Here's your chance: Tell IT what you need for data storage

With the goal of providing the best-fitting storage solutions for the university, information technology (IT) units across campus and a storage advisory committee want to know how and where employees and students store electronic files. So, they're asking.

Starting today, a customer survey is available on IT's Storage@ISU website, and the committee is asking every faculty and staff member and student to complete it.

Recent moves by storage vendors Box and Google to cap storage capacities for higher education clients started a broader discussion about campus storage needs, said committee chair Jason Shuck, who manages IT's systems operations team, which oversees data storage. Storage for electronic files has evolved dramatically in the last five years, he noted, particularly for research and video storage needs.

"We need to figure out as an institution what we're doing with storage so we can serve our customers. We have solutions we think would work, but we need members of the campus community to tell us what they're doing with storage, what they need it to do and what they want it to do," he said. "Then, we can determine if we have a solution to fit those needs today or if we need to pivot and find something that's a better fit."

Don't let the length deter you

It's not a two-minute survey -- each of seven sections contains 3-28 questions -- but that's mostly because it's the first time ITS is asking about data storage needs and there are a lot of things they hope to learn, Shuck said. The majority of staff, faculty and students won't need to complete all seven sections -- survey logic filters will guide each respondent through it -- but Shuck really wants everyone to open the survey and answer the sections relevant to their university work or studies.

"We want everyone to participate -- those for whom storage is a top priority as well as those who never really think about data storage as part of their job. Everyone is part of this equation," he said.

The sections inquire about:

  • Demographics: Who are you and how much data do you create?
  • Collaboration: Do you work with other people (inside, outside of ISU) on your data?
  • Data access: How do you get to your data and why?
  • Composition (includes a subsection on multimedia data): What kinds of data do you create or use?
  • Compliance: Do you work with data that requires compliance controls?
  • Data recovery: How do you back up your data and how long do you need to keep it?
  • Research storage: How much raw data do you generate and do you have unique requirements?

The survey asks respondents to distinguish between needs and wants, and to be honest about the distinction, Shuck said. It also asks respondents to answer for their use, not a unit or center or department.

The survey is anonymous and can be completed in multiple sittings, Shuck said. It shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to complete, and includes an option to provide an email address, which only would be used if the data storage team wanted to follow up on answers provided. Nearly all questions are multiple choice, but survey respondents may provide more information in open questions that ask what they like most/least about their current storage service.

How your input will be used

Shuck said the advisory committee and IT teams will prepare a summary report to be shared with IT leaders and used to shape decisions for the long term about storage solutions -- whether free or purchased -- that respond best to the survey results. The need vs want analysis -- and the possibility of achieving both -- would be part of the assessment, Shuck said.

Another goal is to develop a solutions matrix that could be used as data storage needs emerge or change among members of the campus community, he said. It would contain storage needs serviced, price (if any) and information links for would-be users.