Overview: Research File Service

The Research File Service (RFS) provides a reliable, resilient, secure, and scalable University-approved central storage facility for active research data. RFS users are provided with the assurance that their research data is safely protected, and accessible.   

RFS was launched to University of Oxford research staff on 30 March 2023, on Ceph storage accessed via SMB (network drive) across the University network or through VPN from outside the University, for public and internal (non-confidential) files.   

Server Message Block (SMB) enables file sharing, printer sharing, network browsing, and inter-process communication (through named pipes) over a computer network. RFS uses version 3 of the SMB protocol which offers performance improvements over slow networks, and end-to-end encryption.  

In early 2024, RFS released additional functionality, offering web front end access. Web access enables the RFS project team to offer RFS to both internal research staff and their external guests, working in collaboration with one another.  

The investigation and development of new features for RFS over the coming years will be important to ensure the service continues to meet the needs of as many Oxford researchers as it can. Please do periodically check our pages for updates about the latest features, and do get in touch at rfs-help@it.ox.ac.uk if you have any further questions about future plans for the service.

Details of how to set up new users and request storage: RFS owners' guide 

Details of how to access and use RFS: RFS users' guide  

You can find out more about RFS through the information below, or by joining the RFS Teams User Group using the joining code 8l48j0t.

Expand All

Principal Investigators (PIs) and researchers from any division are invited to request storage.   

There are two service requests for RFS. The first stage is to request RFS storage:

Request storage for RFS  

Please ensure you discuss your research storage requirements with your local IT Support team before requesting RFS storage, to ensure RFS is the most appropriate place for your research data. A decision tree has been created to help with this.  

Owners will receive a confirmation email that your RFS storage has been set up. Once you map your drive to \\connect.ox.ac.uk\RFS (instructions are in the RFS users' guide) you will see any projects you’ve been given access to. 

With this service request, you can also:  

  • Request for a project to leave RFS storage  

  • Change the amount of RFS storage  

  • Change the end date or when RFS storage is required until

  • Change RFS owners  

The second stage is to request access for users:  

  • All RFS users need a CONNECT AD account. Users or project owners can request these through the RFS User Access service request. You need to do this only once for each user. If a user already has a CONNECT AD account, you can skip this step.

  • If you are one of the named project owners and you do not already have a CONNECT AD account, a CONNECT AD account will be set up for you by default when you first request storage. There is no need to raise a separate RFS User Access service request. We do ask that you name two owners, in case one leaves or is absent.

Request RFS user access

Once a new User Access request has been actioned, the owners of the storage will be able to manage RFS read-only or read/write access to their project data for this user. Details of how to do this and how to review the amount of storage available using Active Roles Server are provided in the RFS owners' guide.

Please note: Owners must ensure that access is revoked promptly when staff or students no longer require access to the project data, for example due to leaving the University or changing roles. Owners must not rely on University card expiry for this purpose. 

PIs must ensure that all access permissions are reviewed on at least an annual basis. 

Automatic screen locking after a defined period of inactivity must be configured on any end-user device used to access the service, including any self-managed systems. Users should not rely solely on this to protect access to data, and should lock the screen manually or log out whenever leaving systems unattended.

Once your CONNECT AD account is set up and the project owner(s) grant your access permissions, you can map to \\connect.ox.ac.uk\RFS (instructions are in the RFS users' guide) to see all projects you’ve been given access to.

To access RFS via the web, please navigate to http://files.rfs.ox.ac.uk/ and use your Oxford SSO credentials to log in.

RFS is free at the point of service for researchers wanting to store up to 20TB of research data. For research projects that require larger volumes of data storage (>20TB) a cost will likely be incurred. We are currently working on the RFS pricing model, and this should be released shortly.

 

Please email rfs-help@it.ox.ac.uk with details of the help you require. This will raise a service request which will be passed to the Research Support Services team.

Anyone undertaking research at the University of Oxford can request storage for their research project on RFS, provided they require between 100GB and 20TB of storage. When requesting RFS, you must include the PI as one of the owners. Owners will be responsible for the storage they use and the data they store, and will be the first point of contact for any queries.

The team aims to respond to requests within two working days.

Please refer to the guidance provided on this webpage in the first instance, and contact the Research Support Services team to discuss any further training needs.

The owners of the project in RFS will be able to add other members of the research team to RFS, provided they have a CONNECT AD account. This can be requested through IT self-service

Details on how to access RFS are provided in the RFS users' guide.

The minimum storage you can request is 100GB. The maximum available per project is 20TB. However, to enable the service to manage storage efficiently (and to facilitate offering a free tier to all), storage will be allocated on an as-needed basis.

Initial storage allocations will typically be up to 2TB. Exceptions can be made if substantial project data already exists: please contact the Research Support Services team if this applies to your project.

This allocation can be increased over time if needed. Once you are using over 50% of your storage allocation, you can ask for an increase by submitting an RFS service request via IT self-service. (If you are not yet using 50% of your allocation, but expect incoming data to take you over your current limit, please contact the Research Support Services team).

 Files or data in any format can be stored in RFS.

You can share your data with any internal research colleagues (within the University of Oxford) who have access to RFS through SMB. Internal colleagues must have a CONNECT AD account to access RFS. This can be requested through IT self-service. New users will be provided with an initial CONNECT AD password by the Service Desk, and can then be added to projects. Accounts will expire if users do not log on for over 375 days.

RFS users should ensure they lock their screens or log off when leaving their PC unattended. It is the owners' responsibility to remove users who are longer working on their research project from RFS. This housekeeping should be undertaken periodically and at least annually.

External guests are expected to include collaborators from other academic institutions, industry partners, or independent researchers. RFS is not for large-scale or public sharing. If an RFS user can have access to a CONNECT account (an internal user), they must be added by this route (ox.ac.uk email addresses cannot be added as external users).

Instructions for inviting external users can be found in the RFS owners' guide, as this is only an option for RFS project owners. RFS owners are responsible for external users and should review access regularly, removing external users where no longer appropriate.

The Information Security team have recommended that, as there is no multi-factor authentication for SMB, only public and internal (non-confidential) files are stored in RFS. 

Should RFS become a suitable solution for confidential data in the future, we will update our pages and communications to reflect this change. However, please be aware there are wider investigations ongoing at the University at present to explore improving the options available for researchers working with sensitive or confidential data.

As this is a secure system, you cannot share your data publicly from RFS.

Your data is encrypted and is backed up in RFS, utilising a combination of the Private Cloud: Secondary Storage (Scality) service for storing backup copies and Veeam (as an industry leader for backups and disaster recovery. Furthermore, Windows shadow copies, previous versions of your data that you can retrieve, are taken three times a day at 0900, 1200 and 1500 and kept for up to a week.

Windows users have the option to restore a folder (not individual files) themselves. Details of how to restore from these are provided in the RFS users' guide. Mac and Linux users should email rfs-help@it.ox.ac.uk with details of which folder they need to be restored.

Data should be removed prior to the end date of the project, as your access will be revoked on that date. Any data remaining after that date is liable to be deleted by the RFS team. Please plan well ahead of time and talk to rfs-help@it.ox.ac.uk if necessary. 

Other storage is more suitable for archives: details can be found on Research Data Oxford's Post-project data preservation page. 

You can request storage for as long as your research project is working with it. You will be asked to state an end date when requesting your storage, but you can always change this end date via the Change RFS End Date request through IT self-service.

RFS is the reliable, resilient, secure, scalable and accessible University-approved central storage facility for all active non-confidential data, which is accessed regularly. Data is only visible and / or editable by identified collaborators and is not accessible by the public. Data is held at project level, within folders. RFS offers an alternative to local storage options for up to 20TB of active research data per project. Once the project is completed, data from RFS can be moved to one of the University’s archive services, or a funder-prescribed archive.

The Data Pathfinder tool provides a guide to other research-related storage options, including the Sustainable Digital Scholarship (SDS) and the Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) service. A summary is also available on the Storing your files page.