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Is The USB Drive Becoming Obsolete?

Throughout the history of computing, consumers and business users have used many different media types to store and transfer their computer data.

  • In the early days of mainframes, it was large spools of magnetic storage tape.
  • In the 1980s, we saw the emergence of limited-capacity floppy disks, with many different sizes and formats emerging throughout the years.
  • Then, fragile CD and DVD technology emerged with denser (but still fixed) storage capacities.

However, with exponential data growth, none of these technologies were sufficiently able to keep up with the technological demands of consumers and small business owners.

  • One terabyte of data would amount to roughly 1400 CDs.
  • And it would take about 750,000 3.5 Floppies to equal the same amount.

This is partly why USB devices have taken over as the preferred method for storing, transferring, and sharing data. The fact that their non-fixed storage capacity grows with improvements in technology is what sets them apart from storage methodologies of the past.

Although USB storage has been around for a long time, rapid improvements in telecom infrastructure have positioned the cloud as a serious contender to compete with USB storage.

USB storage devices do present several technical and security drawbacks which can make cloud storage seem like a very appealing alternative.

  • If you go to any electronics store, you’ll see that USB flash drives are often sold in bulk packs of 3, 5 or more. This is done because the manufacturer is aware that you will likely lose or misplace your USB pen drives at some point in the future. If you’re using these devices to store sensitive personal, medical, or financial data, the loss of a USB key can lead to serious privacy breaches.
  • If you go to any electronic store, you’ll also notice that the larger USB drives are either securely packed with anti-theft devices… or that the shelves contain empty display boxes. (You must ask the staff to bring one out from the back for a purchase) Even in a secure retail environment, these physical drives are vulnerable to theft. You can only imagine that these devices would be even more vulnerable inside of the average home, which is considerably more exposed from a security perspective.
  • It should also be noted that most people don’t encrypt the data which is stored on their USB devices.
  • Finally, it’s inconvenient for USB devices to be stored at a distant location from the primary computer. This makes them unsuitable for backup since most users of USB drives keep these devices at the same location as their primary data. In the event of theft or disaster, both copies would be destroyed.

Compare this with cloud storage:

  • Cloud storage — by its very nature — is transferred to a far-away data center. This keeps it safe from theft or destruction if anything should happen to the primary computer.
  • Cloud data centers are usually located in high-security facilities, making it extremely difficult for the stored data to become lost or stolen.
  • Most cloud data centers encrypt their user information and files while at rest, ensuring that it can’t be accessed in the unlikely event that this data is ever leaked.
  • Data stored in the cloud can be accessed by multiple users simultaneously, making it much more convenient than USB sticks as a file