Comprehensive Data Management Planning & Services

Managing Imaging Data

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High-resolution CT dataset from an Iphone6, reconstructed in Bitplane Imaris, created at the BRC Imaging Facility

The Need

The Biotechnology Resource Center (BRC) Imaging Facility provides access to a variety of customer-operated light microscopy platforms. Over 300 individual operators from 115 labs across 35 departments schedule time each year. In aggregate, they produced >10TB of data in 2015 and will likely exceed 20TB in 2016 as the power and number of the instruments grow.

In addition to light microscopy, the facility offers micro and nano CT (Computerized Tomography) services which generate ~5TB per year. The largest projects may collect ~1TB of data while a typical set of scans for a researcher average around 5-10GB.

The Challenge

Facility customers expect flexible, easy ways to move data from the place it has been generated to their own labs or to access it from data analysis workstations provided by the facility. File sizes are so large that the data is usually downsampled in order to analyze and otherwise interact with them. The Facility has submitted data management plans to funding agencies that guarantee data is archived for three years.

The Solution

Several different solutions are used by researchers of the facility according to their preferences and needs. The facility leverages multiple technologies and services to deliver options that serve a large portion of the user needs. 

Moving the data off of the microscope is the first step in any workflow, since the acquisition systems are not an appropriate place to store data. Keeping these machines free of data makes it easier to recover from a hardware failure or other disaster by allowing a simple replacement of the operating system and control software. User settings and other configurations are protected with special backup procedures and can be easily re-deployed to a fresh image.

Some researchers use 'sneakernet' to transfer data by moving their images from the acquisition system to a portable hard drive or flash device and then returning to the lab with their data. Although this method works, it may not be the most efficient, flexible or safest way to operate. Cornell University Enterprise Box provides an alternative that makes it easy to post and share data securely with both Cornell and non-Cornell researchers while accessing the files from any device at no direct costs to the staff, faculty or student. In fact, the CT portion of the facility frequently uses Box as a means to safely and efficiently deliver data to researchers.

The facility also provides a flexible and easy to use file share for customers as well as documentation on how to use it along with a data retention policy. There are no additional charges for the use of this service. Data on that share is available for one calendar year before being archived using CIT's EZ-backup archive storage.  Researchers can request the retrieval of archived data for up to three years.  

The primary file share is provided with Shared File Services (SFS), a service provided by IT@Cornell.  The service offers simple access and management, remarkable scaling and durability at a fair price. Customers can access their data from any device on the campus network or from anywhere in the world using Virtual Private Network (VPN) using familiar tools such as secure FTP or drive mapping.