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Data storage and transfer

Storage overview

There are four complementary filesystems where you can store your data.

Name Path Alias Backup Purged Quota Notes
home /home/$USER ~ No No 15 GB, 100k files Redundant, SSD
data /data/$USER ~/data No No 200 GB Redundant, SSD
scratch /scratch/$USER ~/scratch No 1 month 20 TB Redundant, HDD
scalable storage /shares/<PROJECT> see below No No As per cost contribution Redundant, HDD, Cost contribution


If you and/or your group is planning to transfer more than 50TB (50 terabytes) of data into the ScienceCluster, please contact us in advance.

Data archiving


In case you have data in scalable storage which is not needed for computing, we strongly recommend you to think about archiving the data.

Central IT (ZI) offers a long-term storage (taping) for 5 or 10 years for the cheaper price than our scalable storage. Data has to be pre-zipped/tarred into directories up to 5 Tb in size (no 0 byte files) and simply copied to the long-term storage (LTS) NAS.

Read more about it here (under UZH login), order it through your IT coordinators here or ask for more information about it via ticketing system.



To see an overview of your storage usage, run the command quota from a login node. If you exceed the quota, you will not be able to write to that file system.


Each user has a home directory where configuration files, source code, and other small important files can be stored. The directory has a limit of 100,000 files and/or 15 GB of used space. The quota makes it impractical for large data storage or software installations.


For persistent storage of larger files, you can use the data filesystem (~/data or /data/$USER). It has a limit of 200 GB and it is not backed up (as is the case also for the other storage). This filesystem is also appropriate for software installations.


The scratch filesystem (~/scratch or /scratch/$USER) is for the temporary storage of large input data files used during your calculations. Each user has a quota of 20 TB. The maximum file size is limited to 10 TB. Please note that this filesystem is meant for temporary storage only. According to the service agreement, any files older than 30 days are subject to deletion.

Scalable storage

Scalable group storage has no quota but requires a cost contribution based on the actual usage. The default permissions are set so that each member of the project has access to the shared folder, which can be found at this path: /shares/<PROJECT>. (In this case, replace <PROJECT> with your actual project name.)

You can create a symlink called shares in your home directory that points to this shared group folder:

ln -s /shares/<PROJECT> ~/shares

Data transfer

You can transfer files with the scp command. The first argument is the source file while the second argument indicates the target location. For example, you can copy a file from your computer to the data directory on the cluster by running the following command on your computer.

scp my_local_file.txt <shortname>

To copy a file from the cluster, you specify the server and the remote path as the first argument and local path as the second. For example, you can copy job_results.txt that resides in your scratch directory on the cluster to your computer by running the following command on your computer.

scp <shortname><shortname>/job_results.txt .

The . (i.e., "dot") character stands for the current directory. You can specify any other location either with an absolute path or path that is relative to your current directory.

As well, you can transfer the whole directory using an -r flag.

scp -r my/local/dir <shortname>

However, for transfers that involve many files or directories, it is often more efficient to use rsync. This program synchronises files between the source and destination. Thus, if your transfer fails or if only some of your files have been updated, rsync would be more efficient as it does not transfer the identical data present in both locations. For example, the following command can be used in place of the previous scp command.

rsync -az --progress my/local/dir <shortname>

As with scp, the first location is the source file/directory while the second is the target location. The -a flag invokes the archive mode that, roughly speaking, recreates the structure and permissions of the source directory on the target machine. The -z flag instructs rsync to compress the data before the transfer, which can make the transfer faster especially when your connection speed is low. As the name suggests, the --progress option would show the transfer progress information.

Before running the synchronisation, you can run the command with -n to preview which files will be transferred. It is necessary to specify --progress in this case. Otherwise, rsync will not display any output.

rsync -azn --progress my/local/dir <shortname>

You can exclude files and directories from synchronisation with --exclude. This parameter can be specified multiple times. For example, the following command will ignore all files and directories named cache as well as all files that have .tmp extension.

rsync -azn --progress --exclude='cache' --exclude='*.tmp' my/local/dir <shortname>

By default, rsync does not remove any local files even if they have been deleted from the source directory. The deletion of old files can be enabled with --delete. It is strongly recommended to preview the changes with -n before running rsync with the --delete flag. If you specify the wrong target directory, all files in that directory will be deleted without confirmation.

rsync -az --progress --delete <shortname> my/local/target

Trailing slash at the end of the source directory instructs rsync to synchronise the contents of the source directory rather than the directory itself. Let us suppose, for example, that the source directory scratch/data has one single file test.txt. If you do not specify the trailing slash (i.e., /), rsync will create data directory in your local directory and transfer the contents there.

rsync -az <shortname> my/local/target
ls my/local/target
# data
ls my/local/target/data
# test.txt

If you add the trailing slash /, rsync will place test.txt directly into your target directory.

rsync -az <shortname> my/local/target
ls my/local/target
# test.txt

Sharing data

Data sharing among cluster users is conducted using Active Directory (AD) groups. Each AD group corresponds with a matching account in ScienceCluster.

If you would like to share data with other users in your group, you'll need the name of the account in ScienceCluster to which your username belongs (and you'll need to use this name to construct the appropriate command for sharing data with the other members of this group; see below for more details).

For example, if user asmith would like to share the project1 directory with the matrix.uzhgroup, the group ownership could be changed recursively.

$ chgrp -R S3IT_T_hpc_matrix.uzh /scratch/asmith/project1
$ ls -ld /scratch/asmith/project1
drwxrwx--- 1 asmith S3IT_T_hpc_matrix.uzh 1 May 26 12:26 /scratch/asmith/project1
$ ls -l /scratch/asmith/project1/
-rw-rw---- 1 asmith S3IT_T_hpc_matrix.uzh 0 May 26 12:26 data.txt.xz

Note: the group argument used in the command is S3IT_T_hpc_matrix.uzh. A group titled esheep.uzh would use S3IT_T_hpc_esheep.uzh. In other words, add S3IT_T_hpc_ before the group/account name to construct the correct argument for the command.

To continue, in this example only the members of matrix.uzh will be able to access project1 and only if they know the exact path. Alternatively, asmith can choose to share his whole scratch directory in a read-only manner with the matrix.uzh group.

$ chgrp -R S3IT_T_hpc_matrix.uzh /scratch/asmith
$ chmod -R g+rX /scratch/asmith