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💾 Research Data Storage and Databases

Mount Grid storage locally

Research storage is also accessible on Windows as a network drive at \\, via SMB on OSX/Linux at smb://, and via SSH at This is useful for viewing and copying small files, but will be slow for large data transfers. See the file transfer documentation.

HBS provides storage for active research projects. Research storage is typically used in conjunction with HBS Grid compute and accessed via NoMachine remote desktop as documented in the Userguide.

There are three different sets of storage locations that are available for research work, depending on the particular usage patterns, size consideration, and number of people involved in the work. These are the home foldersscratch folders, and project spaces.

Home folders

By default, when your grid account is created (whether this account is used for just storage or storage + compute), a home folder is created as well.

If you are logging in to the HBSGrid to do work via the NoMachine GUI or terminal, you are automatically placed in and are using this home folder. This is located at:


For example faculty member John Harvard's home folder would be at:


Home folders vary in size by the program or role that you have. When your space fills up, you will not be able to do any more work, which may lead to programs acting strangely or crashing altogether, disk error notices, or input/output errors. Keep an eye on your space usage and periodically remove any old files that are no longer needed.

Home folders are backed up every night. If you should need to recover any files due to accidental deletion or corruption, please contact RCS.

In addition to home folders, project spaces are another location of disk storage space, and are described in the next section.

Scratch storage

Whether you are doing batch or interactive work, at times you may need a temporary location to stash files that you will not keep, or your software may require a 'working', or temporary, directory. In most cases, you should not use your home folder, as there are quota limits, and the temporary needs may exceed the amount available.

The storage location at /export/scratch is designed specifically for this purpose. Note:

  • This is a shared area, so make sure permissions are set correctly.
  • Files older than 60 days will be deleted at monthly maintenance periods.
  • The /export/scratch filesystem is not backed up, so please copy back to your home or project folder any files or folders you wish to keep long-term.

Please see our RCS Policies page for more information about our scratch usage policies.

Project spaces

Project spaces (folders) are the primary, recommended location for storing and doing collaborative work on research storage, including HBS and guest user accounts. This is in contrast to home folders, which are accessible only by the account holder. Both home folders and project spaces are backed up every evening.

The default size is 50GB, with increases granted upon request and with space available. Keep an eye on the space usage, as project spaces that reach capacity will throw errors in programs and when transferring files, and data loss may result.

If you should need to recover any files due to accidental deletion or corruption, please contact RCS.

Requesting a project space

Project spaces can be set up with faculty sponsorship and/or approval by filling out the New Project Space Request Form.

If you are working with level 3 data or higher, we will ask you to submit documentation from the IRB or a Data Usage Agreement (DUA; a sample can be found here) so that we can ensure that the project space's security levels are appropriately set up. If you are unsure what level your data falls under, please review this page on data security.

If a project space already exists and you would like to make changes to the space users or size, fill out the Project Space Change Request Form. Once approved by the appropriate faculty member, the request will be put in to the ESS group at HBS IT.

Archiving a project space

Project space usage is reviewed and confirmed on a yearly basis. Inactive project spaces will be backed up and archived only after contacting the primary faculty sponsor. Archives are retained for the period of time specified by HU or HBS data retention policies, whichever is longest. If you would like to unarchive a project space, contact RCS.

For information about how to archive your data to an external drive, see our technical note on archiving your research files.

SQL Databases

RCS hosts a database server running MariaDB (an open source fork of MySQL) to help meet growing data storage needs. To obtain a database account, please fill out the New MariaDB Account Request Form. RCS also can advise researchers in data storage planning, as well as the building of and interacting with their database.

Connecting to your Database

Please contact us at for connection parameters including USER, HOSTNAME, and CA Certificates. Note that some clients (including DBeaver) require you to set the SSL CA Certificate. Connections from outside the HBS Grid always require an RCS-proviced SSL CA Certificate.


Most MySQL clients will read connection information from a configuration file found in ~/.my.cnf. This file is used to store connection details to the MariaDB server, such as account details and connection parameters. If you don't have this file (on the Grid) you may request a template or create your own with the following details:


A configuration file with all connection details enables database access by anyone with access to the file. Ensure that this file is not shared or accessible by anyone but you.


Please note that you will substitute jharvard and PASSWORD with your MariaDB username and password. For the other parameters such as HOSTNAME, please contact us at

Once your .my.cnf is ready, move it your home directory and adjust file privileges to ensure no one else can read the file. On the Grid or on a linux or Mac local machine, you may prevent others from reading the file by opening a Terminal and running this command:

chmod 700 ~/.my.cnf

You can connect to your database using any compatible client. If you already have one you like go ahead and use that. Otherwise we recommend one of the clients listed below.


Use connector-python to connect following the official documentation. It is recommended to use connection settings from ~/.my.cnf as described above.


Use RMariaDB or dbplyr, both use connection settings from ~/.my.cnf as described above.

DBeaver driver installation

The DBeaver client may prompt you to download a driver to connect to your database. This is usually safe, and drivers will be stored in your home directory, under ~/.local/share/DBeaverData/drivers


Use DBeaver to connect following the official documentation. Make sure to set the CA Certificate path in the SSL connection settings tab.


The mycli client uses connection settings from ~/.my.cnf as described above.

Additional MariaDB Resources