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File Sharing at Northwestern

Northwestern provides a variety of University-managed file sharing and collaboration options. To determine appropriate school and departmental file sharing strategies based on information sensitivity, the University community may consider the Service Guidelines.

Caution: When sharing and storing files, ensure access is limited to only individuals for whom the information is intended.

Usage Guidelines

Data Types and Examples


Public information that is available to all members of the University community and may be released to the general public.


Published calendars, course descriptions, maps, department directories, approved census facts, audited financials



Non-sensitive information that is intended for use by, and made available to, members of the University community.


Meeting agendas, project documents, team-building event details


Sensitive information that is intended for use by, and made available to, members of the University community who have a business need to know.


Salary plans, employment data, budgets, donor information, CTECs, patent information

Legally/Contractually Restricted

Information that is protected by applicable law or statute (e.g., FERPA, HIPAA, or the Illinois Personal Information Protection Act), or which, if disclosed to the public, could expose the University to legal or financial obligations.


PHI, SSN, PII, student records, medical records

Service Guidelines

Please use the following guidelines to determine which service(s) best fits your institutional/business needs among faculty and students.

All of the above University-managed file sharing and collaboration services are approved for use with Public and Internal (Non-sensitive) data for all data types subject to the guidelines of use listed below.

These services, with the exception of Google Apps, can also be used for Internal (Sensitive) and Legally/Contractually Restricted data with appropriate access control and management.

Access Control and Management

Compliance regarding access control and management of sensitive data (including HIPAA-protected data) in Box can be achieved through the use of SAFER (Sensitive Administrative Files E-Registry), a Box-interactive app designed to secure sensitive data and Legally/Contractually Restricted data. 

Northwestern Box

Northwestern Box provides unlimited cloud storage to students, faculty, and staff. The individual upload file size maximum is 15 GB. Northwestern Box can synchronize documents across various devices and allows users to easily share folders or files. File sharing with members of the University community or external colleagues does not require a NetID.

Learn more: Northwestern Box.


The University's centrally-hosted Microsoft SharePoint® infrastructure has collaboration and document-sharing features. A University NetID is required to access SharePoint sites on Northwestern Share.

Local school and department "site owners" are able to design and manage SharePoint site(s) serving specific local faculty and staff collaboration needs.

Learn more: Site Owner Resources.

Learn more about how to access or request SharePoint site collections: Collaboration Services SharePoint Overview.

Research Data Storage Service

Research Data Storage Service provides Northwestern researchers with a place to securely, locally store and share research data. This service is available to faculty, staff, and students and complies with most legally and contractually restricted data policies. This storage is considered HIPAA compliant. Daily snapshots for file backup are available to the user, as well as daily replication to a remote cluster for disaster recovery.

Learn more: Research Data Storage Service.

Northwestern File Servers

Consult with your local IT support team to determine whether a file server option is available within your work area. Designated technology staff interested in new file server hosting services in the University Data Center may learn more at Virtual Hosting Services.

Google @u Applications

The University's Google @u student collaboration suite can be used for file sharing among all undergraduate, graduate, and School of Professional Studies (SPS) students.

This service is available to students and faculty for collaboration on Public and Internal (Non-sensitive) information. File sharing with members of the University community or external colleagues does not require a NetID.

Learn more: Overview.

Please note:  Google @u should not be used for legally or contractually restricted information.

Last Updated: 5 March 2018

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