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Computer File Storage: Considerations

Where to store your files depends on many important considerations. Our charts of storage systems (Local, LAN, Internet) use the following criteria to differentiate between them.

  • Location: Our example charts are separated by this feature. This indicates where the actual storage hardware is located -- either inside or attached to your local computer or elsewhere on the Lehigh campus, accessed via our Local Area Network, or off-campus, accessed via the Internet. Most importantly, this affects whether your computer's operating system has direct access to the storage area, and can save files in any format, or whether a separate client program or web interface is required to transfer or synchronize the files for your system to use them. Some of our LAN systems are accessible from the internet, and that accessibility is indicated in the 'Limited To' column.
  • Storage Size: Our charts use the following general categories to indicate the size of the storage space, which is a general indication of the number or size of files able to be stored there. Small = 1 - 100 GB, Medium = 100 - 1000 GB, Large => 1 TB
  • Limited To: Some storage systems only allow storage by specific groups of Lehigh users. In general, Local and LAN storage areas are only accessible by Lehigh users, and Internet locations are able to be shared with the world. Exceptions are noted.
  • Cost: This column describes any additional costs for a Lehigh user. Many systems require LTS to charge users' departments on a recurring basis.
  • Backup: Most desktop systems require some additional customization in order to back up files. If you store files in local spaces, this may be a very important consideration. For Lehigh's classification purposes, LTS considers something on the LAN to be "backed up" if copies are made to another storage system at least daily, and retained for at least one year. For the purpose of Internet storage providers, we consider a system "backed up" if copies of uploaded data are made on upload, and retained indefinitely. Exceptions are noted. Items with a '-' are not backed up by default, but could be, with additional arrangements.
  • Sync Clients: Our most popular internet storage services (DropBox, Google Drive, OneDrive) make use of local programs called 'sync clients' that automatically transfer files from local storage (on your internal hard drive) to Internet storage. While your limits for storage 'in the cloud' may be large, or 'unlimited', your local hard drive space isn't. Most clients have preferences that allow you to specify which folders are synchronized, so you can choose to sync a portion of your storage.

    Also be aware that 'syncing' is not the same as 'back up'. Syncing automatically updates any changes to the synchronized store of files (such as file deletions), whereas a 'back up' is a copy of files that is retained for some significant period of time, regardless of changes to the source. A 'snapshot' is a file copy that is retained for a short period of time.

  • Sharing: This column indicates whether a storage system has user-managed sharing capabilities, or whether those capabilities usually require additional 'Customization' by IT personnel. A 'No' indicates that that system does not support sharing at all.
  • Allowed Data: Computer files at Lehigh are all classified according to the sensitivity of the data they contain according to our Data Classification Table and Data Storage Services Matrix. Due to inherent differences in security procedures or features between storage systems, some types of data can be stored only in systems that meet specific criteria. Internet storage vendors change their features and capabilities fairly often, and reviews by the Security Office are ongoing, so for the most up-to-date information, it's often valuable to email them.
  • Encryption: Lehigh policy requires that all data must be stored in an encrypted format, regardless of location on local hard drives, network or Internet storage systems (encrypted "at rest").

For additional help, please contact the LTS Help Desk at 610-758-4357 or helpdesk@lehigh.edu