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UITS Research Technologies

Cyberinfrastructure enabling research and creative activities

The Research File System (RFS) at Indiana University

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System retirement

The UITS Research Storage team will retire the Indiana University Research File System (RFS) in January of 2017. Given the age of the system's hardware, a recent decline in development of the OpenAFS file system, and other limitations, UITS has determined the RFS will be unable in the future to reliably provide the high levels of storage capacity, security, and performance that IU researchers require.

Retirement of the RFS is following this timeline:

  • Week of May 9, 2016: The option to create new RFS accounts was removed from the IU Access Management System.
  • Week of August 1, 2016: RFS accounts not updated since January 1, 2015, or earlier became read-only.
  • Week of August 8: RFS accounts not updated since January 1, 2016, or earlier became read-only.
  • Week of August 15: Remaining active accounts were evaluated.
  • Monday, October 17: Personal RFS accounts not updated since August 15, 2016, and projects not updated this year became read-only.
  • Week of January 2, 2017: RFS will be officially decommissioned and no longer accessible to users

Research Storage staff have notified RFS users regarding best practices and recommendations for migrating their data. See the following announcements:

However, to determine the best strategy for migrating your data, UITS recommends also consulting your local IT Pro. You should plan to migrate your data well in advance of the target dates indicated in the RFS retirement timeline.

For many users, particularly those who frequently share files or use desktop productivity applications (e.g., Microsoft Office), the IU Box service is a suitable replacement for RFS. For users working with sensitive data, Box at IU provides two special types of accounts:

  • Box Health Data Accounts: To use Box at IU for storing and sharing research data containing protected health information (PHI), you must use a Box Health Data Account (BHDA). BHDAs are set up, monitored, and audited by Clinical Affairs IT Service (CAITS).
  • Box Entrusted Data Accounts: To use Box at IU for storing and sharing non-health-related institutional data classified as Restricted, UITS recommends using a Box Entrusted Data Account (BEDA).
  • Important:
    Except for approved PHI, institutional data classified as Critical may not be stored in Box.

For more, see:

If you have questions about migrating RFS data, email the Research Storage group. If you have questions about the IU Box service, contact your campus Support Center.

System information

The Indiana University Research File System (RFS) is a centralized storage area based on OpenAFS. The IU RFS is compatible with all major operating systems, and accessible using various methods from on and off campus. RFS data are regularly backed up, and reside in physically secure environments on the IU Bloomington and IUPUI campuses.

The RFS is offline for regularly scheduled maintenance every Sunday 7am-10am.
System configuration
Machine type Research file system
Operating system Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5
Nodes 4 file servers
4 gateway nodes
Storage information
Network file system protocols
Total disk space 50 TB
100 GB (default) per user, 100 GB (default) per project; increases as needed
Backup and purge policies
The system is backed up nightly. Data recoveries are possible within 30 days of deletion. The system is never purged.
Aggregate I/O
4 Gbs (currently limited by network connection)

Accessing RFS

Although Indiana University's Research File System (RFS) meets certain requirements that enable it for use in storing research data that contain protected health information (PHI) regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the system does not encrypt stored data. Consequently, you must encrypt research data that contain PHI before storing them on RFS. Even if the data you are transferring are stored on an encrypted hard drive, you still must encrypt files individually (e.g., using AESCrypt) before transferring them to RFS. If you need help securely processing, storing, or sharing research data containing PHI, or have questions, contact UITS HIPAA Consulting.

You can access RFS from your personal computer using several methods; choose the method that best fits your work habits, operating system, and location:

  • Samba: The Samba interface is popular with Windows and Mac OS X users, because it lets you map (or mount) RFS on your desktop (like any other disk drive or a portable storage device). Via Samba, your RFS area appears as a desktop window filled with your folders and files. See At IU, how do I use Samba to mount or map to the RFS on my workstation?
  • Note:
    When connected via Samba to the Research File System (RFS), transferring large files (2.5 GB or larger) to RFS or between RFS directories may cause your connection to drop; this also may cause problems on the RFS server. This is an issue with Samba connections only; if you need to move or copy files that are 2.5 GB or larger, connect to RFS using OpenAFS, SFTP, or RFSWeb. If you need help or have questions, email the Research Storage team.
  • SFTP: If you routinely copy files that are 1 GB or larger, use SFTP, a fast, secure tool specialized for file transfer. SFTP is commonly used from the command line, but graphical SFTP clients are also available. See At IU, can I use FTP or SFTP to access my RFS space?
  • RFSWeb: RFSWeb is a secure website that lets you navigate to your RFS storage area using your web browser. It's accessible from on and off campus, and compatible with most operating systems. See At IU, what is RFSWeb and how do I use it?
  • OpenAFS client: The OpenAFS client is a somewhat advanced tool that works best under Linux, but Windows and Mac OS X versions are also available. The OpenAFS client displays your RFS storage area as part of your computer's local directory structure, and is well suited for high-volume, high-intensity work. Installing the client on your computer can be challenging, and it's helpful to have experience with the finer details of your operating system. See At IU, how do I install and configure OpenAFS on my workstation for use with the RFS?

Best uses for RFS

RFS is primarily a file system, and not intended as archival storage. Archival storage for IU researchers is available on the Scholarly Data Archive (SDA).

RFS is best suited for:

  • Storing relatively small files
  • Storing files that are updated frequently
  • Storing frequently accessed files
  • Storing files that need to be shared, especially group project work
Your applications can open files on RFS directly if you use Samba or the OpenAFS client to access your RFS space.

Do not use RFS for:

  • Backup storage; RFS is intended as working space, use the SDA to store backups
  • Storing concurrently updated files (e.g., Access databases)
  • Storing relational databases (e.g., MySQL or Postgre SQL databases)

Working with data containing PHI

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) established rules protecting the privacy and security of individually identifiable health information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule and Security Rule set national standards requiring organizations and individuals to implement certain administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of protected health information (PHI).

This system meets certain requirements established in the HIPAA Security Rule that enable its use for research involving data that contain protected health information (PHI). You may use this resource for research involving data that contain PHI only if you institute additional physical, administrative, and technical safeguards that complement those UITS already has in place. For more, see When using UITS Research Technologies systems and services, what are my legal responsibilities for protecting the privacy and security of data containing protected health information (PHI)? If you need help or have questions, contact UITS HIPAA Consulting.

Although PHI is a type of institutional data classified as Critical by the IU Committee of Data Stewards, other types of institutional data classified as Critical are not permitted on Research Technologies systems. Except for PHI, the most sensitive classification of institutional data allowed on Research Technologies resources is Restricted. For help determining which institutional data elements classified as Critical are considered PHI, see Which data elements in the classifications of institutional data are considered protected health information (PHI)?

In accordance with standards for access control mandated by the HIPAA Security Rule, you are not permitted to access data containing protected health information (PHI) using a group (or departmental) account. To ensure accountability and permit access to authorized users only, IU researchers must use their personal IU username and passphrase for all work involving PHI.


The RFS is maintained by the Research Storage team. If you have questions or need help, email Research Storage.