space: Every student, staff, and faculty of the university has 5 TB of storage space available. Individual files can be up to 100 GB in size.
  • Secure: By default, only you have access to your files.
  • File versioning: Every time a file is modified a new version is created automatically. This allows for individuals to easily revert to previous versions. By default OneDrive for Business will remember 500 versions of your file.
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere, and any device that has internet connectivity via either a web browser, or client software available on many operating systems.
  • Encrypted: All communication between OneDrive for Business and your device is encrypted using TLS. Additionally all data "at rest" is also encrypted.
  • Synchronization: The OneDrive client allows individuals storing large amounts of information to select which files, folders, and sub-folders they want to keep synced to their local device.
  • Online Apps: Easily create, edit, and collaborate with your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files without concern for formatting or information loss associated with being converted to other file types.
  • Sensitive Data: OneDrive for Business is approved for FERPA, and HIPAA (PHI) data.
  • Cost: There is no cost for students, staff, and faculty to use OneDrive for Business

 

Cons

  • Retention: Information stored within OneDrive for Business only remains available whilst the individual is affiliated with the university system. When the individual leaves, their OneDrive for Business is disabled, so other individuals will lose access to any files that have been shared with them.
  • Web Browser File Size Limits: Most web browsers have limits on the size of file you can upload through them. Typically this ranges between 2 GB - 4 GB. For best results if you are attempting to upload a file larger than 2 GB please use the Microsoft OneDrive client.
  • Data Access Speed: Accessing information stored in any online service will always be a little bit slower than accessing the same information stored locally. The Microsoft OneDrive client can cache frequently accessed folders and files on your device to improve access speed while still providing all the benefits of online storage.

For further details please see our OneDrive for Business article.

 

Google Drive for Education

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service that allows individuals to store, update, share and sync their files and access them from virtually anywhere.

Pros

  • Space: Every student, staff, and faculty of the university has unlimited storage. This storage is shared between Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. Individual files can be up to 5 TB.
  • Secure: By default, only you have access to your files.
  • Sharing: You can share any file and/or folder with anyone you want.
  • File versioning: Every time a file is modified a new version is created automatically. This allows for individuals to easily revert to previous versions. By default Google Drive will keep non-native files (e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.) files for 30 days, or 100 revisions (whichever is shorter).
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere, and any device that has Internet connectivity via either a web browser, or client software available on many operating systems.
  • Encrypted: All communication between Google Drive and your device is encrypted using TLS.
  • Sensitive Data: Google Drive is approved for FERPA data.
  • Cost: There is no cost for students, staff, and faculty to use Google Drive.

 

Cons

  • File Size Limit: Google Docs files may contain up to 1.02 million characters. Google Sheets files may contain up to 2 million cells. Google Presentations may be up to 100 MB. For all other file types, up to 5 TB per file.
  • File Versioning: By default file revisions are only kept for 30 days, or 100 revisions (whichever is shorter). After which revisions for the file may occasionally be merged automatically by Google to save storage space.
  • Sensitive Data: Google Drive is not approved for HIPAA (PHI) data.
  • Retention: Information stored within Google Drive only remains available whilst the individual is affiliated with the university system. When the individual leaves, their Google Drive is disabled, so other individuals will lose access to any files that have been shared with them.
  • File Conversion: Individuals that use Microsoft Office on their desktop who attempt to edit their files online, either individually or collaborative, will have their Office documents converted to the equivalent Google file format (Docs, Sheets, Presentation). This conversion may result in some formatting changes.
  • Web Browser File Size Limits: Most web browsers have limits on the size of file you can upload through them. Typically this ranges between 2 GB - 4 GB. For best results if you are attempting to upload a file larger than 2 GB please use either the Google Backup and Sync client, or Google Drive File Stream client.
  • Data Access Speed: Accessing information stored in any online service will always be a little bit slower than accessing the same information stored locally. The Google Backup and Sync, or Google Drive File Stream client can cache frequently accessed folders and files on your device to improve access speed while still providing all the benefits of online storage.

For further details please see our Google Drive article.

 

Google Shared Drives

Shared Drives are shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files from anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in Google Drive, files in a Shared Drives belong to the team instead of the individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so the team can continue to share information and get work done.

Pros

  • Space: Every Shared Drive has unlimited storage. Individual files can be up to 5 TB.
  • Secure: By default, only you have access to your files.
  • File versioning: Every time a file is modified a new version is created automatically. This allows for individuals to easily revert to previous versions. By default Google Drive will keep non-native files (e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel, etc.) files for 30 days, or 100 revisions (whichever is shorter).
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere, and any device that has Internet connectivity via either a web browser, or client software available on many operating systems.
  • Ownership: The files uploaded to a Google Shared Drive is owned by the team.
  • Sync to Device: Using the Drive File Stream client you can sync your Shared Drive, or even specific files or folders to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
  • Undelete: Each Google Shared Drive has its own trash which allows members of the team to un-delete files and/or folders that were mistakenly deleted. However, after 30 days deleted content is gone forever.
  • Sensitive Data: Google Shared Drive is approved for FERPA data.
  • Membership Limit: A Google Shared Drive can have up to 600 direct members. Members can consist of either groups or individual people, in either case both are counted as one member against the limit. Each Google Shared Drive is limited to 50,000 individuals (direct members, or indirect members due to Google Groups membership).
  • Cost: There is no cost for students, staff, and faculty to use Google Shared Drive.

 

Cons

  • File Size Limit: Google Docs files may contain up to 1.02 million characters. Google Sheets files may contain up to 2 million cells. Google Presentations may be up to 100 MB. For all other file types, up to 5 TB per file.
  • File Versioning: By default file revisions are only kept for 30 days, or 100 revisions (whichever is shorter). After which revisions for the file may occasionally be merged automatically by Google to save storage space. If there is a need to keep revisions longer than that, each specific file must be marked to Keep forever its version history.
  • Sensitive Data: Google Shared Drive is not approved for HIPAA (PHI) data.
  • Maximum Items: Each Google Shared Drive can contain a maximum of 400,000 files and folders.
  • Maximum Uploads per Day: Up to 750 GB of data can be uploaded to a Google Shared Drive per day.
  • Folder Hierarchy Depth: A single Google Shared Drive can nest up to 20 subfolders; however, it is not recommended creating a folder structure that complex as individuals tend to have difficulty with organizing and navigating content. See the frequently asked question Are there any recommendations on how to organize content?
  • Web Browser File Size Limits: Most web browsers have limits on the size of file you can upload through them. Typically this ranges between 2 GB - 4 GB. For best results if you are attempting to upload a file larger than 2 GB please use either the Google Backup and Sync client, or Google Drive File Stream client.
  • Data Access Speed: Accessing information stored in any online service will always be a little bit slower than accessing the same information stored locally. The Google Backup and Sync client, or Google Drive File Stream client can cache frequently accessed folders and files on your device to improve access speed while still providing all the benefits of online storage

For further details please see our Google Shared Drives article.

 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is shared spaces where teams can easily store, search, and access their files from anywhere, from any device. Unlike files in OneDrive for Business, files in Microsoft Team belong to the team instead of the individual. Even if members leave, the files stay exactly where they are so the team can continue to share information and get work done.

Pros

  • Space: Up to 25 TB of storage space available for Team files. Individual files can be up to 100 GB in size.
  • Secure: By default, only members of the team have access to the files.
  • File versioning: Every time a file is modified a new version is created automatically. This allows for individuals to easily revert to previous versions. By default Microsoft Teams will remember 500 versions of your file.
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere, and any device that has internet connectivity via either a web browser, or client software available on many operating systems.
  • Ownership: The files uploaded to a Microsoft Team is owned by the team.
  • Sync to Device: Using the OneDrive client you can sync your Team, Channel, or even specific files or folders to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
  • Online Apps: Easily create, edit, and collaborate with your Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files without concern for formatting or information loss associated with being converted to other file types.
  • Undelete: Each Microsoft Team has its own trash which allows members of the team to un-delete files and/or folders that were mistakenly deleted. However, after 30 days deleted content is gone forever.
  • Encrypted: All communication between Microsoft Teams and your device is encrypted using TLS.
  • Workflow: Ability to use Microsoft Forms, Flow, PowerBI and other Office 365 services (e.g. Docusign) to create customized workflow solutions.
  • Sensitive Data: Microsoft Teams is approved for FERPA, and HIPAA (PHI) data.
  • Planner: Allows groups to quickly manage collaboration on tasks and projects.
  • Membership Limit: A Team can have up to 2,500 members.
  • Channel Limit: Each Team can have up to 200 channels.
  • Maximum Items: Each Microsoft Team can contain a maximum of 30 million files and folders; however, for optimum performance it is recommended storing no more than 300,000 files in a single Team site.
  • Cost: There is no cost for students, staff, and faculty to use Microsoft Teams.

 

Cons

  • Requires installing a client application for optimal experience.
  • Anyone who is a member of a Team has access to all channels within the team.
  • Web Browser File Size Limits: Most web browsers have limits on the size of file you can upload through them. Typically this ranges between 2 GB - 4 GB. For best results if you are attempting to upload a file larger than 2 GB please use either the Microsoft OneDrive client, or Microsoft Teams client.
  • Data Access Speed: Accessing information stored in any online service will always be a little bit slower than accessing the same information stored locally. The Microsoft OneDrive client can cache frequently accessed folders and files on your device to improve access speed while still providing all the benefits of online storage

For further details please see our Microsoft Teams article.

 

Microsoft SharePoint

Most people think first about SharePoint's document collaboration features; however, it includes many other useful features that may be worthwhile for your groups workflow.

Pros

  • Space: Available space can be customized based upon the business requirements of the requesting department. Default available space is 500 GB. Individual files can be up to 100 GB in size.
  • Secure: By default, only individuals that you specify have access.
  • File versioning: Every time a file is modified a new version is created automatically. This allows for individuals to easily revert to previous versions. By default SharePoint will remember 500 versions of your file.
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere, and any device that has internet connectivity via either a web browser, or client software available on many operating systems.
  • Encrypted: All communication between Microsoft SharePoint Online and your device is encrypted using TLS.
  • Workflow: Ability to use Microsoft Forms, Flow, PowerBI and other Office 365 services to create customized workflow solutions.
  • Maximum Items: Each SharePoint Online site can contain a maximum of 30 million files and folders; however, for optimum performance it is recommended storing no more than 300,000 files in a single SharePoint Site site.
  • Cost: There is no cost for students, staff, and faculty to use SharePoint Online.

 

Cons

  • Advanced Skillset: Requires a bit more advanced technical skills configure the SharePoint Site to take advantage of more advanced features. Once the site is configured, using it is relatively straight forward.
  • Web Browser File Size Limits: Most web browsers have limits on the size of file you can upload through them. Typically this ranges between 2 GB - 4 GB. For best results if you are attempting to upload a file larger than 2 GB please use the Microsoft OneDrive client.
  • Data Access Speed: Accessing information stored in any online service will always be a little bit slower than accessing the same information stored locally. The Microsoft OneDrive client can cache frequently accessed folders and files on your device to improve access speed while still providing all the benefits of online storage

 For further details please see our SharePoint Online article.

 

Shared Departmental Drive

Department file shares are available for departments to store and share files. These high-performance file shares are backed up daily and are accessible from anywhere on the UAA network. They offer departments with an excellent way to store, share, and collaborate on files.

Pros

  • Space: Department file shares are provided initially with a quota of 500 GB.
  • Secure: By default, only the individuals that are a member of the specified department security group has access to the file share. Folders within the share may be restricted further to members of other security groups as long as the individuals, or group, is also a member of the primary department security group.
  • Data Access Speed: Since the data is stored on the same network as your computer accessing your information is fast, without relying on caching content locally on your device.
  • Accessible: Files can be access from anywhere on campus using a Mac or Windows computer.

 

Cons

  • Collaboration: Files can be shared with other individuals who have access to the particular file share; however, in most cases only one individual may edit the file at a time.
  • File versioning: Departmental file shares do not offer file versioning; however, they do offer Volume Shadow Copies. Shadow copies provide a point-in-time copy of the files stored on a network file share. This allows you to recover files that were accidentally deleted, or recover from accidentally overwriting a file.
  • Accessible: Files cannot be accessed from a web browser or many smartphones. Connecting from a Mac or Windows computer from off campus requires the use of VPN software.

 

Custom Shared Storage

Custom storage can be setup for high-performance computing and large research data files. IT Services will work with clients, vendors, and other university organizations to create and/or coordinate the fastest, most secure, and cost-effective solutions that meet departmental business requirements.

Pros

  • Space: Custom storage space is sized according to departmental business requirements.
  • Secure: By default, only the individuals that are a member of the specified department security group has access to the file share.
  • Data Access Speed: Since the data is stored on the same network as your computer accessing your information is fast, without relying on caching content locally on your device.
  • Accessible: Share access is structured according to business requirements.

 

Cons

  • Cost: Departments are charged an annual fee based upon their identified business requirements and agreed upon solution.

 

Removable Media

Removable media is any type of storage device that can be removed from a computer while the system is running. Examples include Optical media (e.g. CD, DVD, Blu-ray), USB Drives, Floppy Disks, Memory Cards (e.g. SD Card, CompactFlash), External Hard Drives. Removable media makes it easy for an individual to move data from one device to another.

Pros

  • Space: Available space can be customized from a few gigabytes to terabytes of storage. Additional space can be readily available by purchasing additional storage media.
  • Transporting: If you need to transport or ship large amounts of data external storage is often a easy solution. Especially as external hard drives are available in very high capacities.
  • Large Data Sets: Individuals may need to manipulate extremely large amounts of data (e.g. video editing, research data sets, etc.). It is rarely possible to use file shares, or online storage for these purposes due to performance reasons. In these cases using local removable storage for work-in-progress files provides the necessary speed for these purposes. After the work has been completed copying the final files, and/or the original source material to a file share or online storage is advisable.
  • Data Access Speed: Since the data is stored on a device directly attached to your computer accessing your information is the fastest possible, without relying on caching content locally on your device. Data access is limited only by the speed of the device and connection type (e.g. USB, Thunderbolt, FireWire, etc.) being used.
  • Offline Storage: Even the largest storage source eventually fills up. Additionally, offline storage also provides one other means of securing against cryptolocker style attack since attackers are unable to access a storage device that is physically powered off and disconnected from everything. Removable storage allows you to store large amounts of data limited only by the size of the storage medium.

 

Cons

  • Secure: Anyone who has access to the storage media has access to the information stored within, unless specific steps are taken to secure the files (i.e. encrypting the drive or files). Removable storage devices can be easily lost or stolen.
  • Accessible: Files can typically only be accessed by one person at a time.
  • Data Integrity: The risk of data loss or corruption using external media is higher than other solutions. Removable media will eventually fail, and when they do any data on them will be lost.

 

Computer Desktop/Documents

Saving to the desktop, or documents folder of your computer can give you quick access to the files you may frequently use

Pros

  • Space: Space is limited to the size of the devices storage, less the space required for the operating system and any applications installed.
  • Data Access Speed: Since the data is stored on a device directly attached to your computer accessing your information is the fastest possible, without relying on caching content locally on your device. Data access is limited only by the speed of the device and connection type (e.g. SATA, M.2, PCI-e)

 

Cons

  • Space: Every device offers a different amount of storage space available. Some of these are expandable, others are not.
  • Accessible: Files stored on a computer/device can typically only be accessed from that specific device.
  • Data Integrity: The risk of data loss or corruption is higher than other solutions. Your computer's storage device (i.e. hard drive) will eventually fail, and when it does any data on it will be lost. Most local computer storage is not automatically backed up. While you can configure this yourself, the responsibility for backing up the data on your local computer is yours.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

Is there any additional information I should know about?

For additional assistance contact the IT Services Technical Support Center via phone at (907) 786-4646, toll-free at (877) 633-3888, email us at uaa.techsupport@alaska.edu.