Compare file storage options

Compare file storage options

Staff and postgraduate researchers have a number of options when it comes to storing files:

Our full comparison table will help you select the best tool for your needs. You may prefer to choose just one system, and then keep all your data in one place. Or, you may prefer to spread your data across more than one system.

  • If you are an undergraduate or taught postgraduate student, you may prefer to store your files on OneDrive.
  • If you are a researcher looking to archive/publish post-project data which will not change, then PURE may be the right option for you.

All three options (Network Drives, SharePoint, Strathcloud) store their data on the University's centrally-managed storage.

Feature Option
Network drives SharePoint Strathcloud
On-site storage ✔ ✔ ✔
Replicated between two buildings ✔ ✔ ✔
Backed up to tape ✔ ✔ ✔
Supported client platforms
  • Mac
  • Unix
  • Windows
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Mac
  • Unix
  • Windows
  • Windows Phone
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Windows Phone

Unix users can use web client only.

Accessible off-site ✔ ✔ ✔
Sync with local machine  ✖ ✔ (except Unix)
Suitable for individual data (i.e. not shared) ✔ ✔ (MySites) ✔
Suitable for group data (shared with defined members of a group) ✔
Possible to share with external collaborators ✔ ✔
Possible to share data “anonymously” ✖ ✖ ✔
Scalability (i.e. how much data can I put on it) Very large Small Medium (see here)
User interface Basic/simple Very rich Rich
Self-service restores  ✔ ✔
“Checkout” of documents ✔ ✔
Need input from local/departmental IT staff to get started?

✖ (H: drive)

✔ (i: drive)

✔ ✖ (individual data, or short-term shared data)
✔ (long-term shared data)
Main target audience All users Staff/PGRs Staff/PGRs
Product maturity Mature/established Mature/established Recent/developing
Performance (speed of upload/download) Very fast (see here) Medium Medium (see here)

✤ = Windows only

Explanatory notes

On-site storage

The University has made a large investment in on-site storage. This reduces the risks around security and privacy posed by storing University-owned data on external servers. Information saved on network drives, SharePoint and Strathcloud is stored on-site.

Replicated between two buildings

Data is replicated between buildings, so that if an entire datacentre or building is lost (e.g. due to fire), then the copy in the other building can be brought online. In the unlikely event of this happening, a maximum of 15 minutes-worth of the most recent changes may be lost, but all other data will be intact.

Backed up to tape

Data is backed up to tape by Information Services automatically, in a third/fourth building. Therefore, you do not need to perform your own backup.

Supported client platforms

We autoamtically map network drives on Windows computers in the University's DS domain. Network drives can be manually mapped from Windows machines outside the DS domain. You can also access network drives from Unix, Macs and mobile devices.

Sharepoint uses a web interface, so is accessible from anywhere.

Strathcloud has a both a web interface (available on all platforms) and a local client (all platforms except Unix). Normally, users interact with the local client, though there are a few functions which must be carried out through the web interface. The local client handles sync between the local machine and server, so note that the lack of a Unix client means that Unix/Linux users cannot sync data to their local machine.

Accessible off-site

You can access network drives off-site through VPN, PEGASUS and Strathcloud Network Shares.

You can access SharePoint and Strathcloud when off-campus using the same interfaces as when you're here.

Sync with local machine

Although all services can be accessed online from anywhere in the world, you may also want to have an up-to-date copy on your local machine.

Network drives offer limited support for this, on Windows only, using the “offline files” feature. We advise you to check with your faculty/departmental IT support before enabling this, as some departments use offline files, while others recommend against it. “Offline files” syncs data both ways, but will only work if your client machine is on-campus. If you go off-campus, you will still have a local copy of your data, but it will not sync with the server again until you come back on campus.

Sharepoint does not support sync with the local machine.

Strathcloud fully supports it, on and off campus, on all platforms except Unix.

Suitable for individual data/group data

Network drives facilitate both individual data (through the H: drive), and shared/group data (through the i: drive). Sharepoint is mainly targeted at shared/group data, but individual data is also catered for, through “MySites”. Strathcloud has areas for both individual and shared/group data. On all three systems, the users you’re sharing with can be given either read/write permissions, or read-only permissions.

Possible to share with external collaborators

All systems support sharing with external collaborators. In all cases, the external users should first be registered with a “limited access account” in the University’s active directory. Please contact your local/departmental IT support in the first instance, if you require accounts to be created for external collaborators.

Possible to share data “anonymously”

This refers to the ability for a Strathclyde user to log in, select a file, and allow someone external to the institution to see that file, without the external user needing to register for an account, or login. This cannot be achieved on Network Drives or Sharepoint, as all access to these systems requires a login. On Strathcloud, however, users will be able to email external users a (complex) URL for a file, which allows that external user to access the file (read-only) without logging in. Note, this option should not be used for sensitive/confidential data.

Scalability (i.e. how much data can I put on it)

Users should think carefully about the amount of data they have, when choosing a system. H: drive quotas start at 50GB for staff and PGRs, 2GB for under-grads, and can easily be increased on request. i: drive quotas vary enormously, and several departments/groups have quotas of tens/hundreds of terabytes, again these can easily be increased on request. Network Drives are therefore the best option for very large amounts of data.

SharePoint is suitable for small amounts of data, e.g. Word documents, spreadsheets, etc – a common scenario is for a researcher to place large data-sets on Network Drives, and the smaller collaborative documents which describe that data onto SharePoint.

Strathcloud falls somewhere between the above two options, in terms of scalability. Lots of storage will be potentially available to Strathcloud, but users may need to consider the potential performance problems in syncing/uploading large amounts of data between clients and the server.

User interface

Interacting with Network Drives is practically identical to interacting with files/folders on your local machine. For some purposes, this has an appealing simplicity - for other purposes, the lack of ability to annotate, link, and present the data is a limitation. By contrast, SharePoint has a rich interface, which is almost infinitely customisable, if you have the requisite knowledge – training may be advisable, if you want to use SharePoint to its full potential. Strathcloud sits between the two, with a user-friendly interface similar to Dropbox, OneDrive, etc, which most users will master fairly quickly.

Self-service restores/versioning

If you delete a file, or want to revert to an earlier version, you can do this on all three systems. SharePoint and Strathcloud provide this through the web interface, so it can be done on all platforms. Network Drives provide this through the Windows client, through the “Previous versions” feature.

“Checkout” of documents

This can be a useful feature when you're working from a shared folder, and you want to avoid clashes, from two people editing a file at the same time. Supported on SharePoint and Strathcloud.

Need input from local/departmental IT staff to get started

For individual data, you can get started straight away, using either your Network Drives (H: drive), or your personal space in Strathcloud, these will be set up for you in advance.

For shared data, you need someone in local/departmental IT support to initially set you up with a shared folder/area, or to grant you permissions on an existing shared folder/area, on all three systems.

Note that, on both Network Drives and on Strathcloud, while it is technically possible to share folders from within your own personal area, this is not advisable in most cases! The problem is that, if you (or whoever it was who shared the data) leave the University, then the account gets deleted, along with all the data associated with it. Therefore, if you’re sharing data on any sort of on-going basis, then it’s much better to take a few minutes to go and talk to your local/departmental IT support, and get it setup properly. Setting up a share yourself, within your own personal space, may be appropriate for “quick-and-dirty” file-sharing on a one-off basis, but that is all it’s good for!

Main target audience

Network drives have been available for many years, and H: drives are used by all types of user, including undergrad, postgrad and staff. i: drive has tended to be used mainly by staff, but there is nothing to stop local/departmental IT from setting up shared folders for students, or for a mixture of staff and students, too.

For SharePoint, again there is no technical reason why this can’t be used by all categories of user – though perhaps the greater complexities in initial setup have steered it more towards staff/PGRs.

In Strathcloud, the full functionality (including personal space) is available to staff and PGRs only, by default, due to the way it is licensed. Undergrads and PGTs have a reduced access, which allows them use data only if they have been specifically granted access to an existing shared-folder, or if a special request has been made to upgrade their status. Limited-access accounts (such as external collaborators) also have reduced access by default, but can be upgraded to full access on request.

Product maturity

While we go to great lengths to test and evaluate all our systems, there will inevitably be teething troubles and the occasional bug in new products. Network Drives and SharePoint have been in use at the University for several years, and have therefore had time to “settle down” and mature. Strathcloud is a relatively new product to the University, so users should understand that the potential for problems/bugs is greater.

Portable file storage

Please don't save important work on memory sticks/USB flash drives. You can lose them very easily, and they are a risk to cyber security.