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IT Connect

Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Unlimited Storage on UW Google Drive

Google Drive lets UW staff, faculty and students create, store, share and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets and presentations online. Storage space on Google Drive is unlimited and free to UW community members. Recently, UW-IT discovered two UW staff who are using Google Drive to experiment with storing massive amounts of data. Though these staff work in quite different areas — oceanography and architecture — they both see Google Drive as a viable solution for scalable storage that can save their departments a great deal of money.

The Armbrust Lab, School of Oceanography

Research Consultant Chris Berthiaume performs data analysis in the Armbrust Lab, a Biological Oceanography lab, where they use molecular approaches and combine lab-based and field-based studies to address basic questions about the function of marine ecosystems. Much of the data analysis performed in the lab pertains to genomic data sequencing and flow cytometry. Chris has been experimenting with putting raw, archived and shared project data in Google Drive. The general workflow Chris follows is to download unprocessed data to a server, analyze it, then upload back to Google Drive. He uses the web interface, desktop sync client, and a command-line Python program to interact with data on Google Drive. “On the command-line I see single file download speeds up to 65 MB/s and upload speeds up to 50 MB/s, though these numbers can vary with a floor of about 20 MB/s. The largest file I’ve uploaded is about 400GB.” Chris is evaluating whether Google Drive is a viable long-term solution for the lab’s storage needs. Criteria include bandwidth, speed of upload and download, and Google Drive’s ability to handle large data sets. “If it does enough of what we need, we won’t have to pay for another service.” Still, if Google Drive can help the lab limit the footprint of any file server they might purchase, it would be an excellent solution.

College of Built Environments

John Stamets was a lecturer in the Department of Architecture and Instructor of Photography in the College of Built Environments from 1992 until his unexpected passing in 2014. He left behind a very large photography collection: thousands of negatives and many thousands of digital images stored on external hard drives, each containing about a terabyte of data. Josh Polansky, Director of the Visual Resources Collection, said “John Stamets was an artist who taught our students how to use a camera and see architecture. He was a prolific photographer and he documented every phase of many construction projects in Seattle. Taking care of his digital work requires a lot of space and flexibility.” When Ross McKenzie, Senior Computer Specialist in the College of Built Environments, recalled that unlimited file storage is available from UW Google Drive, he checked it out to see how it could accommodate John’s collections. For the last few months, Ross has been uploading the files to Google Drive so that the collection can be inventoried. Each drive takes about a week to upload. “Since the computer cannot hold all of the data from all of those drives at one time, we needed to migrate each external drive up to Google Drive’s cloud one at a time.” The Stamets family has given John’s photographic work to the University of Washington Libraries. Once all of the images are uploaded to Google Drive, the College of Built Environments will be able to transfer these files to Special Collections where Visual Materials Curator Nicolette Bromberg can prepare them for future access at the UW and beyond.

Learn more about Google Drive. Note that Google Drive is FERPA compatible, but not approved for HIPAA (PHI) data.