Three Things You Can Do Today to Help Manage Your Data
Backup, backup, backup. Think of what it would take to reproduce your data. To make sure you don't lose it, strive to have three copies—the original master file, a local backup (e.g., on an external hard drive), and an external backup (e.g., on a networked drive or on a web-based storage service).
Organize your data. Plan the directory structure and file naming conventions before creating your data, taking into consideration the potential need to track versions of data sets and documents. Follow any existing project-specific conventions or disciplinary standards or best practices.
Document your data. Data documentation, also known as metadata, will help you use and understand your research data into the future. If you plan to share your data it will also help others find, use, and properly cite it. At a minimum, create a readme.txt file that includes basic documentation such as title, creator, identifier, rights/access information, dates, location, methodology, etc.