Sharing data with collaborators

The University provides several options for sharing data with collaborators, and a number of external solutions are also available. The appropriate option to choose depends largely on the nature of the data to be shared: the size and quantity of the files, how often you expect them to change, how sensitive they are, and so on.

Using the X Drive

The X Drive is a shared storage space aimed at research data and managed centrally by Computing Services. It is straightforward for members of the University to access, and there are ways of granting access to external collaborators.

There are two main ways of accessing data stored on the X Drive:

Even though project folders are located under the directory of the department of the lead investigator at Bath, access can usually be granted to collaborators based in other departments, or to external collaborators with a temporary Computing Services account. For more information on setting up a temporary Computing Services account for an external collaborator, contact your department's designated maintainer.

With the files.bath service, it is also possible to set up dedicated sharing folders. You can grant access to any collaborator, regardless of their affiliation, by entering their email address in the sharing properties of the folder and creating a password for them to use. Contact your IT supporter if you plan to use this facility for a large quantity of data.

For more information about using the X Drive, see our guide to storing your data.

Using the wiki

The University provides a wiki service which can be used for collaboration. The most permissive state for wiki pages grants read-only access to the public and write access to everyone with a Computing Services account, but wiki spaces and pages can be locked down with more restrictive permissions to the level of particular users and groups. As with the X Drive, external collaborators would need to be given a temporary Computing Services account to be able to access private spaces and pages within the wiki; for information on how to arrange this, contact your department's designated maintainer.

The wiki is best suited to collaborating on text documents but may be used for sharing small files (less than 100 MB). It is possible for the owner of a wiki space to export the contents for transfer to other systems.

Using the Learning Materials Filestore

The Learning Materials Filestore is a file sharing service operated by the University. By default, each user is allocated 1 GB of storage.

As with the services above, it can only be accessed by people with a Computing Services account, therefore external collaborators would need to be given a temporary Computing Services account. For information on how to arrange this, contact your department's designated maintainer.

The interface is entirely Web-based, so may be cumbersome to use for large numbers of files. You can upload up to five files at a time and you can arrange them into folders. You can also share files with individuals or with groups; many groups are automatically generated but you can create your own.

The Learning Materials Filestore does not support secure connections so should not be used for highly sensitive data.

Using the University Version Control System

The University runs a private instance of GitHub to facilitate collaboration using Git, a distributed version control system. It is intended only for academics and research staff at the University. Repositories within the system can be made accessible to all logged-in users, or may be restricted to individuals and teams.

The version control system is designed with software source code in mind but may be used in other ways. While it is possible to share and collaborate on binary files using the system, the tools available for working with Git are optimised for text files such as XML, JSON, CSV and plain text.

Using external cloud storage

External services such as DropBox, Google Drive and OneDrive can be a convenient way of sharing files, but you should be aware of the following issues.

  • They may store your data in a way that breaches Data Protection legislation.
  • They should be considered fragile from the point of view of security and reliability, and should never be relied on as the sole location of a file.
  • At least one other person at the University of Bath must have access to the files.
  • Some client applications cannot be installed on University PCs; in general only Web clients should be used.

Computing Services provide more advice on storing information in the cloud. You should avoid using external cloud storage if you are working with sensitive data; you should use the sharing facility of files.bath instead.