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Introducing Secure Space: Easy-to-Use Shared Storage for Collaborative Projects

May 24, 2011, Volume 57, No. 34

ISC is pleased to announce Secure Space, a new, web-based service that provides secure file storage to support collaboration with colleagues at Penn and other institutions. Secure Space is flexible and easy-to use, offering quick setup of storage spaces, user access controls, and free and paid spaces. The free space option will likely meet the needs of many projects and teams, while the paid option offers a more robust feature set, including support for authentication with credentials issued by other institutions. This feature has been in great demand by Penn researchers, whose external collaborators have often been reluctant to provide the sensitive personal information needed to obtain PennKey credentials. Please note that Secure Space is distinct from ISC’s Secure Share service, which is used to exchange sensitive or confidential information electronically.

How Secure Space Works

Secure Space offers a secure, local alternative to popular “cloud”-based, commercial options such as DropBox and BaseCamp. A faculty or staff member (“space owner”) can define a virtual storage space for documents, authorize users (“members”), and customize what they see in the space. A project milestone chart can be maintained and prominently displayed. Three access options are available: download/upload, download-only, or administrative access. Users can view, create, and remove folders; upload and download files; “lock” files to ensure that others don’t work on them simultaneously; and “watch” file activity. Files are encrypted while being uploaded, downloaded, and stored. Users can also view logs and access old file versions. (Certain of these functions are not available to “download-only” users.) All data are held at Penn, reducing some of the risks associated with commercial, cloud-based services.

Using External Credentials

As mentioned earlier, paid spaces allow authorized external users to use credentials other than PennKey to log in. If their institution is a member of the InCommon Federation, which includes nearly 300 members from higher education, government, non-profit, research, and commercial partners, external users can log in using their home institution credentials. (See www.incommonfederation.org/participants/ for a list of InCommon members.) If they do not have a username and password from an InCommon institution, or if their institution’s login system is not compatible with Penn’s, they can register for a free username and password from ProtectNetwork, a credentialing service that is an InCommon partner. To accommodate external credentials, logging in to Secure Space begins at a new screen, shown below, which allows users to choose PennKey/Penn WebLogin or the organization whose credentials they will use.

Free Space Features

• Maximum space size is 50 MB.

• Maximum number of spaces per owner is five.

• All users, including colleagues from other institutions, must be PennKey holders.

• Files are purged after one year of inactivity.

Paid Space Features

• Unlimited storage while an account is active.

• Access to previous file versions.

• Costs are calculated dynamically by space used, not by number of users. The rate is as low as $3 a month per GB based on duration of usage.

• Colleagues from other institutions can use external credentials.

Benefits of Secure Space

• Provides a secure, flexible, easy-to-use collaboration environment

• Supports collaboration with colleagues outside of Penn

• Reduces the University’s exposure to data compromise issues

• Mitigates many of the risks associated with commercial “cloud” services:

—Unavailability of data due to business failure, prolonged service interruptions, or poor backup practices

—Insufficient safeguards protecting sensitive information, including FERPA or HIPAA regulated data

—Off-shore data storage, potentially posing problems of foreign government access to data or export control problems

—Data ownership terms that give unacceptable rights to service owners

—Additional risks outlined in “Cloud Computing: Opportunities Used Safely,” (Almanac March 30, 2010).

If you are planning a new project or would prefer to have existing project files on a Penn server rather than “in the cloud,” we invite you to use Secure Space. Additional information and a link to Secure Space are available at www.upenn.edu/computing/security/secure-space/

—Robin Beck, Vice President, Information Systems & Computing

Almanac - May 24, 2011, Volume 57, No. 34