Does Google Drive Sound the Death Knell for USB Flash Drives

Whilst some critics are saying they are late to the market the announcement yesterday by Google of their new “Google Drive” service will have competitors like Dropbox and Microsoft (SkyDrive) quaking in their boots.  Hanns Kohler-Kruner from tech research firm Gartner has said "Google Drive will hit some competitors very hard and shake up the market,"

The free entry level option gives users 5GB (gigabytes) of storage. Options to increase the amount of storage (up to a maximum of 16TB) have also been launched but at the top end it’ll cost you $799.99. A more realistic 100GB of storage is available at $4.99 per month which compares favourably to Dropbox who currently charge $25 per month for a similar amount of storage.

Essentially Google Drive is a “Cloud based” storage solution that will allow users to upload and download data (files, pictures, videos, etc.) from their PC or Mac, their mobile phone or tablet. Android phones are supported from the get go and an update is expected within weeks to support iPhones.

With Google now entering the market will people still use or want portable storage options like USB Flash Drives? After all, why pay for a small USB stick that you might lose or break when you can simply upload your data safely and securely to a cloud based storage option like Google Drive. Not only that but whether you use Google, Dropbox or Microsoft you’ll expect your data to be accessible wherever you are and without any worries of it ever being lost or corrupted. With such compelling arguments why would you buy/use a USB flash drive?

Well for some people handing over their precious/sensitive data to Google and entrusting them to keep it secure is a “non-starter”. Worries of who will have access to the data, vulnerability to hacking and just general paranoia about not being able to “physically hold it” mean the solution is not going to be for everyone. But, for your average home user/student, particularly those with the latest smartphones and a Gmail accounts, an integrated Google solution is going to be a formidable option and services like these will gradually erode the use of USB flash drives in the consumer market.

Promotional USB Flash Drives

Interestingly though, sales of promotional USB flash drives have never been stronger. Companies wishing to distribute data or provide a relatively inexpensive “branded giveaway” are now using USB flash drives in preference to CD’s and DVD’s and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. Underpinning the growth is a realisation that USB sticks have a high perceived value, they’re small and portable and they look great printed. It’s also cheaper to supply electronic brochures, price lists, catalogues etc. on a branded USB flash drive than it is to get them printed and distributed.

In response manufacturers and suppliers of promotional USB flash drives are continually bringing out new products to drive the market. Recent innovations include wafer thin credit card style USB flash drives that are only 2mm thick and bamboo USB flash drives that play well in the re-cycled/environmentally conscious market.

So, whilst consumers might start to reduce their spend on portable USB flash drives (in favour of cloud based solutions) they are increasingly likely to be given USB flash drives by companies looking for a way to communicate with them in a more innovative and cost effective manner.

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