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Digital Storage - Your Stuff, My Stuff and Our Stuff

Posted: October 15, 2015

Where do we keep our stuff? All of us have an abundance of stuff – they even make television shows about us. If your house fills up with stuff, you rent a storage unit instead of boxing up the extras and storing them in your office, right? Just as you would not start carrying boxes of things into the office from home, we would ask that you not store your personal items on your Penn State computer!

The boundaries between our professional and personal lives are getting more and more blurry as people work longer hours and as technology weaves the two identities closer and closer together.  This merging of personal and professional lives is showing up more and more often in university settings when faculty and staff store more and more personal data on their work computers.  The problem is being seen nationally, and it is being seen in the College of Ag as well.

To forbid any use of a college computer for personal reasons would be a challenging policy to write, and even more challenging to enforce.  In fact, University Policy FN 14 allows that … “The use of email, internet, and office phone services for reasonable personal use is permitted if the University incurs no additional incremental cost for personal use.”

The key here is the incremental cost for personal use.  While any number of private companies provide huge amounts of cloud storage for free or for fee (Box, DropBox, iCloud, Google, etc.) our storage is not free.  The college pays for data storage on college-owned servers and it pays again for storage on the remote backup systems that protect our data.  If you sync your cell phone to your work computer – photos, music, movies, books, contacts, apps – that data can easily reach 30 gigabytes or more.  And then that data is backed up yet again.  There could be as many as three copies of this data at Penn State, and the costs do add up.  Adding to the load would be the number of digital camera downloads – hundreds of high definition photos and videos adding yet more data to the storage systems.

We in AgIT would ask you to partner with us in managing digital storage.  We ask that you do not sync your personal devices to Penn State resources – and to the extent that you have used your computer as a backup of personal information, we ask that you move that data to outside services such as Box and delete it from your Penn State computer.  In return, we will continue to back up your professional data and store it safely in a remote location, and we will manage the storage and the cost of the storage in a responsible way.