Editor's note: This story was updated Dec. 9.
Iowa State's new three-year contract with Box -- a Cloud data storage service branded internally as CyBox -- ends the era of unlimited storage for the academic community. In fact, Iowa State needs to reduce its current data storage in CyBox by about one-third before July 1, 2021, to avoid paying overage costs.
Cloud-based data storage options -- Microsoft's OneDrive and Google's Drive are others -- have long been generous to education clients with their no-limit data option, according to Jason Shuck, manager of the systems operations team in information technology services (ITS). He said those services have been overwhelmed by the "massive" storage practices of its university clients nationwide.
A project website, Storage@ISU, includes project details, timeline and an FAQ.
"Box is not unique in applying storage limits. All of these companies have realized that when they tell education clients 'unlimited storage,' education will use it," Shuck said. "They really can't afford what the academic community wants to use."
The university's new limit is 1.2 petabytes (PB) -- or 1.2 million gigabytes (GB) -- but roughly 30,000 ISU accounts currently use 1.8 PB of data storage. After first setting individual accounts at 25 GB, the remaining university allowance was distributed among colleges and units based on employee FTEs, proportional to Iowa State's overall FTE count. Shuck said those quotas were calculated in November and are being shared with the respective IT support teams this month.
"For the majority of our customers, these new limits will meet their needs," he said. "It's just getting used to new contract terms and the idea of quotas that were not there before."
Moving the university community toward June 30
ITS' plan for reducing the volume of data stored in CyBox establishes caps for individual and college/unit accounts and sets a series of deadlines between Jan. 11 and June 30. The deadlines give more time to owners of larger accounts to delete obsolete or duplicative data --or move it to another storage option. The plan also relies on CyBox account owners making time to clean out their own folders.
Sometime this month, an estimated 2,500 Iowa Staters, including about 500 students, whose accounts exceed 25 GB will receive an email from ITS alerting them they'll need to reduce their storage volume.
On each of three dates, as individual CyBox account quotas take effect, Shuck said users over that cap will have read-only access to their files. They won't lose any files or data, but won't be able to make changes without first deleting files to meet their quota.
Phasing in accounts to the new storage limits will follow these deadlines:
- Jan. 11, 2021: The 25 GB quota will be turned on for all individual accounts under that limit. Some good news, Shuck said, is that 93% of all individual accounts at Iowa State fit this category. In fact, the average is about 10.5 GB.
- Feb. 1: The 25 GB quota will be applied to all individual accounts between 25 and 100 GB. Customers with total storage above 25 GB will not be able to save any new data -- either new files or edits to old files -- until they reduce their storage below 25 GB.
- March 1: The 25 GB quota will be applied to all remaining individual accounts (users with more than 100 GB of stored data). While this is a relatively small number of accounts, Shuck said there are individuals whose accounts exceed a terabyte. ITS will help owners of unusually large accounts navigate the process.
- March 1: All colleges/units without a CyBox account will be assigned one and their quotas (based on the employee FTE calculation) will be set.
- June 30: Final deadline to meet all individual and college/unit data storage quotas to avoid overage costs to Iowa State, a rate of $130 per terabyte annually. That expense will be allocated to an individual's parent unit or the college/unit.
How to reduce your CyBox storage
ITS communications staff developed an article, Tips for Reducing Your CyBox Digital Storage Usage, in the IT portal knowledge library (storage category). It includes instructions for finding how much storage you're using, finding large files and obsolete files, deleting multiple versions of a file, deleting multiple files at one time and other tips.
How large a byte?
- Megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes
- Gigabyte (GB) = 1,000 MB
- Terabyte (TB) = 1,000 GB or 1 million MB
- Petabyte (PB) = 1,000 TB or 1 million GB
"If it's something you don't need, get rid of it," Shuck advised. "If it's critical to your job, don't get rid of it, no matter its size."
Another article, Migrate from CyBox to Microsoft OneDrive or Google Drive, assists account owners with the task of manually moving files to another storage service.
Faculty and staff who are finding it difficult to reach an individual or unit storage limit by their deadline should email email@example.com or contact their local IT support team for assistance.
Consider another storage option, maybe
In addition to Box, the university has contracts with Microsoft, whose Office package includes OneDrive, and Google, which offers Drive. All faculty, staff and students have access to the two services. OneDrive provides 25 terabytes of storage per individual account and Google still offers unlimited storage for education clients. Shuck said his team encourages use of these storage options for individual data, but not department-level or higher data. Units that are able to stay at or under their new limit are encouraged to keep their data in CyBox.
'We've learned that, for individual data, it really doesn't matter where people store it." he said. "We've also learned that some data stored in individual accounts actually belongs in a department account."
When an employee leaves the university, their Net ID is retired and all the data attached to that Net ID is erased with it. Thus, documents shared by many across a unit should be in a department/unit account, he said. Department data isn't tied to an individual employee and remains accessible to the Iowa State community.
Shuck also cautioned departments and colleges to avoid a patchwork of storage sites, noting it's confusing and difficult for users to find data when it's distributed across several locations.
Sponsored accounts are limited now
To prevent further increase in the university's Box usage, effective Dec. 4, IT Services will block new role (business) and affiliate (non-employee) accounts. A form in ServiceNow allows them to request access to CyBox, but they will receive a 0 GB quota and must store data in a college/unit account. The default for secondary (student employee) accounts will be access to CyBox, but student employees also should save all data to the college/unit account they work for.
New Box contract
Last winter, Box announced considerably lower storage limits at a price more than triple for all of its university clients. But following considerable, collective pushback, Shuck said the company negotiated more generous terms for academic contracts that started last July 1. Those terms will be enforced beginning this summer.