USB flash key failures increase 300%

…well at least that is what Payam Data Recovery is claiming. The increasingly popular flash drive or key memory stick may be a good way to transfer data but as a permanent back-up device it doesn’t cut the mustard, as an increasing number of people are painfully finding out, according to a data recovery specialist. Source: iTWire USB flash drives are increasingly the storage or back up device of choice for individuals and small businesses and with this growth there is an alarming increase in problems and disaster stories, says the boss of Australian data recovery specialist Payam Data Recovery (PDR). With approximately 54 million units sold worldwide last year and sales expected to top 100 million this year (according to Gartner Dataquest), PDR has reported a 300% increase in problem USB flash drives since this time last year, due to faults, misuse and an increasing number of poorly manufactured devices on the market. In May alone, PDR claims to have examined more than 50 USB flash drives (also known as ‘pen drives’, ‘thumb drives’, ‘memory sticks’ and ‘USB keys’) from university students, photographers, small business owners and CEOs, which have suddenly stopped working. PDR Managing Director Payam Toloo said faults are most commonly being caused by not properly ejecting the device, bending the device while it’s still plugged into the port, power surges (especially from laptops) and mishandling of the device. “Many people are relying heavily on USB flash drives to protect important data – some small businesses back up their entire file system to a USB key. “But the nature of their design and the way people handle them puts this valuable data at risk,” he said.For example, leaving the device continually plugged into a PC port puts it at risk of being kicked or knocked and, consequently, bent. It also exposes the device to a higher risk of power faults or disconnection issues. Meanwhile, although they have been designed the be fairly durable, attaching USB flash drives to key-chains and briefcases or carelessly throwing them onto desks and into draws exposes them to constant knocks, hot temperatures and other day-to-day dangers, which the devices aren’t designed to continually handle. “The physical appearance of a USB key makes people think they are simple and hardy devices, but they contain delicate parts and use complex algorithms to store data on the internal memory chip. “If you are going to rely on one of these devices to store priceless data, then it should be treated accordingly,” said Mr Toloo. With the increasing number of USB brands now available, manufacturing quality can also be an issue, and physical defects and faults can cause sudden failure. “A limited number of write/erase cycles are possible before failure occurs, and while high-end flash drives will support several million cycles, cheaper devices are more unpredictable.” To prevent problems, the device should be treated with care and, ideally, not relied upon as the only mechanism for backup, said Mr Toloo. “USB keys are great for transferring data from one computer to another, or for short-term backups, but when precious data is involved I recommend also backing up to a second medium.”

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Rich Gates

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