The Research File System (RFS) at Indiana University

Important: Although Indiana University's Research File System (RFS) is secure enough for storing research-related electronic protected health information (ePHI) regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the system does not encrypt stored data. Consequently, you must encrypt ePHI research data before storing it on RFS. Even if your files are stored on an encrypted hard drive (e.g., using PGP Whole Disk Encryption), you still must encrypt your files individually (using an application such as AESCrypt) before transferring them to RFS. If you have questions concerning research involving HIPAA-regulated data, contact the UITS Advanced Biomedical IT Core (ABITC).

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

The Indiana University Research File System (RFS) is a centralized storage area based on OpenAFS. The IU RFS is 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. IU researchers can get 100 GB of disk storage at no charge. In addition to individual user directories, RFS offers project areas well suited for use by collaborative research teams. All users in a project area group have access to that area, and therefore can exchange files and collaborate. Group account owners can tailor access rights for individual users within their projects.

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?

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
Total disk space 50 TB
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 use Samba to mount or map to the RFS on my workstation?

    Note: When connected via Samba to the Research File System (RFS), transferring large files (2.5 GB or larger) to RFS or between RFS directories may cause your connection to drop; this also may cause problems on the RFS server. This is an issue with Samba connections only; if you need to move or copy files that are 2.5 GB or larger, connect to RFS using OpenAFS, SFTP, or RFSWeb. If you need help or have questions, email the Research Storage team.

  • 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 website 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 ePHI research data

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) established rules protecting the privacy and security of personal health data. The HIPAA Security Rule set national standards specifically for the security of protected health information (PHI) that is created, stored, transmitted, or received electronically (i.e., electronic protected health information, or ePHI). To ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI data, the HIPAA Security Rule requires organizations and individuals to implement a series of administrative, physical, and technical safeguards when working with ePHI data.

Although you can use this system for processing or storing electronic protected health information (ePHI) related to official IU research:

  • 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.

The UITS Advanced Biomedical IT Core provides consulting and online help for Indiana University 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 the 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.

Note: UITS HIPAA-capable resources are not recognized by the IU Committee of Data Stewards as appropriate for storing institutional data elements classified as Critical that are not ePHI data. For help determining which institutional data elements classified as Critical are considered ePHI, see Which data elements in the classifications of institutional data are considered protected health information (PHI)?

The IU Committee of Data Stewards and the University Information Policy Office (UIPO) set official classification levels and data management standards for institutional data in accordance with the university's Management of Institutional Data (DM-01) policy. If you have questions about the classifications of institutional data, contact the appropriate Data Steward. To determine the most sensitive classification of institutional data you can store on any given UITS service, see the "Choosing an appropriate storage solution" section of At IU, which dedicated file storage services and IT services with storage components are appropriate for sensitive institutional data, including ePHI research data?

Note: In accordance with standards for access control mandated by the HIPAA Security Rule, you are not permitted to access ePHI data using a group (or departmental) account. To ensure accountability and enable only authorized users to access ePHI data, IU researchers must use their personal Network ID credentials for all work involving ePHI data.

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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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This is document aroz in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2015-04-01.

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