Unlimited Box Storage: Implications for Research

With the announcement that Box (https://box.berkeley.edu) now offers unlimited storage to UC Berkeley, researchers have an improved option for storing, sharing, and managing large amounts of data. Box offers built-in security and performance, and its features support a number of scenarios and activities common to research.

Data Storage and Transfer 
For researchers, the unlimited quota makes Box a safe and convenient replacement for local hard drives and departmental file servers. Box accepts individual files up to 15GB in size. With Box, research projects gain the benefit of fully maintained and backed-up storage, reducing the risk of catastrophic data loss. 

Box accepts any type of digital file – data sets, composite scans, sound recordings, performance videos, etc. – and provides previews for many of those types. Box can preview images up to 500MB in size and videos up to 3.5 hours in length. 

Over campus networks, transfers to and from Box are generally much faster than transfers to or from a typical USB 2.0 hard drive. Researchers can upload and download files with Box Sync or using secure file transfer (FTPS) with a tool such as FileZilla or Cyberduck

Security and Reliability
Confidentiality (the privacy of your research data) is assured with Box’s nuanced access and permission controls. Projects should take note of Box’s “waterfall model” of permissions: people with access to a folder have access to all folders within that folder, but not to folders outside of it. By organizing data in top-level folders that correspond to distinct groups -- such as administrators, colleagues, or lab staff -- projects can maintain control of who sees what and create sophisticated information-sharing strategies. 

Data on Box are safe from loss or corruption, protected by the company’s extensive system of redundant data centers and backups. Yet Box has features that help researchers protect individual files, too. Box’s “Upload a new version” option maintains previous data, untouched. Users can view the author and date of a file’s most recent modification, monitor the file’s entire access history, and revert to an earlier version of the file as needed.

Box is approved for storage of campus-designated MSSEI Level 1 data, such as student records, licensed software, electronic library resources, and more. 

Organizing Research Teams Using Box + Special Purpose Accounts (SPAs)
Research managers can create a file structure within Box to organize a project’s logs, reports, images, etc., and use Box Notes to inform team members of filing strategies, naming conventions, and other protocols. Box works particularly well with CalNet Special Purpose Accounts (“SPAs”) to ensure that projects can maintain access to files over the long term, even as individuals (and their accounts) come and go.  

Sharing with Colleagues Far and Wide
Finally, Box solves the problem of sharing data with colleagues outside one’s unit. On a typical shared drive, access to files is limited to people within the local college or department. To share data on a shared drive with external colleagues – at Berkeley or beyond – a researcher needs to contact IT support. Box eliminates that need. A researcher can offer access to anyone with a Box account -- keeping in mind, of course, the privacy and security considerations of the data. Files can also be shared from Box via an emailable or embeddable link -- even to people without a Box account (Box accounts are free).

Research often requires specialized tools, but not always. Box.berkeley.edu can go a long way towards helping researchers manage their data safely, securely, and easily. Plus, it’s free! With its newly unlimited storage capacity, this campus-supported service is worth a look.

For more information on how to use Box for research, please contact research-it@berkeley.edu.