Personal computers can be used to conduct University research, if your research grant/contract allows (please contact the Division of Sponsored Programs if you are unsure) and with IRB approval if gathering human subjects data.  This guidance provides recommendations and requirements on how to securely collect, analyze, and store research data using a personal computer, but you must consult with your local IT contact to confirm everything has been implemented appropriately before using your personal computer for research.  All research data collected at the University of Iowa is owned by the institution and therefore, all researchers must abide by UI policies and procedures.  


Desktop Security Recommendations and Antivirus Software 

To protect your computer from potential threats posed by viruses, spyware, and malware, it is essential to have current antivirus software and updated virus definitions installed on your system.  If you’re handling Restricted or Critical datait is imperative that your computer is equipped with the latest security software at all times. Additionally, you should be connected to the UI VPN when working with research data. For additional guidance and assistance, reach out to your department's IT support staff.  Recommended antivirus options and other guidance provided in the links below.


Data Storage, Backup, Recovery, and File Sharing 

If your project is Sponsored, all research data must be handled in accordance with the terms of the award.

ITS highly recommends that all research data, no matter the sensitivity, be stored on UI-managed network storage services instead of directly on your computer.  Restricted and Critical data should never be stored directly on your personal computer. If you must use an external USB for storage, the storage device should be encrypted.  Please refer to this page for guidance on how to encrypt an external USB. For a list of what kinds of data can be used with what services, please visit the ITS Data Classification Guide.

UI Network storage drives can be mapped to your computer. Please visit the ITS webpages or contact ITS Helpdesk about how to map UI storage drives to your device. For a list of recommended Research Storage drives, click here

In terms of file sharing, ITS highly recommends using UI OneDrive to share and collaborate on research data.  Other file transfer mechanisms should be considered if UI OneDrive is not an option (e.g. SFTP, SMB, etc.). Emailing research data is strongly discouraged.


Using Zoom for research studies 

Zoom is a communication platform that allows users to connect with video, audio, phone, and chat. Consider sensitive data (i.e. FERPA, HIPAA, etc.) restrictions before deciding whether your meeting should be recorded or not. Cloud recordings should not be enabled without first consulting with your local IT representative, ITS, or the IT Security Office.  Local recordings should be saved to a UI network drive and not to a location directly on your personal computer.  For guidance on securing Zoom meetings, refer to these links: 

Supported Operating Systems and Software 

ITS recommends and supports the University standard operating systems.  Please contact ITS or your departmental IT staff for more guidance on what versions of Windows, Mac, and Linux are supported. 

Software applications that have been reviewed and approved for use with different classifications of university data can be found on at the link below. If the software or application you’d like to use for your research (during data collection, data analysis, or data storage) is not listed in the below link, you may need to complete a Technology Review and a Security Review


Special Security Considerations for Computers 

Theft or loss of computers is an unfortunate reality which require special steps both to the reduce the risk of financial loss and to protect the data that may be stored on the device. ITS recommends that everyone take the following steps to minimize these risks: 

  • All computers that run Windows or MacOS should be encrypted, especially if you are working with research data or any other kind of University data. All UI-managed computers are encrypted during the imaging process. For more information about encryption, please click here and/or contact ITS or your departmental IT staff. 
  • Physically secure your computer while in your office, at home, or in public. 
  • Your computer should have a login password enabled.  The password should follow UI Password Policy
  • If you will not be near your computer for any significant length of time, make sure to lock your computer or sign out and/or ensure the lockout screensaver is set to no longer than 15 minutes, even if it is in a locked office. 
  • Minimize the storage of sensitive information on computers as much as possible. Only use UI-managed data storage services to store and backup research data. 
  • In the event of any theft or loss of a computer that may have contained University data, notify IT Security Office as soon as possible. 


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Last updated: 
December 7, 2023