Data Management at Williams: Storage and Backup

This guide outlines data management solutions pertaining to the storage and backup of active data, i.e., the storage you need to access and use for day-to-day research and teaching tasks, on College-issued computers for faculty and staff. 

This page is intended for College faculty and staff using College-issued computers. These other guides may be relevant:

All work we do on our College devices involves the management of data. As stewards of this data, we must consider:

  • Doing your work: Do you have the space? 
  • Backing up your work: Is it protected from accidents? 
  • Sharing your work: Can you share your data as needed?

College Solutions available for your work.

While the Office of Information Technology manages most of the storage and protection without additional action needed, it is important to be aware of how your data is stored and maintained. All faculty and staff at Williams College are issued computers for work purposes that have local disk space, otherwise known as your “hard drive.” By definition, the files on your computer’s hard drive are self-contained (local).

If you would like to share files and media, you will likely move the files to Google Drive Storage, Shared Network drives, or through a third-party software that has a file-sharing option. You will also want to back up the files you keep on your computer’s local hard drive.

Backing up local data

  • On Windows computers, OIT installs a network backup solution called ALINA (Atempo Live Navigator), which backs up your computer's data to a secure server on campus. Because the app is installed by OIT there is nothing you need to do. It will automatically and continuously back up any new files and changes to existing files any time the computer has a network connection.

    To check if the app is installed look for this icon on your system tray (near the clock in the bottom right) ALINA Icon. If you do not see this icon, please contact OIT at x4090 or email [email protected]

  • On macOS computers, the built-in macOS backup app Time Machine is configured. OIT Provides an external hard drive that plugs into the computer to store the Time Machine backups. As long as that external Drive is plugged in, the computer will back up all new files and changes made to existing files. If you have a College Mac, you are responsible for periodically plugging in your external Drive. 

    On the desktop of the computer the backup drive will look similar to this:

    Time machine desktop icon
    Time Machine icon

    To check whether your computer has backed up recently, click the little clock symbol near the sound and time in the menu bar:

    Clock icon on MacOS Menu Bar.
    Clock Icon on Mac Window Bar

    In this case, the computer backed up completely at 9:11 am today.

    Please contact Client Services at itsupport​@williams​.edu if

    • you do NOT have an external drive from OIT for TimeMachine
    • you do not see the little clock icon in your menu bar (this is just a setting you can change)
    • when you click on the clock icon the backup date is not recent

Sharing Data

While local network storage is very secure, it can be difficult to set up and manage sharing. This is why OIT also provides storage on the Google Drive and network drives.

  • All faculty and staff at Williams College are automatically allotted cloud storage space on Google Drive, which is a cloud service. "The Cloud" is broad a term for services provided via the internet - storage is one such service. Advantages of using cloud services, such as Google Drive, as the primary place to store your files include: Easy access from any device as long as you have an internet connection, automatic backup, and virtually instantaneous file sharing operations. The ease of use makes cloud services practical for collaborative work.

    See A Detailed Look at Williams Google Drive for more information.

  • Williams also offers shared department network drives that are accessed from either your File Explorer (for Windows) or Finder (for Mac). The data on these network drives are not stored on your computer. Each department's shared drive that is accessible by members of that department, so that is automatically shared with others in that department. This is ideal for on-campus faculty and staff collaboration. 

    For information about connecting to your departments drive see the Williams Shared Network Drives guide.

Google Drive or Network Drive? In general, OIT recommends that you use Google Drive for sharing and collaborating on most files. Network Drives are a good solution for files contain protected information that should be protected from exposure and are required to stay off the cloud.  Please consult the OIT Data Classification Policy and Usage Guidelines and your department to ask about sharing conventions within your specific department.

Data Management for Research

We are committed to supporting you in finding the most suitable solution for large datasets. What the best solution is for you will vary depending on your research needs. 

First, determine if your data might be considered for Special Collections. Williams Archives staff are available to advise on all matters related to College Records. Examples of potential college records include: 

  • Datasets associated with former students’ theses
  • Datasets pertaining to Williams College

Depending on the total size of your research data, you might be able to store everything on the Williams Google Drive (details above). If you Google Drive is full or close to our storage limits, see if there are large files that you can discard to accommodate your new data.

When Google Drive does not meet your needs, Williams Academic Technology Consultants are available to assess your needs and advise on best-fit solutions. Some reasons to contact your ATC include:

  • You may have large volumes of records or files beyond the limits of our Google Drive
  • You are working with sensitive data and/or have specific collaborative needs
  • You may wish to publish the work to audiences outside of Williams.

Data Management FAQs

  • Data that is associated with former students’ finished projects may qualify as College Records, which has additional resources dedicated to the preservation of organizational records. If you believe that some of this data may qualify, contact College Archives for guidance.

  • If your need for more Google space is temporary and urgent, you may request a temporary Google Drive Storage increase from OIT. This is typically granted if Williams has enough free space within the Google limits and on temporary basis (no more than three months). If you need more storage or for a longer duration, contact your Academic Technology Consultant, who will work with you to develop a plan for the acquisition, maintenance, and backup of additional storage. Although OIT cannot currently fund additional storage for research, we can assist with select a best-fit solution and develop a maintenance plan.

  • OIT-provided computers have solutions in place for local data (details above). If this is a personal computer, or if you want additional backups, you can copy the data to an external hard drive. They are available at the Williams College bookstore or any online electronics retailer.