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Storing data on glass for billions of years

Posted by USB2U on 24th February 2016 | Permalink

Very exciting data storage news by optical scientists from the University of Southampton who have developed a new revolutionary method called 5D optical memory. This means that up to 360TB of data can be stored on glass for billions of years, which could help mankind to be remembered ages after we are gone. As a comparison, 360Tb glass storage equals to 90 000 4Gb USB Memory sticks!

In order to store data in glass, scientists need to make use of nanogratings, which put simply, refers to a nanoscale grating created by shooting extremely fast femtosecond laser pulses of light at a material – usually metal or glass – to produce grooves or markings in it. In popular culture, this would be something similar to Superman using the laser beams in his eyes to store information in the memory crystals of the Fortress of Solitude!

The idea is that the femtosecond laser writes information into the glass by changing the way light moves through it, and each tiny dot created is able to store one bit of information. This 3D optical data storage method is similar to that used by CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray discs today, and the researchers have recorded a copy each of the Magna Carta, the King James Bible and the UN Declaration of Human Rights to glass to preserve them.

But to make glass digital data storage devices a viable reality, the researchers, including photonics and optoelectronics PhD students Aušra Cerkauskaite, Aabid Patel and Rokas Drevinskas, have now developed a method of reading and writing data to glass, using a five-dimensional (5D) digital data storage method whereby instead of tiny dots, the femtosecond lasers create self-assembling nanostructures. 

At USB2U we will await to hear when this data storage method might be available for commercial applications. One day we would love to say that our glass crystal USBs were true glass storage devices! Whilst it may not have the same storage capacity, a branded glass USB is the must have tech product of the year. With laser engraving, chrome metal casing and delivered in a stunning box it have a real wow factor.

Read full article here


USB2U's crystal USB

USB2U’s crystal USB


About as Much Fun as Pulling Teeth – Loading Data onto USB Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 5th October 2015 | Permalink

Millions of promotional USB memory sticks get bought and then get given away every year. Go to any exhibition, show, seminar, conference or university open day and the chances are you’ll get offered at least one USB with a logo printed on the side of it.

Why are they so popular? Well, USB memory sticks, as far as top-end promotional products are concerned are not that expensive (albeit they have a high perceived value), they’re small, they’re easy to carry and they come in a wide range of styles and colours which makes them ideal for branding up with a logo.

The majority of the millions that will be given away in 2015 will have a memory capacity of around between 4GB – 8GB. This is a huge amount of digital storage! It’s about the same as you get on many of the top selling smart phones on the market today. 8GB will support hundreds of thousands of documents, thousands of photos and hundreds of media (video) files.

If you bought a PC a couple of years ago the Hard Disk Drive on the PC would have been smaller (in terms of storage capacity) than that “given away for free!” on a USB stick. Crazy isn’t it but that’s how the digital storage market moves.

The winner from this on-going availability of cheap digital storage in a simple device like a USB stick is the companies that buy them BUT they only benefit if they put the growing storage space to good use.

It’s amazing how many of the millions of promotional USB sticks sold every year are handed out with NO data on them, NADA. ZIP, NOTHING, ZILCH. It’s criminal as a company to buy promotional USB sticks (a product designed specifically to carry data) and not use the memory you have paid for.

One of the primary objectives of giving them away is to build awareness about your organisation, what you do, what your values and what differentiates you from others in your sector. To do this you really should build enough time into your plans to load onto every USB stick documents like your sales brochures, your presentation slides, videos, price lists etc. Load anything that allows you to show off what you’re about and how the recipient of the drive can get in touch with you. Include all your social media links to encourage on-going engagment.

Of course the downside of loading data onto your branded USB memory sticks is actually doing it – it’s the most tedious, mind numbing, soul-destroying job ever! Don’t forget your need to “stop and eject” each USB stick before you can remove them from your PC!

If you have to manually load each and every stick yourself one at a time it will take hours and hours. If you’ve got lots of data (and with 8GB of space you’re likely to) then to load each stick can take 5-10 minutes. So if you’ve got hundreds to do you can end up writing off an evening or two and sometimes a whole weekend!

A much, much better option is to get your USB stick supplier to do the data loading for you. They’ll have the latest state of the art bulk data-loading kit. These machines not only copy lots of USB sticks at the same time but they run algorithms at the end of each run to make sure the data has been copied properly!

Often data-loading will be free but it’s always best to ask but unless you have no social life we’d strongly recommend leaving data-loading of USB memory sticks to the professionals.

USB Data Loading Services from USB2U

USB Data Loading Services from USB2U



Barclays Customer Data Found on USB Memory Stick

Posted by USB2U on 27th July 2015 | Permalink

A USB memory stick recovered by Police in Brighton in February this year contained the personal details of 13,000 Barclays customers. The information which included names, date of birth, addresses and in some cases employment details and NI numbers is thought to have been in the hands of fraudsters for around 7 years!

It’s unclear exactly how the data was originally taken but Barclays, who are clearly embarrassed by this further breach, have acted swiftly and contacted all of the impacted customers and proactively offered them each £250 in compensation.

A Barclays spokesman said: ‘This is not a new theft of data from Barclays. Every indication is that the data here was part of the same theft of data that was reported last year, relating to data stolen in 2008. It is simply a separate USB data stick that was not received at that point in time and was recently discovered by the police.”

They go on to add: ‘‘We are asking each customer to call if they feel their individual circumstances warrant different compensation, especially if they believe that they had a fraudulent event at any point since this data was stolen.”

To be clear it is not believed Barclays stored the data on the USB stick in the first place. It was more likely copied onto the stick by the original fraudsters but the whole episode does once again highlight just how easily stolen data can be distributed.

Barclays USB Flash Drives

Barclays USB Flash Drives

Most of the USB sticks we supply are used as part of simple brand development or marketing campaigns and as such any information stored (or pre-loaded) onto them is unlikely to be sensitive. If you do plan to distribute any USB sticks that you buy from us with confidential data on then we strongly recommend that you ask about the range of encrypted and password protected USB sticks that we offer.

Encrypted and password protected flash drives will cost a little more but this small extra cost is tiny when compared to potential compensation payouts. The compensation that Barclays have offered each of the 13,000 customers whose data was found on the USB stick by police in Brighton compensation will total £3.25 million! Ouch!

Better still don’t use USB sticks to distribute customer confidential data on in the first place. That might sound strange coming from a USB stick supplier but it’s not in our interests to see a popular promotional giveaway “demonised” by the actions of a few people who should know better.



Free Data Loading on Promotional USB Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 5th June 2015 | Permalink

It’s been over 12 years since we first started selling promotional USB memory sticks and the demand for them today is stronger than ever. Other technology based promotional gifts have come and gone during this time but USB sticks have stubbornly clung on.

The reason for their enduring appeal seems to be down to a few key factors; people like them, they’re relatively inexpensive (but have a high perceived value) and more fundamentally they keep giving more for less! By this we mean that today you’ll pay broadly the same for a 8GB USB stick, as you would have done for a 64MB USB stick a decade ago! That’s a huge increase in data storage capacity with no comparative increase cost – no other type of promotional gift (that we can think of) continually offers more in this way.

With branded (USB sticks printed with your logo) 8GB sticks costing less than £2 each (depending on volume and stick type) they really do represent fantastic value. Think about it – 8GB is the standard storage offered on the iPhone C and you can get this for less than £2.

USB Data Loading Services from USB2U

USB Data Loading Services from USB2U

Of course this amount of storage is crying out to be used so when customers buy their promotional flash drives from us we strongly advocate using the memory they are paying for is loaded with whatever promotional material they can digitise and make available. Why, we, it’s a great way to distribute information about your company, your products or your event at very little cost. Compared to the price of printing, transporting and distributing the collateral the benefits and savings are significant.

If you do plan to load data onto your USB memory sticks before you distribute them then you will need to get organised and have your data ready. If you don’t want to go through the pain of loading the data onto the USB sticks yourself then ask us to do it for you. We use our own in-house professional data loading and data duplication equipment to load the data onto your memory sticks and by allowing us to do it we can check the data is loaded correctly on each and every USB stick (The professional data loading kit does this using some clever “checksum” algorithms.

Any style, shape, design or memory size of flash drive can be pre-loaded with data and pretty much any format of data can be loaded. Popular examples of data files that are typically used include; PDF’s, PowerPoint Slides, Excel Spreadsheets, Word Documents, Links to websites and media files.

If you buy your promotional USB memory sticks from us and you are interested in our offer of FREE data loading (T&C’s apply)then just mention this to your Account Manager and they’ll talk you through the options.


Does it Make Sense to Pre-load Data onto Promotional USB Flash Drives

Posted by USB2U on 6th July 2012 | Permalink

Demand from schools universities and businesses for promotional USB Flash Drives is still pretty buoyant with overall sales in 2012 on track to outstrip like for like sales in 2011.

Part of the growth is because people are abandoning CD’s and DVD’s in favour of USB flash drives but fundamentally it’s because:

  1. People like being given USB flash drives, they have a high perceived value and unlike CD’s and DVD’s they offer real value to the recipeient.
  2. The price of printed and engraved USB flash drives have Printed and customised USB memory has fallen below £2 per unit (subject to minimum quantities and type)
  3. Flash drives, unlike CD’s and DVD’s tend to be used by the recipient to store and carry their own personal data (after all this is what they are designed for!) and as such the brand that is printed on it gets significantly more exposure.
  4. Postage costs have recently shot up again making the mailing of brochures and catalogues prohibitively expensive. The same brochures can be sent out electronically on a USB flash drive for a fraction of the price.
  5. Rather than printing and shipping hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of glossy brochures to trade shows companies are now finding that it’s easier (and cheaper) to take USB flash drives pre-loaded with their sales collateral. Unlike brochures that have a tendency to fill up the bins just outside of the exhibition halls USB flash drive get kept.

Pre-loading data onto a memory sticks purchased for your school or company makes good commercial sense. The savings made by pre-loading data onto USB sticks rather than printing the equivalent documents can fully offset the cost of the sticks. Build in the costs of transporting and/or storing heavy brochures and the costs benefits get really compelling.

Twister USB Flash Drives

Twister USB Flash Drives

Data loading or duplication, pre-loading, copying or replication is relatively easy to do but it can be time consuming so you need to plan ahead to allow enough time to get the data organised. Don’t try and load the data yourself. Most USB suppliers will offer a free data load up to a certain amount, typically 100MB.

You can “lock” any data that you load onto the USB flash drives which means that it can’t be deleted but it has to be loaded and “locked” during the manufacturing process.

You also need to consider that if you load too much data on the stick and don’t leave enough room for the user then they’re unlikely to use it and your brand won’t get the on-going use and exposure you have paid for.


The Risks of Putting an Auto-Run File on Your USB Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 14th October 2011 | Permalink

If you’re planning to hand out USB memory sticks branded with your logo printed on them then one of the things you might need to consider is whether to pre-load any files onto the USB sticks before you hand them out. If you do decide to pre-load files then should you make these run (start-up) automatically as soon as the USB stick is connected to a PC?

Loading files (sales brochures, photos, prices lists, press releases, presentation slides etc.) is growing in popularity, which is hardly surprising given the money that can be saved, compared to printing the brochures etc. but should you “auto-run” this content:

The advantages of setting up your files to auto-run are:

  • The recipient will see your content as soon as they plug in the USB stick – typically the first item they are
    USB Data Load

    USB Data Load

    presented with is a “landing” page which then directs them to other content of the USB stick – a bit like a web page.

  • Using a USB stick with an autorun file on is easy and very intuitive (providing you spend some time on the file formats(s), the structure and you develop a navigation page)
  • You can be sure that the information you pre-load on the USB stick is seen (even if it is only the initial landing page)

But, there are some things that need careful consideration before you decide you want to install auto-run files on your USB sticks:

  • Nuisance factor. If one of your objectives is to ensure that your USB Memory Sticks are kept and used on a regular basis then bear in mind that every time the user wants to access or save a document they will have to wait for your auto-run to run. This is typically fine the first few times they use the stick, but pretty soon it’s going to get irritating and they’ll relegate the memory stick to a draw – bang goes any on-going brand exposure!
  • They don’t work on old Operating Systems – Autoruns will not work on Win 98 or Win 2000 operating systems and you need to adapt any autorun if you want it to work on Macs.
  • Corporate Firewalls – Some corporate firewalls and IT policies restrict autoruns because of worries about viruses. So, if you are targeting companies with your files lots of them might not be able to use the sticks if they have an auto-run on them.

There are alternatives to autoruns that are less intrusive but achieve the same sort of result without being a nuisance and these are:

  • Click Here to Start – load your data onto the USB Stick with an icon labelled ‘Click Here To Start’ and allow the user to access the data when they want.  This data can be protected so it would not be deleted, but overcomes may of the issues detailed above.
  • Print a QR Code (Quick Response) on the USB stick that takes the user directly to your web page (or landing page) when scanned – all new Smart phones, iPhones and iPads can scan QR codes and then dynamically open up a web page.

Our advice based on many years of selling millions of promotional USB sticks is to avoid autoruns if you can because people don’t like them, they get in the way of how they want to use the USB stick(s) and if you put them on the sticks will have a short life and you’re brand won’t get the exposure you’re paying for.


Playboy Collection Released on USB Hard Drive

Posted by USB2U on 1st December 2010 | Permalink

Playboy have just released a neat portable USB Drive that comes with an electronic copy of every edition of the Playboy magazine since it was launched in 1953! That’s 56 years of Playboy magazines totalling 650 issues and well over 100,000 pages – enough to keep even the most ardent of fans happy.

Payboy USB Drive

Playboy USB Drive

Now whilst the Playboy magazine might not be everyone’s cup of tea it does illustrate yet another way in which USB storage devices are being used to give access to vast amounts of information in a simple, portable and easy to use format. Whilst much of this information is no doubt already available on the web the sheer scale of the information put on these disks makes them a great alternative. Not everyone has access to fast download speeds or has good connectivity so expect more companies to release large collections of this type on portable USB flash drives or disks.

Another collection of popular material that spanned several decades is the Beatles Collection that was released last year by Apple Records on a very attractive “apple shaped” custom USB flash drive. Not only did this flash drive hold 14 albums but it also contained 13 documentary films and rare photographs of the band.

Apple USB Drive

Apple USB Drive

Its not just publishing houses and record labels that are catching onto the benefits of distributing customised USB flash drives pre-loaded with data. USB flash drives and increasingly disks have always been popular giveaways because they are a great way of getting a company brand exposure and garnering loyalty from the user. But, its fair to say that historically companies that distribute Flash Drives have neglected to use the storage space inherent in the drive but as prices fall for larger capacity drives more and more are realising this is a missed opportunity.

If you’re given a USB flash drive at a show, conference, seminar or press event then these days its likely the USB drive is going to be stuffed full of information about the company who paid for them and gave them away. The type of information pre-loaded onto these USB sticks typically includes sales brochures, product sheets, press releases, links to web sites, and occasionally media files such as movies or audio files.

Intel USB Hard Drive

Intel UBS Hard Drive

Undoubtedly the content, as compelling as it might be, won’t have quite the same appeal to some as the entire collection of the Playboy magazine.

If you are a company looking to buy or use promotional USB memory sticks then as peculiar as it might seem you should take a lead from Hugh Hefner and the Beatles and pre-load your USB drives with information about your company.


Understand Them And Take Care of Your USB Flash Drives

Posted by USB2U on 14th September 2010 | Permalink

USB Flash drives are incredibly popular and consequently we’re all using them more and more to store and carry our personal and work data and files around with us. But, just like any data that is stored digitally data saved onto a flash drives is susceptible to corruption and if this happens you could potentially lose your files or incur hefty fees to data recovery specialist to try and recover your files.

If you use USB flash drives then there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of data corruption and loss and this starts with understanding exactly what a USB flash drive is and how it works. Once you have a grasp of the basics its then much easier to understand the “do’s and don’ts” of how you use them which in turn will hopefully reduce any failures.

Twister USB

Twister USB

What is flash memory

Flash memory is probably the most commonly used digital storage in use in the world today. Flash is “solid state” memory with no moving parts and data is written to it and erased from it electronically over and over again. If you own a mobile phone, digital camera, MP3, iPod, or USB flash drive then you’ll have a product, which uses flash memory, but as you might expect there are differences in terms of quality and performance between the different types of flash memory flash available in the market.

The different types of flash memory typically used are:

Single Layer Cell Flash Modules (SLC) – This is the most expensive of all the flash modules you can buy because it uses less power (which in turn gives better battery life), it has excellent read/write speeds and because the data is written into a single cell (one bit of data is stored in a single cell) it is less susceptible to corruption. The vast majority of branded USB flash drives supplied by USB2U use SLC flash modules.

Multi Layer Cell Flash Modules (MLC) – As the name implies these flash modules store two bits of data per cell and hence can store twice the amount of information but with this improved data storage comes slight higher power consumption and a lower expected life. Because it’s cheaper than SLC flash modules MLC is commonly found in everyday consumer products.

Triple Layer Cell Flash Modules (TLC) – TLC flash modules are the cheapest type of flash available today. They allow you to write three bits of data to each data cells but the trade off is slower read/write speeds and a much lower life expectancy coupled with a greater propensity to fail. As such TLC flash modules tend to be used in “low end” consumer products where data storage is not “critical”.

Understanding how flash memory works:

Flash memory is a solid state “chip” that has no moving parts – it looks like a small printed circuit board encased in rubber so its not particularly exciting to look at but more importantly it is small, quiet, uses little power and generates hardly any heat. Data is “written” to the flash electronically as a series of “bits” and is erased in the same way.

Typical reasons for data corruption:

Life expectancy reached – Flash modules have a life expectancy and when reached they can lose their ability to retain data. Typically this is several thousand read/write cycles but the life expectancy will vary depending on the quality of chip used.

Condensation – If the products the flash modules are used are subjected to extremes of temperatures or humidity this can cause the flash module to short circuit or for corrosion of the contacts to build up.

Premature Removal – the most common reason for data loss when using a USB flash drive is removing the USB flash drive whilst it is still in use and without going through the “stop” and “safely remove” process. Doing this typically won’t damage your flash drive it will commonly lead to the loss of some/all of the data.

Branded USB Flash Drives

Branded USB Flash Drives

If you use USB flash drives to store critical data on then its worth ensuring you buy flash drives that use top grade flash chips (SLC chips) and you should make sure when you use the flash drive that you “stop” the drive using the “safely remove hardware” option before you physically remove it from the PC. Also bear in mind that flash memory degrades over time and has a life expectancy which when reached will mean permanent failure. So, if you’ve got a USB flash drive that’s been used regularly over a number of years its probably not a good idea to rely on it for the storage of critical data or precious photo’s!


On the Grid We Have Maserati, Mercedes, Porsche Branded Memory Sticks

Posted by USB2U on 18th May 2010 | Permalink

Gentlemen start your engines. Not only are some of the worlds most advanced motor manufactures constantly challenging the boundaries of what makes a great motor car but they are now looking at how they use the latest USB memory stick products within their marketing plans, their trade shows and during their driving day experiences.

Promotional Flash Drives

For an industry that is renowned for its technological innovation, its cutting edge design and impressive marketing it’s perhaps no surprise that the leading manufactures have embraced the humble USB Memory Stick. After all, there are significantly more things you can do with a memory stick than you can do with a CD or DVD and they’re far more popular with customers, dealers, showroom staff and the motoring press.

Branded Memory Sticks

Branded flash drives are popular because done well can look absolutely stunning, they are an excellent and relatively cheap way to distribute large amounts of sales and technical data, advertising movie clips, road tests reports and links to web sites. They’re also excellent for use at trade shows to draw prospective customers to your stand (albeit the cars normally do a pretty good job of this anyway) and they are a great idea to hand out to journalists and members of the motoring press at Press Events.

Some of the more innovative uses include capturing driver data (and car performance data) during race days and driving days. At the end of the race/driving experience the data can be uploaded from the memory stick onto a PC for review and analysis. This is something that was simply not possible with CD/DVD technology but now, providing memory sticks with the right performance specification are used, it’s easily achieved.

Branded USB

At the moment the motoring industry is only scratching at the surface of what’s doable with a USB memory stick and understanding where they can add value but given their constant competition between the brands both on and off the track its going to be an interesting space to keep an eye on!