The Research Computing team has launched a dedicated, robust, large capacity scientific data storage system called Engram to support research and collaboration for Zuckerman researchers.  The system has a capacity of 3.6 petabytes (3,600 terabytes) and is designed to accommodate growth of tens of thousands of terabytes if required.

Engram can be accessed remotely by using the CUIT Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. (More VPN setup details provided here (Limited access UNI login required))

About Engram

Engram is a highly versatile scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) platform (EMC Isilon) that can provide fast access to massive amounts of unstructured data. Each of the 24 Engram storage nodes can respond to client requests and all the nodes are connected via a redundant 10 gigabit per second (Gbps) Ethernet fiber optic network. Your data on Engram is backed up to tape, and a copy is stored off-site in a safe and secure location, for disaster recovery cases.

Engram is designed as the primary storage for the Institute, and you are encouraged to centralize your data and workflows around it. You can do any or all of this on Engram:

  • Connect all your computers and servers to it
  • Collect data directly to it
  • Compute and analyze data on it

We can help you find the best way to use Engram for your particular research - please contact us at [email protected].

How to Connect to Engram

Engram can be accessed remotely by using the CUIT Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. (More VPN setup details provided here (Limited access UNI login required))

Connect to Engram from Mac
Connect to Engram from Windows
Connect to Engram from Linux
Connect to Engram from Synology

Tiers of Storage and Rates

Engram has a single storage tier called Locker. 

  • The Engram rate is $83 per Terabyte (TB) per year.
  • Each lab receives 10 TB of free storage.
  • Billing occurs monthly via chart string.
  • Additional storage can be purchased in 1 TB increments.


To help you get started, please contact us at [email protected].

Data Life Cycle

You control the data stored on Engram. Your data will never be deleted. Only you can delete your data.

Accessing Your Data

Engram is network-attached storage (NAS).  It is just like a USB drive you plug into your computer - but instead of plugging the USB drive into your computer with a USB cable, Engram is connected to your server or computer using the network.

In Windows, Engram shows up as a network drive with a letter (for example P:). On Mac, you will see it as a folder in the Finder. In Linux, it shows up just like a USB drive, mounted under its own directory.

For all practical purposes, an Engram network drive has the same functionality as a local drive or folder. It is plugged into your computer or server. You can access data on it just like on a USB drive or a local directory.

And since it is a network drive, it can be accessed from multiple computers and servers. In other words, multiple computers can access the same data, at the same time.

Engram can be accessed:

  • From anywhere on Columbia University downtown campus or Manhattanville
    • By connecting your computer to the network with a physical network cable (In this case we recommend you disable Wi-Fi)
    • By using "Columbia U Secure" Wi-Fi
    • Note: "Columbia University" Wi-Fi is open and insecure and cannot be used to reach Engram
  • Remotely from outside the University by using the CUIT Virtual Private Network (VPN) (More VPN setup details provided here (Limited access UNI login required))
  • From CUIMC: under special circumstances we will work with CUIMC IT to open their firewall to allow access to Engram from CUIMC locations. Please contact us at [email protected]

Backing Up Your Data

Data on Engram labshare and locker levels is backed up to tape. We can back up your data on staging storage level if requested.

Tapes are encrypted and periodically moved to a secure offsite location.

Tape backup is the only data protection technology that protects your data against ransomware. Replication (syncing) solutions do not protect against ransomware.

Restoring Your Data

To request data restore please open a restore request by sending email to [email protected] and tell us:

  1. The lab you are from
  2. The directory from which you would like the files to be restored
  3. A date range (for example, please restore these files from September 15, 2017)

Requesting Access to Existing Storage

If your lab already has a network drive and you need access to it, please send the following information to [email protected]:

  1. Your lab name
  2. Your full name and UNI
  3. Name of the network drive you need access to

Requesting New Storage

To request new storage please send the following information to [email protected]:

  1. How large a network drive you need
  2. Engram Storage Level (Locker)
  3. List of UNIs that should have access to this network drive.

Storage is automatically backed up to tape.

Storage protocols.

Engram supports three different types of network drives:

  • NFS Exports are chiefly used in Unix/Linux-based server environments.  Access to these network drives is based off of the domain name or IP address of the server or workstation that they are to be plugged into.  You will need to contact research computing at [email protected] if you need to mount an NFS export on a host that it is not already mounted on.  For each NFS network drive, research computing maintains a whitelist of servers and IP addresses that can mount the network drive.  NFS exports are useful if you know that you will only be using your network drive on Linux-based servers and you want to facilitate access to your network drive by server rather than by user account.
  • SMB Shares are chiefly used on Mac and Windows workstations, although they can also be attached to Linux servers.  For this reason, they are a good option if you expect to need to mount your network share both on workstations and servers.  Access to these network drives is based off of your user credentials and the groups that your UNI belongs to in Columbia's user directory.  If you need access to an SMB share, you will need to contact research computing to request that your UNI be added to the group associated with that SMB share.  SMB shares are not ideal for long-term storage in shared computing environments, since the connection is brokered via an individual user account.
  • Hybrid NFS/SMB Network Drives are a more complex arrangement that could make sense under certain circumstances.  With a hybrid approach, the same set of files and directories could be made available as an NFS export for a Unix/Linux-based shared server environment and an SMB share for Windows/Mac workstation environments.  This approach makes sense if you expect to have your storage connected to both local workstations and a remote server for long periods of time.  If you anticipate that you will only need to mount storage on servers on an ad-hoc basis, and that the majority of the time storage will be plugged into workstations primarily, it may make sense to stick with SMB shares alone.

We can help you decide on Engram size for your lab or project, please contact us at [email protected].

Requesting More Storage

To add additional storage capacity to your network drive please send the following information to [email protected]:

  1. Your lab name
  2. Your full name and UNI
  3. Name of the network drive you would like more storage capacity added to
  4. How much additional drive capacity you would like to have, in 1 TB increments

Problems Connecting to Engram

If you have problems connecting to Engram, please follow these troubleshooting steps, in order:

  1. Have you ever successfully connected to your Engram drive before?
  2. Have you requested access to your Engram drive?
  3. For username, make sure you put ADCU in front of your UNI (Windows): ADCU\Your_UNI
  4. Are you typing your UNI password correctly? Can you log into other Columbia University services?
  5. Make sure your computer is connected to "Columbia U Secure" Wi-Fi network. "Columbia University" Wi-Fi is open and insecure and cannot be used to to reach Engram
  6. Reboot your computer

If, after all this, you still cannot connect to Engram, please contact us at [email protected]

and include:

  • Name of your lab
  • Your full name and UNI
  • Engram drive full path (example: locker-nfs.engram.rc.zi.columbia.edu\YourLab-locker)

What does Engram look like?

Engram is a 24-node storage cluster. All 24 nodes serve data. Data is backed up to tape. A copy of each tape is taken off-site to a secure facility.

Would you like to see what Engram looks like?  Email us at [email protected] and we will give you a tour.

Set up Columbia University VPN (CUIT Service)
Change your UNI password (CUIT Service)


  • No labels