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Money Laundering, Customs Issues, Crazy Weather, Currency Weakness & Factory Closures

Posted by USB2U on 18th September 2014 | Permalink

All we’re missing at the moment is a volcanic eruption in Iceland and that’ll top off an interesting and challenging few days. Perhaps it’s best not to speak too soon because the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland has been threatening to cause major travel disruption for the last couple of months so we’ve got everything crossed that it won’t add to the current list of woes.

We’re a UK based supplier of promotional USB memory sticks and like all other suppliers around the world our core products are manufactured in China. For the most part this is not a problem because we’ve been sourcing products from 2 – 3 key partners for the last 10 years or more so we understand very well the issues and the risks. Until a few days ago our standard lead times of 5-7 days were still being honoured but right now things are very different and the outlook is that it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

The usual delays we expect at this time of year (because of the National Holiday and Golden Week) have been exacerbated and extended. The underlying cause is a range of issues all colliding together to create on monster challenge.

The elements that are at play are a major money laundering operation/scare out of Shenzen and Hong Kong which in turn has led to a regime where customs are now being instructed to be undertake more rigorous checks of all packages. This in turn inevitably leads to delays and backlogs and all of this is happening in the run up to the National Day and Golden Week holiday when the couriers, airlines and customs departments are placed under more pressure to get shipments out before the holidays start.

Add into this mix some of the crazy weather that has been experienced in Hong Kong and Shenzen over the last week (leading to flight cancellations and delays) and you start to get a picture of the near “meltdown” that’s happening.

Of course whilst all of this is going on we have the vote for Scottish Independence taking place oday. This is driving uncertainty into the financial markets and pushing the value of the pound (£) down against the dollar ($) – the net effect of which is to increase the cost of any USB sticks that are able to run the gauntlet of getting out of China!

The only saving grace in all of this is that we’ve been around long enough to anticipate some of these issues so we have lots of blank USB sticks in stock in the UK which we can print or engrave and turn around in 1 – 2 days. As a result we will endeavour to ensure all of our customers get USB sticks for their event. They may not be exactly the model they wanted but at least we’ll be able to offer something!

Printed-in-24hrs

Printed-in-24hrs

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Recycled USB Sticks – Great for DT Projects

Posted by USB2U on 2nd September 2014 | Permalink

With many students starting back to school this week it’s going to be an exciting time for many as they start in new schools, new classes and embark on new courses and subjects. Of course many will have just advanced a year in the same school and will be glad to get back into the routine (hopefully).

If you’re a teacher and you’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of this year’s cohort then good luck to you. Hopefully all of your preparation work is done and it’s just a question of putting your well-honed plan into action.

If you’re specialism is Design Technology (DT) and you’re still looking for assignment ideas then you might want to give some thought to setting your students the challenge of coming up with a new design for a USB stick. Despite the popularity of cloud based storage solutions like Dropbox and i-Cloud millions of USB memory sticks are still bought every year in the UK alone. They may be losing popularity in some sectors but the promotional market has taken to them with renewed vigour.

Part of the appeal is the falling price – it’s now possible to pick up fully branded (printed or engraved) USB sticks for well under £2.00 per unit (depending on memory size and the order value) so all of a sudden they’re in the “cheap and cheerful” giveaway category albeit they still deliver a range of valuable USP’s that other promotional gifts simply cannot match.

Build Your Own USB Flash Drive

Build Your Own USB Flash Drive

With thousands of different designs/styles of USB sticks available the challenge for any reseller of USB sticks is to come up with something different, something that will carry a printed brand or logo and something that looks good – in essence it’s a sector crying out for continuous innovation in terms of product design.

So, if you’re a DT teacher and you want to set your students a challenge then why not ask them to design and build a new range or collection of USB memory sticks that might appeal to various sectors of the promotional market or if you want to keep it simple to design a USB stick that the school could use or perhaps the students could sell to local businesses.

Inside any USB sticks is a simple flash memory module, a controller chip and a capacitor. These are typically attached to a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) and attached to the PCB is a USB connector. All of this is then “wrapped” in a shell (the design) to give it an attractive, portable and easy to use form factor.

The internal USB PCB’s are readily available from USB2U who can supply new versions or versions that have been stripped out of USB sticks that are no longer wanted or more commonly are taken from new USB sticks that have had the wrong logo printed on them (there are new but are classified as re-cycled because they will have signs of glue etc. on them).

Of course if you buy re-cycled USB sticks for your DT project they’ll be much cheaper!

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UDP Flash Has Driven USB Memory Stick Innovation

Posted by USB2U on 10th July 2014 | Permalink

When the first USB flash drives hit the market just over 10+ years ago they were all based on one core technological solution and that was the combination of flash memory with a controller chip and a capacitor – these components were soldered onto a printed circuit board and a USB connector provided the interface to the PC. The result was a small(ish), portable and easy to use data storage device – the USB memory stick was born!

The “guts” of the memory stick (the printed circuit board, memory module, capacitor, controller and USB connector) are generally referred to in the industry as a COB solution – think of it as a common engine around which manufacturers build different designs/shells.

In subsequent years the storage capacity of these first generation USB sticks grew from a relatively small 8MB to eventually break through the 1GB barrier. Today memory sticks with a storage capacity of 64GB are common place!

The big shake up in terms of design came with the introduction of the UDP chips – in common with other sectors in the computer and gadget sector what was once achieved on a large COB card could now be achieved on a much smaller form factor. Effectively a UDP chip has the flash memory, the controller and the capacitor all rolled into one and as you can see it’s much smaller.

USB Memory Sticks  - COB vs UDP

USB Memory Sticks - COB vs UDP

As a consequence the USB memory stick product designers have had a field day! No longer did their designs have to work with a largish rectangular internal component but instead they could now unleash their creative talents and come up with all sorts of shapes, designs and styles.

Today the market is awash with thousands of different designs ranging from super thin credit cards to tiny little Iron Sticks and lots of really cute custom USB sticks. UDP chips are a boon to designers of Custom USB sticks because pretty much any shape can now be accommodated hence the proliferation of custom USB lips, USB animals, USB truck and cars and USB sticks in the shape of characters from movies.

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

USB Cards Using UDP Chips

There is no difference in the performance of USB memory sticks that use UDP technology. Their read/writes speeds are just as fast and they’ll support the same number of read/write cycles. Arguably they are more stable because there are no soldered connections to break or weaken over time.

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Laser Engraved USB Memory Sticks Create a Lasting Impression

Posted by USB2U on 3rd July 2014 | Permalink

If you’re the market for some promotional USB memory sticks and you’re thinking of ordering them with your logo printed on them then before you place the order you might just want to take a few minutes to consider getting your logo laser engraved rather than printed.

We understand that for some customers printing is the only option because they have to have their logo reproduced in full colour and of course we understand that printed logos and designs look great.  After all the majority of our USB sticks are printed and all of our USB sticks can be printed on!  But there is one obvious downside with printing and we’d be failing in our responsibility to our customers if we didn’t point it out.

Engraved USB Memory Sticks

Engraved USB Memory Sticks

The downside with printing is that over time the print will begin to chip and wear away leaving behind a logo that might not be legible.  It doesn’t matter what printing process is use, what primer is applied to the sticks and how long they are baked for to harden the ink after being printed because at some point ink and its adhesion will “give” and chip away or simply fade.

Of course the resilience of the print will vary depending on the material that the USB stick is made from and how well they are printed in the first place.  Equally the environment they are used in can have a major bearing as can the way in which they are carried –  if printed USB memory sticks are attached to a bunch of keys (on a key ring) then the constant chaffing of the stick against the keys will accelerate the erosion of the print.

If you really do want your logo to last and for your promotional USB memory sticks to look as good after a few months as they did on the day they were supplied then you ought to consider getting them laser engraved.

Laser engraving “etches” the surface of the USB stick leaving a high precision finish that is permanent and won’t rub or scratch off. It’s a very popular technique that is used on a wide range of promotional products.

Of course you won’t get the option of full colour but at least you’ll know the logo will be produced to a high level of accuracy and more fundamentally that the design engraved onto them will last the test of time.

Engraved USB - Iron Stick

Engraved USB - Iron Stick

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Wedding Photographers Guide to Buying Faster USB Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 2nd June 2014 | Permalink

If you’re a professional wedding photographer (or any professional photographer for that matter) and you’re thinking of changing from CD’s and DVD’s in favour of USB memory sticks with your logo printed or engraved on them then there are some basic things you need to be consider before you commit to buying them:

  1. Most suppliers of memory sticks printed with a company brand or logo are supplying then as “giveaway” promotional gift – the sort of thing that are handed out like sweets at trade and retail shows. Typically these memory sticks won’t get a huge amount of usage and the demands the sticks in terms of read/write cycles (the number of times the USB sticks is used) and the read/write speeds (the speed taken to transfer files onto the USB stick) are pretty light.

    Typical read/write speeds of a “standard” promotional USB sticks can be as low as 2MB per second (write) and 6MB per second (read). Whilst this is slow it’s fine if all you’re doing is loading up a couple of sales brochures onto the sticks but, if you’re a professional photographer or wedding video company you may (depending on what you are doing with the drives) need to specify certain minimum requirements – read/write speeds, grade of memory chip etc.

  2. If you buy standard promotional USB Flash drives and you then start to load very files or lots of high quality images onto them then pretty soon you’ll notice that they’re not the quickest of products. If you’ve been used to working on Apple Mac’s and you use top end Memory Cards with fast read/write speeds, or Firewire or Thunderbolt to move data around then by comparison a promotional USB flash drive is going to be a “horse and cart”.

    For example top end SD cards or CF cards have a read/write speed of around 40MB per second – X10 times the speed of standard promotional USB flash drives. Thunderbolt is on a different planet with transfer speeds of 10GB per second!

  3. All promotional USB memory sticks will be USB 2.0 rather than the latest and faster USB 3.0 The reason is cost – USB 3.0 memory sticks are still priced at a premium so unless you ask for USB 3.0 the prices you’ll be quoted will almost universally be for USB 2.0.
  4. If speed of data transfer is an issue for you then ask for a price for USB 3.0 memory sticks – these have read write speed of around 50MB – 100MB per second so they are blisteringly quick! The downside is cost and you need a PC or Mac that is equipped with USB 3.0 USB ports to take advantage of the speed improvements. They’ll still work on USB 2.0 PC’s but only at USB 2.0 speeds!
  5. A sensible compromise if you’re looking for decent data transfer speeds it to ask for “upgraded” USB 2.0 flash drives – they’ll be a little more expensive but you should get something that has a longer warranty period and better performance with speeds closer to the High performance products sold by brands like Kingston and Lacie. Remember if you don’t ask for this you will just get “standard” promotional USB flash drives which are fine they’re just slow! By default USB2U always quote professional photographers for upgraded USB 2.0 products.
  6. Ideally talk to your supplier about what you plan to use your USB memory sticks and get them to recommend a solution. If you’ve chosen your supplier well and they know their industry they should not only be aware of the issues but they should be able to put forward a range of different solutions.
Wooden USB Sticks for Professional Photographers

Wooden USB Sticks for Professional Photographers

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Ten Is the Magic Number for Professional Photographers

Posted by USB2U on 7th April 2014 | Permalink

Like lots of our competitors the minimum order for printed USB memory sticks has always been twenty five (25) but the feedback we were given at The Photography Show in Birmingham was so supportive of our “show offer” that we have now decided to reduce our minimum order quantities. From today all of the discounted USB bundles and packages of our USB2U photography web site have been had their minimum order quantities reduced to ten (10)!!

So, if you’re a professional photographer, wedding photographer or videographer and you’ve been thinking of making the switch from CD’s and DVD’s but you’ve been out off by the level of upfront commitment you needed to make to buy 25 USB sticks and boxes then this is going to be good news.

Starting today you can get yourself ten fully personalised USB sticks and ten personalised USB gift boxes to go with them for around £100! That includes all of the artwork set-up costs, the printing (or engraving), custom inserts for the USB sticks and delivery by Royal Mail Special Delivery.

You can choose from six different bundles including our very popular wooden USB sticks and wooden USB gift boxes or you might opt for our USB cards with the option of a leather wallet or a printed gift box.

Whichever “bundle” you choose you’ll be getting upgraded (high performance) USB sticks that we assemble specifically for professional photographers – these ensure a higher read/write speed, more read/ write cycles (a longer life) and they all come with a ten year warranty. We print/engrave all of our sticks in the UK so the lead time for any order is normally just a few days (depending on how busy we are).

The feedback from photographers to our range of bundles has been amazing:

A perfect job with perfect service

Having used simple DVDs to provide clients with high res files in the past I had it in the back of my mind that I should present them with something a little more refined. I’ve found that in USB2U, the customised memory sticks I’ve just received have blown me away and the feedback from clients just from posting an image of the sticks to facebook has been amazing. Don’t hesitate order some today! (Russell Lewis Photography)

A very efficient service from start to finish and great communications every step of the way.

I found USB2U very easy to deal with and they provided clear instructions and guidance where necessary – I had seen their website a year or so ago, but since the introduction of their ‘professional photographers’ section on their website, it has greatly improved my ability to present digital images to my clients and brings image and video presentation up to date. With quality in mind, the processing chips are uprated to make sure that my professional products are made to last. (Taylors Photographic)

Innovative stylish products, great quality with fast efficient and friendly service.

Had the chance to view the woodland style USB drives in wooden boxes at USB2U Stand at the Photography Show. Had been looking for a stylish way to present digital images to clients and this product is in a class of its own.  The little touches like the small magnets, to hold on the cap & sliding lid for the box, give that touch of class to what is a very elegant product. The team at USB2U where friendly, helpful and professional enabling the artwork processes to be achieved in a few hours and delivery was on time and as promised. A great experience all round (Andy Meany Photography )

USB2U Memory Sticks and Boxes for Taylors Photographic

USB2U Memory Sticks and Boxes for Taylors Photographic

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Promotional USB Memory Sticks – Looking Good In Leather

Posted by USB2U on 10th March 2014 | Permalink

The promotional USB memory stick market tends to be dominated by plastic and metal products but for those looking for something a little different there is always leather or wood.

Leather USB memory sticks are only marginally more expensive than standard plastic or metal counterparts but when you compare them in the flesh it’s a pretty easy decision to make to spend the extra cash. The price differential is typically only 20p – 30p per sticks! The leather versions are incredibly stylish, robust, and tactile and like most leather products they are warm to the touch and ooze quality.

Leather USB Memory Sticks

Leather USB Memory Sticks

If your company brand warrants marketing as a “prestige” or premium” brand then it’s definitely worth looking at the leather options (for example we currently supply them to Aston Marti and Maserati). Equally, if you’re looking for a promotional give-away or “thank you” gift for conference speakers or company executives then leather USB memory sticks will deliver the right level of sophisticated appreciation.

In terms of branding leather USB memory sticks are either embossed or printed with embossing being the most popular option. Embossing is more subtle. It won’t rug off and it will age with the leather but the downside with embossing is that the branding is subtle – it’s not going to jump out at you from the memory stick because there is no colour or printing involved. If you want immediate visual impact then printing is the way to go but do bear in mind that over time any print will fade and eventually it will rub off.

There are lots of different models of leather USB memory sticks to choose from and all of them have been designed to allow you to attach the memory stick to a lanyard, key ring or belt loop. As they are premium products they really deserve giving away in a custom (printed) gift box – there are lots to choose from and most come with a custom cut foam insert that allows them to be shown off at their best.

Leather USB Flash Drives

Leather USB Flash Drives

If you do buy leather USB memory sticks (or any type of promotional USB stick for that matter) then don’t forget to take full advantage of the memory capacity on the stick and pre-load your sales brochures, presentation slides, media files etc. onto them before you hand them out! Equally, if the memory sticks are being purchased as a “thank you” it’s a nice idea to include a personalised thank you message on the stick – in other words to pre-load the a personalised thank you file onto the stick that is displayed to the recipient when the memory stick is used for the first time.

USB2U supply a wide range of leather USB sticks and printed USB gift boxes and they can pre-load your data file for you as well – make sure to them to your short list of potential suppliers.

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Printed and Promotional USB Sticks – A Roller Coaster Ride

Posted by USB2U on 20th February 2014 | Permalink

No, this is not about the challenges of finding a reputable supplier of promotional USB memory sticks but instead it’s about the changes taking place at theme parks around the world and how USB sticks are now likely to be offered to you at the end of your rides/visit.

Visit any theme park and you’ll quickly discover that your picture is worth a small fortune (it has to be given the price you’re asked to pay for photos at the end of each ride).  Let’s face it when you visit a theme park it’s almost impossible to avoid having your photograph taken whilst you’re scared out of your wits on an extreme “thrill” ride or whilst you’re getting soaked on the log flumes and water slides

The savvy theme park operators know that these photos, as embarrassing as they are, make brilliant souvenirs and of course they’re a great reminder of a fun packed day spent with family and friends. As a parent “pester effect” at the end of each ride as you’re corralled though a gift shop and photo booth can be irritating but the photos are a great source of revenue to the theme park operators.

USB Sticks Enjoying a Day Out at a Theme Park

USB Sticks Enjoying a Day Out at a Theme Park

If you’re tempted to buy any of the photographs then there is the hassle of carrying them around with you all day (and keeping them dry and flat). Some theme parks have a facility where you can order them at the end of each ride and pick them up on your way out. Handy.

It’s been possible (from some of the theme parks) to buy a portfolio of photos at the end of your visit on a CD or DVD and recently, some of the larger and more “switched on” theme parks have introduced an option to buy the ride photographs on a printed USB memory stick. This is a great idea because it’s far easier and a lot more convenient to carry around a small USB flash drive with you as you go around the park. Then, at the end of each ride if you see a photo you like you can simply hand over your flash drive and get the images copied onto it! There’s even scope to combine an admission of “fast pass” wristband with a USB stick – a USB wristband!

The benefit of buying digital copies of the snaps is that they are easy to print off on your own colour printer and just as easy to upload to Social Networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Of course you can do this with your smart phone but it’s a bit tricky taking a “selfie” as rocket around a thrill ride and you’re pulling several “G’s” in a tight turn!

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Promotional USB Sticks – Free Lanyards

Posted by USB2U on 19th February 2014 | Permalink

If you’re looking to buy some promotional USB memory sticks during February and March 2014 then it’s definitely worth checking out the options available from USB2U.

Not only do they offer a huge range of USB sticks but they also have a wide range of gift boxes, lanyards, key-rings and engraved ‘dog tags” that can be used individually or together to make a fantastic promotional package. For a limited time the lanyards are free with any order of 100 or more USB Sticks (just quote FreeLanyards).

In addition to free lanyards you can also get up to 300MB of data pre-loaded onto your USB sticks at no extra cost – the only proviso is that you’re not ordering your USB sticks on their Express or Super Express service (24hrs – 72hr delivery service).

There are lots of different colours of lanyard to choose from and with around 100,000 in stock in the UK there are plenty to go around! If its something that might be of interest to you then speak to one of the sales team and get a quote that includes the free lanyards (and free data loads)!

Irrespective of which colour you choose all of our USB lanyards come with a quick release mechanism that allows you to remove the USB stick from the lanyard without having to struggle to get the whole thing over your head! A small number of the USB sticks they sell don’t have an option to connect a lanyard

USB with Lanyards

USB with Lanyards

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PostScript to the 5k USB Stick Scam

Posted by USB2U on 18th February 2014 | Permalink

Last week we posted an article about a company that approached us in a panic because the 5,000 USB sticks they had purchased direct from a “factory” in China were not working on any of their PC’s or Mac’s. They were dumbfounded because they thought they had done everything they could to make sure the factory they were dealing with was legitimate and that the USB sticks they’d ordered would be up to the job.

Not only had they taken the precaution of buying from a “Gold” supplier on a reputable Chinese supplier brokerage web site but they’d also insisted on being sent a sample of the USB sticks for testing before they committed to the final order of 5,000 and importantly before they agreed to pay for them!

The dialogue with the factory was good and the shipment of the sample was arranged promptly. The independent tests on the sample undertaken in the UK suggested everything was in order so they pushed ahead with the order for 5k USB memory sticks. Payment was wired to the suppliers’ bank account in China and three weeks later the USB sticks arrived – then the fun began!

When inserted into any PC a quick check of the “properties” of the USB sticks suggested they had 512MB of memory (the size they had ordered) but when they tried to use the memory and load content onto the USB sticks alarms bells started to ring – it looked like data was being transferred onto the USB stick but when it was taken out and re-inserted it had nothing on it! The same scenario was repeated with multiple samples from the 5k batch and irrespective of whether they used a PC or Mac and irrespective of how large the data was they tried to copy onto the stick nothing was on them when they were re-inserted!

All attempts to contact the supplier in China were met with silence. Panic set in.

Having been sent a couple of the samples our initial suspicion was that the USB sticks had no memory in them at all but having sent the samples to our factory in China they have discovered that the USB sticks do have a very, very tiny memory module and that this has been “masked” to look like a 512MB stick! The small memory module inside the sticks is normally used on “web keys” – its just large enough to carry a website URL and nothing else.

The “masking” of this memory to make it look like it has 512MB of storage is pre-meditated fraud. The supplier knew exactly what they were doing and they knew the 5,000 sticks they supplied were nothing like the original sample. The buyer had been duped and was now thousands of pounds out of pocket and without the USB sticks they so desperately needed for their event.

The simple moral of this story is that whilst it’s tempting to save a few pounds by buying direct from a factory in China it’s also incredibly risky and you’ll have no safety net or recourse – if it all goes wrong as it has in this scenario then don’t expect to recover your money or get replacement USB sticks.

At USB2U we’ve been supplying promotional USB memory sticks for the last 12 years and we don’t let our customers down.

USB2U - Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

USB2U - Your Trusted Supplier of USB Memory Sticks

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