Data Storage

Data Storage and Backups at CSAIL

TIG provides data storage in many forms: the AFS and NFS network file systems, as well as the Ceph object and block storage system. Together, these services comprise over 1PB of local data, much of which is backed up using enterprise backup hardware and software, and rotated through off-site storage facilities for disaster recovery.

CSAIL lab members are given space for file storage and sharing. Depending on where you need to access files from or who you want to share with, options are available to you.

NFS File System Services

In general, AFS is the recommended filesystem due to its added security and flexibility over NFS, but AFS does not provide high levels of performance in certain access patterns. TIG can provide high performance NFS service where it’s needed. Please contact TIG if you want to arrange to have access to a higher performance network filesystem in addition to the standard AFS storage space. NOTE: NFS is only accessible from the CSAIL network. If you do decide to request NFS storage, please see NFS storage for some information we would like you to provide when you make your request.

AFS File System Services

AFS is a distributed file system using Kerberos for authentication. It integrates nicely with Kerberos, is cross-platform compatible, has built-in redundancy, fault-tolerance, high availability, and backup/restore management. Plus, it supports a much more granular access control model than standard UNIX modes, including user-defined access groups and even unauthenticated/anonymous access if desired.

Data Security at CSAIL

Here you can determine how sensitive your data is and how to properly store and handle data of different security levels, particularly for Medium Risk. Also information on MIT’s Written Information Security Program (WISP)


All TIG provided network storage is backed up by default, though exceptions can be made by request. Nightly backups are kept for one week and then merged into weekly sets which in turn are kept for one month and merged into monthly sets. Monthly tapes are kept indefinitely though we only guarantee recovery for one year due to changing hardware and software environments (if you ask sweetly we can usually go back a bit further). Additionally AFS and the high-speed NFS have periodic snapshots that are kept online.


IS&T has licensed the Dropbox for Business service for the entire MIT community. Dropbox for Business provides the MIT community with large storage capacity and convenient access to data via Windows, MacOS, Linux and mobile native clients as well as via any web browser. With the Dropbox client, you can access your cloud data as though it was a folder on your local disk. Dropbox also lets you share portions of your cloud storage, with a number of different protection/authentication schemes. You can also provide both read and write access to other Dropbox users.

Dropbox is primarily intended to be a mechanism for sharing data rather than storing or archiving large data sets. Users that may have large amounts of data related to their academic or research pursuits can work with their supervisor and review our storage options.

Revision control