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The Research File System (RFS) at Indiana University

Important: Although the Research File System (RFS) is HIPAA-aligned, RFS does not encrypt stored data, so you must encrypt electronic protected health information (ePHI) before storing it on RFS. If your files are stored locally on an encrypted hard drive (e.g., using PGP Whole Disk Encryption), you still must encrypt the files individually (using an application such as AESCrypt) before transferring them to RFS. For other important considerations regarding work with ePHI research data, see the Working with electronic protected health information section (below).

On this page:

General information

At Indiana University, the Research File System (RFS) is a centralized storage area designed to support IU researchers. RFS is based on OpenAFS, compatible with all major operating systems, and accessible using various methods from on and off campus. RFS data are regularly backed up, and reside in physically secure environments on the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses.

Access is available to IU graduate students, faculty, and staff. Undergraduates and non-IU collaborators must have IU faculty sponsors. For details, see the "Research system accounts (all campuses)" section of What computing accounts are available at IU, and for whom?

IU researchers can get 100 GB of disk storage at no charge. In addition to individual user directories, RFS offers project areas for collaborative projects (e.g., research teams). All users in a project area group have access to that area, and can therefore exchange files and collaborate. Group account owners can tailor access rights for individual users within their projects. For more, see In RFS, what are projects?

Note: To keep pace with the growing needs of Indiana University researchers, Research File System (RFS) storage will be migrating in the near future from OpenAFS to a new technology from DataDirect Networks, Inc. (DDN), based on the General Parallel File System (GPFS). For more, see Information about upcoming changes to the Research File System at IU.

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System information

Note: The RFS is offline for regularly scheduled maintenance every Sunday 7am-10am.

System configuration
Machine type Research file system
Operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5
Nodes 4 file servers
4 gateway nodes
Storage information
Network file system protocols OpenAFS, CIFS (Samba), SFTP/SCP, HTTPS
Total disk space 50 TB
Quotas 100 GB (default) per user, 100 GB (default) per project; increases as needed
Backup and purge policies The system is backed up nightly. Data recoveries are possible within 30 days of deletion. The system is never purged.
Aggregate I/O 4 Gbs (currently limited by network connection)

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Accessing RFS

You can access RFS from your personal computer using several methods; choose the method that best fits your work habits, operating system, and location:

  • Samba: The Samba interface is popular with Windows and Mac OS X users, because it lets you map (or mount) RFS on your desktop (like any other disk drive or a portable storage device). Via Samba, your RFS area appears as a desktop window filled with your folders and files. See At IU, how do I map or mount my RFS account to my workstation?

  • SFTP: If you routinely copy files that are 1 GB or larger, use SFTP, a fast, secure tool specialized for file transfer. SFTP is commonly used from the command line, but graphical SFTP clients are also available. See At IU, can I use FTP or SFTP to access my RFS space?

  • RFSWeb: RFSWeb is a secure web site that lets you navigate to your RFS storage area using your web browser. It's accessible from on and off campus, and compatible with most operating systems. See At IU, what is RFSWeb and how do I use it?

  • OpenAFS client: The OpenAFS client is a somewhat advanced tool that works best under Linux, but Windows and Mac OS X versions are also available. The OpenAFS client displays your RFS storage area as part of your computer's local directory structure, and is well suited for high-volume, high-intensity work. Installing the client on your computer can be challenging, and it's helpful to have experience with the finer details of your operating system. See At IU, how do I install and configure OpenAFS on my workstation for use with the RFS?

    If you have an account on Quarry, the OpenAFS client is already installed. Your RFS storage area will appear as part of the cluster's directory structure.

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Requesting an account

To request an account on the Scholarly Data Archive (SDA) or Research File System (RFS), use the Account Management Service (AMS):

After submitting your account request, UITS will notify you via email when your account is ready for use.

For eligibility requirements, see the "Research system accounts (all campuses)" section in What computing accounts are available at IU, and for whom?

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Best uses for RFS

RFS is primarily a file system, and not intended as archival storage. Archival storage for IU researchers is available on the Scholarly Data Archive (SDA).

RFS is best suited for:

  • Storing relatively small files

  • Storing files that are updated frequently

    Note: Your applications can open files on RFS directly if you use Samba or the OpenAFS client to access your RFS space.

  • Storing frequently accessed files

  • Storing files that need to be shared, especially group project work

Do not use RFS for:

  • Backup storage; RFS is intended as working space, use the SDA to store backups

  • Storing concurrently updated files (e.g., Access databases)

  • Storing relational database (e.g., MySQL or Postgre SQL databases)

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Working with electronic protected health information

Although this and other UITS systems and services have been approved by IU by the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel (OVPGC) as appropriate for storing electronic protected health information (ePHI) regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), if you use this or any other IU IT resource for work involving ePHI research data:

  • You and/or the project's principal investigator (PI) are responsible for ensuring the privacy and security of that data, and complying with applicable federal and state laws/regulations and institutional policies. IU's policies regarding HIPAA compliance require the appropriate Institutional Review Board (IRB) approvals and a data management plan.

  • You and/or the project's PI are responsible for implementing HIPAA-required administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to any person, process, application, or service used to collect, process, manage, analyze, or store ePHI data.

Important: Although UITS HIPAA-aligned resources are managed using standards meeting or exceeding those established for managing institutional data at IU, and are approved by the IU Office of the Vice President and General Counsel (OVPGC) for storing research-related ePHI, they are not recognized by the IU Committee of Data Stewards as appropriate for storing other types of institutional data classified as "Critical" that are not ePHI research data. To determine which services are appropriate for storing sensitive institutional data, including ePHI research data, see Comparing supported data classifications, features, costs, and other specifications of file storage solutions and services with storage components available at IU.

For more, see:

The UITS Advanced Biomedical IT Core (ABITC) provides consulting and online help for IU researchers who need help securely processing, storing, and sharing ePHI research data. If you need help or have questions about managing HIPAA-regulated data at IU, contact Anurag Shankar at ABITC. For additional details about HIPAA compliance at IU, see HIPAA & ABITC and the Office of Vice President and General Counsel (OVPGC) HIPAA Privacy & Security page.

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The RFS is maintained by the Research Storage team. If you have questions or need help, email Research Storage.

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Last modified on April 09, 2014.

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