Where Should I Save Files

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.

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 and Faculty 1
Google Drive for Education Offers secure file storage Unlimited FERPA Files are easily accessable from off campus Files are shareable with others Students, Staff and Faculty 1
Group Google Team Drive Offers secure file storage  Unlimited FERPA Files are easily accessable from off campus Files are shareable with others Students, Staff and Faculty  
Microsoft Teams Offers secure file storage 25 TB FERPA, HIPAA Files are easily accessable from off campus Files are shareable with others Students, Staff and Faculty  
Microsoft SharePoint Offers secure file storage Varies FERPA, HIPAA Files are easily accessable from off campus Files are shareable with others Staff and Faculty  
Shared Departmental Drive Varies Varies FERPA, HIPAA Files are easily accessable from off campus Files are shareable with others Staff and 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   Files are easily accessable 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 15 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 subfolders 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 OneDrive for Business.

     

    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.

     

  • Google Team Drive

    Team 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 Team Drive 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 Team 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 Team Drive is owned by the team.
    • Sync to Device: Using the Drive File Stream client you can sync your Team, Channel, or even specific files or folders to your desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
    • Undelete: Each Google Team 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 Team Drive is approved for FERPA data.
    • Membership Limit: A Google Team 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 Team 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 Team 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 Team Drive is not approved for HIPAA (PHI) data.
    • Maximum Items: Each Google Team 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 Team Drive per day.
    • Folder Hierarchy Depth: A single Google Team 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 below: 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

     

  • 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 15 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 15 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

  • Best practices for storing data online

    General Information

    All UA students, faculty, and staff can store files on OneDrive for Business and/or Google Drive services. Both services feature cloud-based file storage that is accessible anywhere on the internet and backed up regularly. Using either storage option 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.

    The decision on which service to primarily use will depend on how you work with files and whether or not you will need your cloud storage service to support collaboration.

    • For example, if you primarily use a dedicated desktop or laptop computer and manage files with locally-installed versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, then either OneDrive for Business or Google Drive should work well for you.
    • If you exclusively use the Office 365 (web-based) versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, then you will want to utilize your OneDrive for Business storage space.
    • If you will be collaborating with colleagues by annotating documents with comments, your better bet would be Microsoft Teams – especially if you need to work with participants outside the University.

     

    There is no restriction against using both services. However, if you choose to utilize both cloud services, you should establish a desktop/laptop home base with both cloud apps installed and learn to use the sync functions. Otherwise, you risk storing different versions of documents on different services, which can be very confusing and time consuming.

    Best Practices Based on Data Types

    OneDrive for Business and Google Drive use state-of-the-art technology and industry best practices for data encryption during transit to and from the cloud, as well as while stored within the providers data centers. For this reason, we recommend you use only the web interface (https://portal.office.com or https://www.alaska.edu/google) or official apps to transfer data securely between your device and the provider. If you use an app for OneDrive for Business or Google Drive that has been developed by a third party, you should take steps to ensure that the app transfers data using a secure method.

    OneDrive for Business and Google Drive provide robust security for the data you store. However, due to federal, state, and local laws and University policies and standards, these personal data storage spaces should not be used to store, collect, or share certain types of regulated and sensitive data. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for safeguarding University of Alaska data stored on the computers, devices, and online services you use. Make sure you understand which data types are permissible to be stored on personal storage spaces (e.g. Flash Drives, DVD-R, OneDrive for Business, Google Drive, etc.), as well as departmental storage spaces (e.g. Department File Share, SharePoint Online, Microsoft Teams, Google Team Drive, etc.).

  • Are there any recommendations on how to organize content?

    "Now where did I save that file...?" It's a thought we've all had, typically followed by an agonizing length of time searching through files and folders trying to find the information you're look for. With disorganized files, finding anything specific can be like finding a specific needle in a haystack. One that you keep revisiting day after day.

    How you organize and name your files will have a big impact on your ability to find those files later and to understand what they contain. You should be consistent and descriptive in naming and organizing files so that it is obvious where to find specific data and what the files contain.

    Taking some time to develop an organized plan for storing files will pay big dividends later. This is especially important when you're collaborating with others.

    Regardless of the storage service being used, consider adopting some or all of the following suggestions:

    • Use Online Storage: It's tempting to just save everything to your local desktop, laptop, smartphone, etc, but that creates few big problems.
        • You're not always at that device when you need access to the information.
        • It's not very easy to share the information with others
        • Most people don't have a strategy for backing up their device. So if your device crashes you lose that critical file you've been working on.
    • Good File Names: Even the best file management strategy will fail without consistent labeling conventions. The best file names are generally short and sweet since longer ones can cause issues when factoring the full path name. Using clear, descriptive file names makes it easy to identify what's in a file, no matter where it is. A few specific recommendations:
        • Be concise
        • Use descriptive text
        • For dates, use ISO 8601 format YYYYMMDD (e.g. 20180820), so dates stay in chronological order. For additional information you can read the Wikipedia ISO 8601 article regarding date and time standards.
        • Use sequential numbering (e.g. 01, 02, etc. instead of 1, 2, etc.)
        • Avoid special characters such as ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) ` ; < > ? , [ ] { } ' " |
        • Use underscores ( _ ) instead of spaces.
        • Avoid the use of dashes. Why? Can you tell the difference, at a glance, between a hyphen ( - ), an en dash ( – ), or an em dash ( — )? Can everyone else? Are you sure about that? ‘Nough said.
    • Folder Structure: Locating files is simple with a good folder structure. Sometimes it's as simple as creating a pool of subfolders and grouping similar files types (e.g. Pictures, Spreadsheets, Presentations, etc.) or categories (e.g. Contracts, Financial, Research, etc.) together. Name folders based on purpose or function. Don't be afraid of sub-folders a Financial folder may have subfolders called "2018", "2017" and "2016" that corresponds to a specific fiscal year. However, remember to keep your subfolders to a minimum in order minimize issues with path limits. Generally don't go beyond 3-5 levels of folders. A few specific recommendations:
        • Name folders for "find-ability"
        • Folder names should contain information that leads to easy retrieval and identification
        • Nested folder names should be ordered from general to specific
    • Be Aware of File Name and Path Limits: "What is this limit you speak of?" you may be asking yourself. Computers, and related devices, store data onto a storage medium (Hard Disk, Solid State Disk, Flash Drive, etc.) that is formatted with a specific file system. Which file system type depends upon the operating system, or online storage provider. Without going into the specifics of each file system, be aware that all of them have a practical limit to the maximum number characters allowed in a file name and file path. Additionally, operating systems may impose their own restrictions further reducing the number of characters available.

      We're all probably familiar with a file name is; however, what a file path is may not be as familiar to us. Think of a file path as the full set of directions on how to locate the file starting at the "beginning" of the storage device. The file path is frequently delineated with the forward slash ( / ) or backslash ( \ ) character depending upon your operating system. A file path looks something like the following:
      /Some/Nested/Folder/MyFile.docx  <-- 31 characters
      \\myfileserver.uaa.alaska.edu\FileShare$\Some\Other\Nested\Folder\MyOtherFile.xlsx  <--82 characters

      Most modern operating systems and applications have some extremely high path limits (e.g. Windows 10 v1607 or later, macOS, most Linux/Unix systems); however, some of these operating systems specificity require the support of long paths to be enabled. Additionally, there are many applications still being actively used that may not be able to successfully access files with long path lengths. On operating systems with path limits (i.e. almost all versions of Windows before Windows 10 v 1607) exceeding the maximum file path length can cause unreliable file copies as well as the inability to save changes to modified files.

      In order to maximum file accessibility across as many desktop, laptop and smartphones and operating system combinations as possible we recommend the following character limits:
        • Maximum File Name Length: ≤40 characters, including the file extension
        • Maximum Folder Name Length: ≤30 characters, per folder
        • Maximum File Path Length: ≤400 characters 
    • File As You Go: The best time to organize a file is when you first create it. Get in the habit of using the "Save As" dialogue box to select where to save your document as well as providing it a distinctive name. Putting it in the right place in the first place saves you time later.
    • Plan for Retention: Different groups have different regulations that dictate how long you are required to keep specific types of information. Some files are retained for a longer period of time, mostly because it is painful to purge the files (paper or electronic) or simply because people don't know how long they are required to keep certain files. Purging electronic files has become a larger problem as available storage space as become large and more affordable.
        • Know the rules and regulations that apply to that data you're generating.
        • Keep files with common compliance or retention rules together - they they are easier to archive or delete as a group. For example: all purchasing documents for fiscal year 2010 could be in a folder path of Purchase Orders / FY2010.
    • Don't Float Folders: Using a special naming convention (e.g. '1' or '_') in front of a folder name so that it appears at the top of a folder list. Resist this temptation! Floating folders are an easy way out, rather than committing to using an effective file structure. Furthermore, if others are looking for folders alphabetically, they could easily miss a floating folder and duplicate information.
    • Collaborating Effectively: Use collaboration options, where possible, like document read, notification, approvals, comments, etc. which keeps everything associated with the file for referral and auditing. Follow documents so you are notified when the are modified. Don't allow lots of offline copies of files - all official files should be in the common shared storage location.
    • Stick To It: No file organization system is going to be perfect. But in order to be effective, you have to use it all the time, every time. Don't save everything to your desktop or Documents folder and tell yourself "I'll move it later." Otherwise, the only thing you'll end up with is a half-finished organizational system.
    • Document It: For groups and teams it is recommended to have a "Read_Me" document at the root of the file repository that documents the file storage and naming conventions adopted by the team. This makes it extremely simple to train new members of the team as they join.
  • Can I use the consumer version of an online storage service for university business?

    The use of consumer versions for DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. for University business is not allowed. If individuals are interested in using one, or more, of these services for their personal use for non-university business it is strongly recommended that a non-UA email is used to register for using these consumer services.

  • Why isn't cloud storage option X listed?
    There are many online storage services available such as Dropbox, Box, iCloud Drive, SpiderOak, and Amazon Drive to name but a few. However, since the university already offers several robust online storage options with OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint Online, Google Drive, and Google Team Drives there are few, if any, features that these other services provide that is not a feature of one or more of the currently available solutions. Additionally, many of these services require a monthly subscription that would be the responsibility of the individual to pay for.
  • Why do you recommend Microsoft solutions when Google provides more space?

    Recommending a storage solution is more than simply considering which service offers the largest raw capacity to store data. All of the solutions provide a large amount of space to store content, what really matters is how easy is it to access and use the files we store. In a word, convenience. Most individuals at UAA use Microsoft Office as their primary productivity tool to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Its installed on almost all UAA owned computers, and Office 365 ProPlus is available for free to all UA students, staff, and faculty for their personal devices. The file types associated with these applications are the de facto file format that everyone uses when sharing content between each other.

    By recommending OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, and SharePoint Online it allows you to work collaboratively on projects, when and where you need to, with the advantage of opening these documents seamlessly, avoiding any formatting issues that arise with converting file types. Additionally, all three services support file synchronization clients for all common platforms (e.g. macOS, Windows, iOS, Android), making accessing your files in the cloud as easy as a file stored on your device.

  • How many files can I store?

    As shown in the examples below, we have the raw ability to store a somewhat mind boggling amount of information. With the amount of data available, taking time to consider how you categorize and store the information becomes somewhat critical in order keep track of what you have.

    A Microsoft Word document example

    A one page word document with 12 point Times New Roman text, single spaced, 1 inch margins, saved in .docx format that has as many characters as would fit (between 4,002 - 7,177 depending on which character is used) is between 11,588 - 11,741 bytes (lets just round up to 12 KB).

    A Terabyte (TB) is equal to 1,000,000,000 bytes. Yes we're using standard SI units, not binary prefixes where a Tebibyte would be equal to 1,073,741,824 bytes.

    If you divide the two, a word document that is 1 TB in size would be the equivalent of 83,333,333.33 pages. That is over 83.3 million pages of text. The online service with the current lowest capacity offered, OneDrive for Business, offers 5 TB of space. This is the equivalent of 416,666,666.67 pages of text.

    Microsoft Word 2016 currently has a limitation of 32 megabytes (MB) (32,000 KB) of text, not including graphics. So using the same 12 KB single page reference document, a 32 MB word document would equate to a 2,666.67 pages of text. This means we could store 156,250 word documents of similar size in 5 TB of space. 25 TB of space allows the storage of 781,250 documents, or 2,083,335,937.5 pages of text. Yes, you read that right over 2 billion pages of text.

    A music example

    Assuming that an average song takes about 5 MB of space, five terabytes could fit approximately 1 million songs. The mean pop song duration is about 3 minutes 48 seconds (Source: NME: The Billboard 100: Number Ones Are Getting Shorter... Retrieved: Aug. 2018), which means we could store over 63,333.3 hours of music in 5 TB. 25 TB allows us to store 316,666.67 hours of music, which is the equivalent of 36.12 years of music listening 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365.25 days a year.

    A movie example

    Assuming the average movie is 1 hour 56 minutes long, 1080p resolution, and stored as a h.264 MPEG4 video file, it would take approximately 5.085 GB of space. You would be able to store about 983 movies in 5 TB, or 1,901.02 hours. 25 TB allows us to store 4,916 movies, or 9,505.08 hours.

    A picture example

    The size of a digital image varies widely depending upon many factors (e.g. device type, image content, file type, ISO, lens choice, compression settings, etc.). Using a studio scene comparison tool you can examine the file size differences between devices, file type, and ISO settings. On an iPhone X a JPEG file would be 3.5 MB, whereas the same image as a RAW file on an Nikon D7500 would be 25.8 MB. For the purposes of this example we'll assume the average digital image size is 6.35 MB.

    You can fit 787,401 photos in 5 TB of space, or over 3.9 million in 25 TB.

  • If I store my files in a cloud service, can the vendor read my files?

    A question we frequently receive is whether the service provider offering the cloud storage solution are technically capable of reading files stored on that service.

    The University of Alaska supports cloud services hosted by Google and Microsoft. A summary of their access to customer data is provided below.

    Microsoft

    • Encryption of data in transit: All communication between the customer and the service is encrypted across the Internet using Transport Layer Security (TLS) connections. All TLS connections are established using 2048-bit keys. All communication between the service provider's data centers, typically for geo-replication to facilitate disaster recovery, is transmitted using a private network and further protected with best-in-class encryption.
    • Encryption of data at rest: All data is encrypted twice. First using Microsoft BitLocker for disk-level encryption, and second per-file encryption of customer content. Additionally, every update to every file is encrypted using its own encryption key. Before they're stored, the keys to the encrypted content are stored in a physically separate location from the content. Every step of this encryption uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 256-bit keys and is Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 compliant. Furthermore, file-level encryption relays on three separate components - blob store, content database, and the key store - that are physically separate. All three are required to decrypt a file, information held in any one of the components is unusable by itself.
    • Access to data by service provider employees or contractors: Microsoft limits physical access to its datacenters by both outer and inner perimeters with increasing security at each level. By default Microsoft personnel, and subcontractors, do not have default access to any cloud stored customer data. Access to customer data is restricted on business need by role-based access control, multifactor authentication, minimizing standing access to production data, and other controls. All access to customer data is strictly logged and regular audits are performed to attest that any access is appropriate.
    • Access to data by service provider automated processes: 

     

    Additional Reading

     

    Google

    • Encryption of data in transit: All communication between the customer and the service is encrypted across the Internet using Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). Google encrypts Gmail (including attachments) and Drive data while on the move. This ensures that your data is safe not only when they move between you and Google's servers, but also as they move between Google's data centers.
    • Encryption of data at rest: Customer data that is uploaded or created in some G Suite services is encrypted at rest. Gmail messages and attachments, Calendar events and descriptions, Google Drive files and Contacts are all encrypted at rest. For a detailed list of services and which data is encrypted at rest please review Google's Cloud Help Security document. Please note that not all services provided by Google (e.g. YouTube) encrypt data at rest.  
    • Access to data by service provider employees or contractors:
    • Access to data by service provider automated processes: 

     

    Additional Reading

     

 

Other related information

Need additional help or have issues

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