UBC's Private Storage Cloud (formerly the University Storage Grid) is a centrally managed set of SAN units that provides almost 6 Petabytes of storage for central systems at The University of British Columbia. The infrastructure is designed to provide Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability of the data stored within it, with many best-of-breed logical controls and physical safeguards to provide this.

  • Flexible - the amount of space purchased on the storage grid can easily be increased or decreased in blocks of 100GB.
  • Scalable - there is no upper limit to the amount of space allowed, and the storage infrastructure is responsive to change.
  • High-speed - the service uses proprietary software that enables fast storage and recovery of data.
  • Safe - the grid reduces disaster recovery time and simplifies the process to ensure that business processes are not interrupted.
  • Accessible - virtualized storage space means that everyone in the UBC community can easily get access for storage.
  • Consolidated - the systems and resources of the UBC Private Storage Cloud are consolidated, which increases efficiencies and simplifies data management.

We provide data storage for both primary and secondary copies of data. IO from applications or users happens against primary storage, and backups of this data are stored on secondary storage. Secondary storage is cheaper, but lower performance, to enable longer term retention. Secondary storage is now located at UBC Okanagan, in Kelowna, to provide better Disaster Recovery capability and better protection against natural disasters.

Data stored on the Private Storage Cloud is retained in facilities in the exclusive control of UBC, within Canada, and can be used to ensure compliance with BC FOIPPA. The Private Storage Cloud includes technology to provide integrated backups, and for some services, easy self restore by end users.


Storage from the Private Storage Cloud is delivered to customers within the VSS (UBC Private Server Cloud) environment using Virtual Machine Disks (VMDK), or for customers outside the VSS environment or who have higher level needs, through our a la carte pricing options and NFS, SMB/CIFS or iSCSI.

VMDK Storage

VMDK Storage is directly attached to virtual servers using a virtual disk interface, and is managed and snapshotted in vCenter, to allow easy expansion, configuration, testing and rollback of changes. All VSS servers come with a minimum of 32GB of SAS or FC storage for boot disk and storing smaller applications and content. Additional SAS/FC or SATA storage can be added either on the fly or with a short downtime, depending on VSS operating system.

Disk Type 1 year cost per GB Maximum Recommended Size Suitability
Fibre Channel or SAS $0.78 500GB System Disks, Database servers, High I/O, low latency
SATA $0.42 500GB File servers, application servers, email systems, Medium I/O, medium latency

The above pricing includes 28 daily and 12 weekly backups (Sunday), made automatically every morning, and storage on both primary and secondary filers. Secondary filers are located at UBC Okanagan. Storage inside the Private Server Cloud is charged along with the servers that use it, based on storage amount allocated, not amount used, which may be more due to snapshots, or less due to de-duplication of boot disks. The apparent pricing difference between VMDKs and a la carte storage reflects our experience with these issues, and in general the amount of service per dollar is approximately uniform.

A La Carte Storage

For larger data sizes, or for use outside of our VSS environment or for specialized applications that require use of NetApp Snapmanager tools, we make "a la carte" storage available via SMB/CIFS, NFS or iSCSI. When shared out by SMB/CIFS, this storage can be authenticated for users against a departmental domain controller, or to EAD, for easy user management.

A la carte storage can have a custom retention period for backup snapshots. We can set the retention period based on day of week, and counts of each of those days. For our standard VMDK offering above, for example, we retain Monday - Saturday snapshots for 28 days from time of capture, and Sunday backups for 12 weeks from time of capture. We recommend this as a starting point. Software limitations prevent us from doing a retention schedule based on months, such as "first xxxday in month". Retention period of a given snapshot can be up to 365 days. Longer retention periods will usually lead to more different versions of files and folder structures being stored, which will in turn lead to higher costs for the storage.

Storage connected via iSCSI is considered "block attached" and can be more complex to restore from backups, while storage connected via NFS or SMB/CIFS is file-attached, which allows easy restore of files from snapshots, but on Windows systems cannot be re-shared or shared over the web.

When setting up a la carte storage, we will initially reserve an additional 20% on top of the requested space for snapshots, based on our experience, unless requested otherwise. For example, if 1TB (1024GB) of storage is ordered with primary SAS and secondary SATA, billing will be based initially on 1228GB of SAS and 1228GB of SATA. If more than that is used during the retention period, the amount allocated to any volume will be automatically increased to prevent losing backups, and this may incur additional charges. UBC IT will work with customers wherever possible to minimize these charges.

An a la carte service is based on cost of primary + cost of secondary storage, per year. It is not necessary to have a secondary storage component, but in most cases it is advisable. Customers may pre-pay, but if storage prices are subsequently lowered at any time in the future, those prices are only available on renewal or subscription to a new service.

Disk Type 1 year cost per GB Minimum Allocated Size Suitability
Primary FC or SAS $0.65 200GB System Disks, Database servers, High I/O, low latency
Primary SATA $0.20 200GB File servers, application servers, email systems, Medium I/O, medium latency
Secondary SATA $0.15 200GB Secondary copies of data from USG or other NetApp filers only – no direct IO occurs to this storage
Research SATA $0.20 200GB Cheap storage for bulk data from researchers and academic units

Ordering and Support

To order a new Private Storage Cloud service, or to make a change to an existing Private Storage Cloud service, please use the UBC IT Systems Web Form.