Q: Our firm wants to provide everyone in our office with new and larger USB thumb drives to be used for transporting and sharing data files. Is this a good idea, and, if so, what size and type should we get?
A: The emergence of cloud-based data storage such as the free Windows Sky Drive (“Technology Q&A: A Sky-High Solution,” JofA, Oct. 2011, page 78) is fast making USB thumb drives obsolete. With a cloud-based solution, your data can be shared securely with anyone on virtually any computer, tablet or smartphone.
If you are still determined to implement a portable solution, I recommend that you consider using Secure Digital (SD) cards instead of thumb drives because SD Cards are easier to keep up with. I’ve purchased at least 30 USB thumb drives in the past 10 years, but I currently can account for only six of them. Where did the others go? I have children in high school and college—that might explain where some of them went. In all probability, however, several of them have been lost, misplaced or, perhaps, stolen. Because a USB thumb drive must be unplugged before transporting a laptop computer, it can be harder to keep track of.
In contrast, an SD card fits securely in your laptop (or desktop) computer’s SD card slot and can remain there when transporting your laptop. Other benefits of SD cards are that they typically cost a little less than thumb drives, and they can be used in most digital cameras, cellphones and smartphones. In addition, many SD cards have a sliding tab that locks the SD card, allowing the files on the SD card to be read, but not erased. I would recommend 8 gigabyte to 16 GB SD cards at a minimum, and a quick price check (at pricegrabber.com) shows 8 GB and 16 GB SD cards available starting at $6.17 and $11.49, respectively.
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