Mass File Storage (MFS)

If you need to store large amounts of data, IST offers the Mass File Storage (MFS) service. Designed for easy access, MFS is a large file server with hundreds of terabytes of space available.

MFS has several advantages over cloud or do-it-yourself storage options. First, MFS is physically located at the university, granting users fast network access and swift technical support. Second, MFS is built with server-grade hardware. And third, MFS is available at the relatively low cost of $180/TB/year.

Still have questions? Read on to explore our FAQs. If you can’t find the answer you need, contact the IST Service Desk at or 780-492-9400.

What is MFS?

MFS, or Mass File Storage, is a file server designed for users who need to store large quantities of data. 

Why should I use this service?

If you have storage needs best measured in terabytes but don’t need high performance, MFS is a good fit. While cloud storage from commercial providers is stored off premises, MFS is physically located right here on campus for fast network access and complete control by the university. And unlike do-it-yourself storage, MFS is built with server-grade hardware, redundant components to guard against failure, and is maintained in IST’s secure data centres. Additionally, MFS is relatively low cost, whereas high-performance options may be more expensive.

How much does the service cost?

Space can be purchased in increments of 1 TB, with hundreds of terabytes available. The cost is $180/TB/year.

How do I get started with the MFS service?

Step one is to contact the IST Service Desk. They can help you purchase space (also known as a “share”) or configure user accounts to access an existing share.

Once purchased, how can I access my MFS share?

MFS can be accessed from any computer on campus, and from anywhere else via VPN.

Take a look at these instructions to find out how you can access your MFS share.

How do I change my MFS password?

Take a look at these instructions to find out how you can change your MFS password.

Will I get a notice when I am running out of space?

Just like with any storage, you can't use more than you have. If you try to add files to a full MFS share, you will get an error message. If you run out of space, then you can either remove some of your files to create space or contact IST to purchase more space.

Who can access my MFS share?

As the owner of a MFS share, you can authorize others with access your share. It’s important to remember that anyone you authorize access to can not only add, but change any of the files in your share. As well, note that there is no file locking in MFS — a file can be changed by one user even if another user is already working on it.

If I leave the University of Alberta, will I still have access to my MFS share?

Usually, no. MFS serves the needs of the university. If you are no longer affiliated with the university, then you will need to find an alternative service.

I’m trying to transfer a large number of small files. Why is it going so slow?

No file system works fast with large numbers of files. To permit it to grow economically to a very large capacity, MFS is a little slower than most in this regard. To speed up transfers, you might want to consider combining small files into larger ones, using software tools like “zip” or “tar.” A single 500 MB file will transfer much quicker than a thousand 500 KB files, even though the amount of data is the same.

How can I see how much of my space I’ve used / how much space I have left?

Any method on your computer to see disk space usage will work the MFS. For example, on a Mac, right-click your share and select Get Info. On Windows, right-click your share and select Properties.

What are the MFS conditions of use?

MFS adheres to the same policies as other information technology services at the university regarding intellectual property rights, copyright and similar. The custodial agent for information stored in MFS is the person or group who purchases MFS space. IST will follow the guidance of this agent when assigning access privileges to information stored in MFS. See the links below to learn more:

For staff: Statement of Ethical Conduct

For students: Code of Student Behaviour