How reliable are USB flash drives for long-term storage?

Discussion in 'DIY Computers' started by A. J. Moss, Dec 23, 2004.

  1. A. J. Moss

    A. J. Moss Guest

    My mum has ambitions to be a writer, but has no way at present to back
    up her work. Some months ago I suggested that she use a CDRW with InCD,
    but was told by the regulars of this group that this is not the most
    reliable way to back something up long-term: it is too easy for an open
    InCD session to be corrupted.

    How reliable would it be for my mum to back up all her work to a USB
    flash drive? Realistically, she's never going to fill more than 128Mb,
    and I've offered her a good name brand (Crucial-rebranded Samsung).
    Has 5 volt EEPROM memory got a good reputation for long term storage?

    (For instance, in comparison, 3.5 inch floppy disks are ideal for
    day-to-day storage, if a little small by modern standards, but they
    aren't so reliable for storing data for years and years.)
     
    A. J. Moss, Dec 23, 2004
    #1
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  2. A. J. Moss

    Jeff Gaines Guest

    Don't know about USB flash drives but only having one backup is asking
    for trouble, there will be hours/days/weeks/months? of work in that
    128MB.

    I back up to 3 external hard drives and to DVD RAM, it's not a book but
    downloaded s/w I have paid for and about twenty years of source for
    programs I have written. I am still at risk because I have no
    facilities for keeping any backups off site.

    She needs at least two backups and facilities to keep one off site -
    perhaps at a relation's house.
     
    Jeff Gaines, Dec 23, 2004
    #2
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  3. A. J. Moss

    Tiny Tim Guest

    <snip>
    My ISP gives me 250MB of webspace and I back up my data to that using FTP
    over my broadband connection. The FTP software operates in "sync" mode so it
    only uploads changed files and doesn't take too long. The advantage is that
    my stuff is...

    (a) backed up;
    (b) off-site;
    (c) the back up is backed up by my ISP;
    (d) I can access my documents from anywhere in the world
     
    Tiny Tim, Dec 23, 2004
    #3
  4. A. J. Moss

    logized Guest

    USB flash drives from some manufacturers claim about 10 years memory
    retention and at least 10,000 accesses so in theory it looks good.
    BUT they can be susceptible to data corruption if unplugged whilst in use,
    they are small, so easily lost, some are flimsy and easily broken.
    It is not a good idea to rely on a single device for the backup - eg. with
    CDR backups, there would be plenty of previous discs to revert back to if
    the last backup were lost or damaged or if a previously saved version of a
    file is needed for some reason.

    Dave
     
    logized, Dec 23, 2004
    #4
  5. A. J. Moss

    fred Guest

    Better than a floppy for sure.

    Better still if you copy it to your own comp every now & again.

    Btw, it's flash rather than eeprom, which is a different (and less resilient)
    technology.
     
    fred, Dec 23, 2004
    #5
  6. Text is tiny. Why not get her to email her drafts out to a couple of
    people for them to keep safe? Preferably one of them to someone who
    can drive a CD writer.

    Cheers - Jaimie
     
    Jaimie Vandenbergh, Dec 23, 2004
    #6
  7. Well, get someone to read it, and tell people it's good then!

    :)

    STM
     
    Semach.the.monkey, Dec 23, 2004
    #7
  8. A. J. Moss

    Oldish sod Guest

    USB memory sticks *should* be more reliable than
    floppy disks, but in my experience of supporting them,
    there's little in it. I can't put any stats to it yet, but the
    same peops whose floppies 'go bad' seem to have
    similar problems with CDs, flash drives, 'lost' emails..
    ;)
     
    Oldish sod, Dec 24, 2004
    #8
  9. A. J. Moss

    Stuffed Guest

    When I used to try to be creative, everything would go on hard drive,
    floppy, and if possible (this was the good old days) CDR. And *every*
    substantial edit or addition would also be printed off. Seemed daft at the
    time, till the fancy high tech things broke, then it was at least all there,
    even if it was a nightmare to type back in, and probably utter crap (was a
    hobby, kept me off the streets :)
     
    Stuffed, Dec 24, 2004
    #9
  10. A. J. Moss

    sethra Guest

    A. J. Moss wrote in
    [snip]

    The USB drive would be an acceptable day-to-day backup, but *only if*
    there is another backup, updated at least weekly. Why? Flash memory is
    generally robust, but the drives are tiny and are easily misplaced or
    lost, and while they generally stand up to a fair amount of abuse, they
    *can* be damaged.

    The 2nd backup could be a cdr (burn it and close the session, do NOT use
    packet writing), a 2nd hard drive in the machine, or another possibility
    is emailing copies (note the plural) to a couple different web email
    accounts -- they could act as an offsite backup and have the added bonus
    of accessibility regardless of location.

    I suppose the deciding factor is how important the writing is to her.
     
    sethra, Dec 24, 2004
    #10
  11. A. J. Moss

    dwacon Guest

    IME, thumb drives are easy to lose. I had one with a loop that hooked to a
    lanyard... but the loop broke. I eventually found it in the bottom of my
    briefcase, but it was a wake-up call that something that small is easy to
    misplace.
     
    dwacon, Dec 24, 2004
    #11
  12. One policy is to keep a backup on your person. I use both DAT tapes and
    a tiny (about 9 x 9 x 1.2cm) USB HDD of 40GB capacity, and keep at least
    one on me always. If I have my keys, I have the backup -- and I never
    leave without keys. A USB flash "pen" is even more portable.

    I did once rely on a USB pen for backup. Plugged it into a computer once
    (possibly one that had a problem), and found the flash RAM was wiped
    clean. I don't know how it happened, but avoid relying on flash devices.
    A similar experience put me off using a formatted CDRW to copy files
    onto for backup purposes.

    Best wishes,
     
    Michael Salem, Dec 24, 2004
    #12
  13. A. J. Moss

    Jeff Gaines Guest

    Yes, I really should, perhaps I'll treat myself in the sales :)
    Whoops! That was my concern with the OP's mother relying on only one
    backup.
    Happy hols :)
     
    Jeff Gaines, Dec 24, 2004
    #13
  14. A. J. Moss

    Auntie Em Guest

    Why doesn't she just print it out using acid-free paper and archival
    ink and tuck it away in a safety deposit box at some bank. It will
    outlast her, it will.

    Em
     
    Auntie Em, Dec 24, 2004
    #14
  15. A. J. Moss

    Dave Guest

    My experience, FWIW

    1) Purchased 3 pen drives(reputable make) and 1 failed after about 3
    days - not even recognised as a drive. Had it replaced, that failedafter
    a week. Next replacement ok after about three months, as are the
    original two.

    2) InCD & similar - the different programs seem mutually incompatible,
    and I've had lots of problems reading old data even with the original
    program. With CDRs about 20p, why bother?

    I have about 2.5Mb of 'working' files and about 100Mb that I would not
    like to lose, as well as programs, settings etc. So (mostly done with
    one click using batch files):-

    Daily - zip working files to floppy. (Errors in reading appear to be due
    to mechanical wear of drives rather that the disk itself.)
    Weekly - burn 2 CDs. Other CD sent to a friend to look after, as I look
    after his spare copy.
    Quarterly or after changes - burn DVD with everything on hard disk,
    zipped.
    Pen drives are kept up to date, but it'll be a while before I trust
    them.
    An old hard disk is in the PC; a batch file backs everything up to this
    with one click, sets it read-only.

    !!Most important of all: check regularly that your method still works &
    that you can get the data back!!

    I would suggest either encrypting and/or signing all files before
    copying; this would also serve as proof of authorship for a writer if
    required in the future. It's not difficult to set up a simple batch file
    to do this as well as copying. If I lose a pen drive, I don't want
    anyone reading my letters, bank account numbers etc.

    In theory, I'm proof against hard disk or Windows crashes, theft of PC,
    house burning down, etc; so naturally something else will happen...

    Hope this helps, Dave
     
    Dave, Dec 24, 2004
    #15
  16. A. J. Moss

    M.L. Guest

    I totally agree. The first few months I had it I forgot several times
    to retrieve it from the computer of my relatives. Once, I forgot it at
    a semi-public place, but it was retrieved by an employee before a
    thief could get to it. I eventually learned to keep it in mind.
     
    M.L., Dec 26, 2004
    #16
  17. A. J. Moss

    fred Guest

    It's been a while, but def different, eeprom slower access and higher
    program voltage. This memory is a bit more vague, but I think it is also
    less dense and used to suffer from fewer programming cycles. IIRC its
    advantage is that it can be integrated with other processes whereas flash
    cannot. 'll leave you to google for the fine detail if reqd ;-)
     
    fred, Dec 27, 2004
    #17
  18. A. J. Moss

    Trev Guest

    Beware USB ports at floor level combined with castors on chairs. I
    learned the hard way...total separation of the silver bit from the
    other bit. Although I see that they are now doing "empty" pen drives
    that you can put your own card in.

    http://www.aria.co.uk/ProductsList.asp?Name=pen+drive

    Second one up from the bottom.
     
    Trev, Dec 27, 2004
    #18
  19. A. J. Moss

    Mark Peacey Guest

    They are very reliable.

    I had a friend who I used to work with at a college in N.E. Calgary and he
    said that the USB flashes comes very handy when you have documents on it.
    If you were doing a document that was in that usb flash drive, and someone
    turns off the computer, you should still have the copy in the USB flash.
     
    Mark Peacey, Dec 28, 2004
    #19
  20. A. J. Moss

    Scraggy Guest

    I've just, or rather SWMBO, has just put my 512 mb Easy Disk through the
    washing machine. Result is one clean and functional pen drive, with an added
    bonus that there cannot be any spyware in my washing machine, as the full
    antispyware suite was in the drive at the time(Spybot S&D, AdAware SE, &
    SpywareBlaster. :)
     
    Scraggy, Dec 28, 2004
    #20
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