Vendors and Tools

Should I store my data externally with a cloud vendor?

Cloud vendors and software as a service (SaaS) providers - e.g., AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Dropbox - are often used by Harvard researchers. 

It is important to consider the risks associated with using data storage or data management systems outside of Harvard, especially those hosted by commercial vendors. Several risks include (but are not limited to):

  • Data ownership can be compromised.
  • Data security is not maintained or monitored by Harvard.
  • Costs for data storage can change.
  • Data may not be protected if the vendor goes out of business.
  • Uncertainty of where your data are hosted.

You can mitigate these risks by working with service providers who have agreements negotiated by Harvard Strategic Procurement and/or HUIT Vendor Management. They have clarified the terms of use to assure clear ownership of data and data usage rights, security requirements, pricing, and expectations behavior should the service be discontinued. We recommend that you engage with these groups if you are considering working with new providers as well. 

Given the need for timeliness and the often-ephemeral nature of the use of services like this, it may not always be possible to have terms reviewed at the time of need. Therefore, you may wish to consider personally reviewing the terms under which a provider is allowed to use your data, consider how might a data breach impact your research or research subjects, and have a clear plan, which does not rely on the provider, to recover your data and results.

What negotiated agreements does Harvard have with cloud vendors?

Cloud Providers with Harvard negotiated agreements:

Harvard has negotiated Enterprise Agreements with all three of the major Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Cloud providers. For all three vendors, by working through us you gain the following benefits:

  • Terms and Conditions that have been reviewed and approved by Harvard Office of the General Counsel (OGC).
  •  Security and Privacy: HUIT can help you to provision for privacy and security and to take compliance measures that support Harvard’s policies and recommendations
  • Termination and Suspension: HUIT can help you address any account suspension or termination and will work directly with the vendors on assistance to Harvard
  • Billing, Reporting, and Auditing: HUIT provides centralized, direct billing, account management and reporting, with possible volume discount incentives on pricing.

To leverage Harvard’s agreements, please visit and open ticket requesting a consultation on cloud services

Current features of agreements:

  • AWS
    • Enterprise Discount
    • Enterprise Support: Harvard has negotiated for Enterprise Support for all accounts under the program, with an enhanced support offering available to those with large or mission-critical operations for an additional fee.
    • Direct Billing
    • Waived Data Egress charges
  • Azure Microsoft
    • License Mobility
    • Direct Billing
    •  Waived Data Egress charges
  • Google 
    • Direct Billing
    • Waived Data Egress charges

How are Electronic Lab Notebooks (ELNs) used at Harvard?

An Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) is a software tool that in its most basic form replicates an interface much like a page in a paper lab notebook. With an ELN, you can enter protocols, observations, notes, and other data using your computer or mobile device. This offers several advantages over the traditional paper notebook. ELNs at Harvard offer the potential to facilitate research in a rapidly changing data-focused world. From data acquisition to computation and publication, ELNs have the potential to make the management, sharing and publication of research data easier while offering additional features, like improved accessibility, in order to further empower researchers. 
We recognize that usability of any tool is critical to its success. For this reason, the Data Management Working Group at Harvard Medical School has created an ELN Features Matrix to help researchers understand the capabilities of the multitude of available ELN solutions.
Increasingly, ELN solutions are used not only at a laboratory setting, but also for a varierty of research groups in the life, phyical, or natural sciences, to track and organize all documentation, data, and decisions related to their project.
Explorations are underway to evaluate the potential utility of ELNs in multiple disciplines across the university, and offer support for an ELN general-purpose solution to Harvard researchers.