Leeds Analytic Secure Environment for Research

LIDA provides expertise in data analytics to help colleagues from all faculties to advance knowledge through internationally outstanding research and education in interdisciplinary data science and artificial intelligence.

The Leeds Analytics Secure Environment for Research (LASER) is a cutting edge cloud based (Microsoft Azure) platform hosted in LIDA, designed to empower researchers and students to drive data analytics excellence at the University.

LIDA’s research environment – including both secure offices and LASER platform – securely hosts data that are highly sensitive, personally identifiable or commercially sensitive. This capability aids the development of research that can make a difference to our local communities and the world around us.

What does LASER do

  • Provides a secure environment for the handling, processing, analysis and storage of sensitive and confidential research data.
  • Fully flexible and scalable to support a range of research user cases and align spend to research requirements.
  • Access to the latest data research software and tools
  • Segregates projects at network level, using separate Virtual Research Environments (VRE), protecting data from the rest of the University’s computing facilities and from internet access.
  • Has been built to high security standards that comply with ISO27001 and The NHS Data Protection Toolkit.
  • Data classified and controlled according to data sensitivity and confidentiality. Highly secure projects being only accessible from dedicated safe rooms
  • Is managed and maintained by UoL IT Services and operated and supported by LIDA’s Data Analytics Team (DAT).

What is a Virtual Research Environment (VRE)?



A VRE is a virtualised environment consisting of virtual machines (VMs) and shared storage where data flow is strictly controlled. Taking a ‘walled garden’ approach, there is no access to the internet or other networks from inside a VRE, making them highly secure.

Research is conducted by connecting to a virtual machine (VM) within a VRE. The VMs within a single VRE can all see the same project shared storage, which is inaccessible from other VREs. Software can be installed to, and run directly on, the VMs

Research benefits of LASER

  • Increased capacity: with the research projects hosted in the cloud on Azure they can acquire as much resource as they need (CPU,GPU, Storage, RAM), and that their project can pay for.
  • High performance: hosting in the cloud means greater performance is available
  • Increased researcher control: Greater autonomy for researchers and automation of the import, export and audit of data transfers for the majority of data types (coming soon)
  • Access to software: provisioning is now done via SCCM/ Software Centre enabling availability to a greater range of software quicker than previously and with future platform developments enabling self management of some R and Conda environments.
  • User dashboard : via the Azure Portal and a custom built dashboard researchers will have a level of control and visibility of their project resources and costs
  • The system has been specified and is maintained to ensure the highest standards of data security:
  • Encryption at rest – all data at rest is encrypted to AES256 Bit encryption.
  • Encryption in transit – all data is encrypted using TLS 1.2.
  • Residency – all data is stored and backed up in the UK.
  • Access Controls – role-based access controls and the principles of least privileged access are implemented to ensure only authorised users are able to view data.
  • Data are classified according to sensitivity and criticality, with robust checks on data input and output to and from the Cloud, including a fully maintained asset register.
  • Multifactor authentication is implemented with the ability to restrict access to specified safe rooms on Campus, for data requiring the highest level of security.
  • Monitoring and threat detection provides unified security management with supporting network controls to isolate information in our networks and its supporting information processing facilities.
  • ISO27001 and NHS Data Security and Protection Toolkit compliant.
  • Linux : the capability of providing RHEL systems for researchers (coming soon).

If you have any questions or are interested in working with LIDA and using the LASER platform, please contact a member of the Data Analytics Team to discuss your requirements.