Carabiner USB Flash Drives Are Here

Carabiners are very versatile pieces of equipment not only for rock climbers, but for the ones who simply want to keep their keys secured.  Why not combine the indispensable flash drive with the security of the carabiner? Great idea!

Carabiner USB Flash Drives

Carabiner Functionality

It works the same way as any other. The spring loaded gate lets you attach the flash drive to anything you like. The spring is strong enough to keep the gate securely closed. The thick sturdy construction and wide opening makes it strong and very useful.

USB Connector

Just flick the ribbed plastic piece with a small bump on the bottom of the drive to open the USB connector. It can be opened half way or full 180 for connection to any USB port.

Colors

There are many available colors; the ones pictured above are just a few we had available for a photo op.  Also, custom or match colors are also available.

Function and Style

These Carabiner USB flash drives are cool; combination of function and style is a great find. Check with us to get yours today!

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Return of the Affordable Logo USB Flash Drive

It has been a while since our last post. Back in September, we analyzed the market of the NAND flash memory and the future trend of prices affecting the cost of the USB flash drive. The logical conclusion reached at the time was that the higher prices were here to stay. Since Micron came to consolidate the position as the 3rd worldwide maker of memory chips, including NAND, it was not difficult to predict that prices have a potential to be high or rise.

The Numbers Game

The actual rough prices for the flash memory used in such devices as USB flash drive came slightly different than originally predicted. The overall trend, while higher in the year of 2013, showed a decrease in 2014.

4GB-Flash-Memory-Pricing-Trend-2014

2013 has not been kind to price increase for flash drives. The incredibly low price in 2012 made customers cringe at the prices available in 2013. Since the NAND flash memory makes by far the largest percentage of the cost of the flash drive, the price increase of 60% was most undesirable.

While it may be surprising, the cost of the USB flash drive housing, memory controller and logo printing combined is a much smaller fraction of the overall cost of the drive when compared to the cost of the NAND flash memory.

Better Flash Prices for 2014

Even though it was logical to predict the rise in prices in flash memory in general, there have been simple market trends that make NAND flash memory more affordable.

  1. The Chinese Yuan has been weakening as compared to the US dollar. The weakness started in 2014 has helped the prices to decrease in USD.
  2. Larger capacities become more popular and thus put downward pressure on smaller capacities (i.e. up to 16GB)
  3. Global economic slowdown. While the industry consolidation is a fact, the throughput is still quite large. The economic slowdown may have enabled inventory buildup and better prices.

Buy Now! Will the Downward Trend Continue?

There may be some ongoing continued weakness; however the prices should stabilize as the manufacturers will fight the downward pressure to protect margins. The economic slowdown is nothing new and the manufacturers may move fast to trim production to restore prices.

The industry has consolidated to 3 major players – Samsung, Hynix, and Micron.  It’s simply in the business interest to make sure the prices don’t fall too far. Enjoy these low prices while they last.

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Kick Your USB Promotion Into a High Gear

Clean design and easily readable message is the cornerstone of an effective promotional product. Modern style demands not only the clean design from your message (brand), but equally the product you put it on.

Metal is Better

Yes, metal is a must in a modern design – it’s cool to touch, rigid yet smooth, armed with uncompromisingly precise lines and unmatched luster. Even though the digital version of this USB metal card flash drive cannot be touched, you can still appreciate it on your screen.

USB Metal Flash Drive Card Empty Canvas Open

Let’s Kick It Up a Notch

Sometimes the luster of the bare metal does not cut it. Let’s paint a cool logo against all black background on the metal drive; it’ll look awesome! That’s what folks at Blizzard Entertainment thought, and we made it work. The look came out raw and brutal – and that’s how you kick it up a notch!

USB Metal Flash Drive Card Black Open

Keep in mind that the logo and the design are a registered trademark of Blizzard Entertainment. We are in no way associated with Blizzard Entertainment.

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The Volatile Market of the USB Flash Memory Drives

I must admit that it was difficult to expect so much volatility from the NAND flash memory market in 2013. Just like the manufacturers and our customers, we’ve expected a nice downtrend in the prices due to higher availability and price competition in the flash memory space.

Less Competition – Higher Prices

In a hunt for better grades of flash memory back in 2012, we identified several tiers of the flash memory manufacturers. The post is still available here for your reading pleasure.

A large manufacturer of DRAM – Micron has gone on a shopping spree by acquiring our third tier identified manufacturers Elpida and Rexchip for $2 billion. Effectively, Micron has eliminated third tier manufacturers and established itself as a first tier player along with Samsung and Hynix.

What happened to the second tier manufacturers such as Nanya and Inotera? Inotera is a join venture between Nanya and Micron. Finally, Nanya has entered into an agreement with Micron to purchase all on the Inotera output.

Micron has been aggressive in purchasing of DRAM and flash memory assets to position itself as one of the large players in the memory space. Simply put, the consolidation has yielded three main players in the industry – Samsung, Hynix, and Micron.

Unfortunate Incident at Hynix Creates Instant Shock Waves

The photos of the black smoke billowing from the SK Hynix factory in Wuxi, China have sent immediate shock waves throughout the industry, increasing the prices on the flash memory and limiting the availability. After it was realized that the extent of the damage was not sufficiently significant to warrant a substantial price increase of the flash memory, the prices have marginally decreased from the initial spike.

3-D NAND Flash Technology – Better, Faster, Energy Efficient

Intel, Samsung, Micron, and Hynix are all investing big into 3D NAND flash memory technology. The equipment purchase and the overall investment will not be cheap. The reported performance for write speeds, density (capacity), and power savings are impressive; however the cost for this technology will be surely transferred to the buyer.

The newer technology gives the manufacturers pricing power while keeping the prices on the existing (planar) NAND flash memory high. When we finally start seeing the 3D technology, the pricing will remain high, feeding the higher margins of the manufacturers and not translating to lower prices to the consumers.

Enormous Demand

September and the whole 4th quarter of 2013 will see plethora of flash memory devices unveiling. Starting from Apple releasing the new iPhones – selling 9 million units as of two days ago, Microsoft releasing the new model of Surface tablets, the new iPads being released in November, Samsung with Galaxy phones and tablets, and ending with Google’s entire Android phone/tablet ecosystem spurring the demand as well as the whole PC industry moving to hybrid or all SSD drives.

The shift of the entire computing industry has been massive. The enterprise uses flash memory to speed up database server transactions and data throughput, the professional customers switching almost entirely to SSD to improve the PC performance, and regular consumers using an increasing amount of mobile technology with nothing but NAND flash for storage.

It’s safe to say that the environment is just right for a steadily increasing demand for years to come.

Higher Prices are Here to Stay

Given an environment where there is ongoing industry consolidation, increasingly high demand, and move to utilize newer technologies, it’s difficult to make a case for lower prices.

As the incident with the Hynix factory demonstrated, the flash memory marketplace is extremely volatile. The enormous demand cannot accept any hiccups in the supply; any reduction is met with immediate price hikes or even total lack of availability.

The consolidation in the industry paired with the move to the newer technologies puts even more pressure on supply, and allows pricing leverage to manufacturers. As some estimate that it may take up to 3-4 years for the 3D NAND technology to be widely available; that’s should be the estimate for how long we would endure the higher prices.

 

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How Long Does a USB Flash Drive Last? (Part II)

We place precious data on these small electronic devices. It’s of no surprise that we wonder if it can all just disappear in the flux of electronic bits, bytes, capacitors, and transistors. It’s not easy to grasp how a USB flash drive can store all of our life’s work and keep it safe. Let’s dive in and figure out if these flash based devices can be trusted.

Just Give Me a Straight Answer

USB flash drives and SSDs are fast and increasingly reliable, and are replacing the older tapes and hard-drives. I recall from the numerous studies, articles as well as just the common understanding between the IT professionals, the average lifetime of a hard-drive was between 3-5 years. As the flash memory reduced in price, the surge of the flash drives and SSDs has increased dramatically. However, the knowledge about their endurance or the lifetime of the flash memory based devices has been lacking.

Many factors directly affect the longevity of the flash memory. Some of those factors are the quality and the type of the flash memory and the controller, and the intended use of the USB flash drive or SSD device. If you want the fastest answer without getting technical or getting bored with the details, the life of the modern USB flash drive or SSD would generally match or exceed the average lifetime of a hard-drive under moderate load – 3-5 years or more.

More Details, Please

We started the discussion on this topic in the previous post. It can be accessed here. Without knowing if there is any interest, we focused mainly on a theoretical time model of constant read/write load on the drive. It was assumed that a USB flash drive would be written to 15% of the time under 24/7 365 days a year load.

Since, this topic seems to perk the interest of a few readers, it was important to add more color into the dilemma of predicting the life and death of a flash memory device.

It’s important to understand that the quality of the flash memory as well as the logic of the flash memory controllers can affect the performance as well as the endurance of a flash memory device such as USB flash drive or SSD. The models that are presented assume that the controller can distribute the writes evenly over the flash memory, and that the quality of the flash memory itself will stand up to the promised write/erase cycles.

Below, are two models for computing the endurance of a flash based device. The first is the time model – given a specific write time each day, how much data can be written to a device and thus how long it will last. The second is the data model – given a specific data size, how long will the device last if the data size is written to the drive each day.

Flash Memory Endurance Computation-Bowtie Promotions 2013

Table Adventure or How to Follow the Endurance Numbers

All of the flash memory lifetimes are computed for the TLC type memory. This particular type memory is becoming the standard for the consumer based flash products. It has earned the clever marketing moniker cMLC.

The topmost table, as mentioned before, depicts the time based model.  The bottommost table depicts the data model. Both models assume 100,000 IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) for modern SSDs; 60K IOPS for older SSDs, and 2.5K IOPS for the USB flash drives. Additionally, both models assume that the SSD type flash memory is rated to 3K write/erase cycles, whereas the USB flash drive memory is rated to 1K. The actual numbers will vary; however these numbers are close enough for the modeling purposes.

On the very bottom of each table is the “Terabytes per year” measure. This number clarifies how each model differs.  In the time model, if the flash memory and the device are fast, then they will be able to write much more data in a given period of time. In the data model, time does not matter, because we are given a fixed data to write each day.

The time model assumes that we’ll be writing on average about an hour per day. In the most extreme example of the time model, given a 256GB SSD (100K IOPS rated drive), you’ll have written 469.92 Terabytes worth of data per year or 751.87 Terabytes over 1.6 years before the drive’s ultimate end. In the slowest example of the time model, given a 256GB USB flash drive (2.5K IOPS rated drive), you’ll have written only 11.75 Terabytes worth of data per year or 250.04 Terabytes over 21.28 years before the drive’s end of life.

Now the data model. You’ll notice right away that the Terabytes per year field is exactly the same for each drive. Here it does not matter how long it takes; you can have the fastest drive or the slowest. What matters is that you have a certain amount of data that you write per day. In case of our model, 1GB worth of data per day was chosen. Therefore, the written data per day will be 1GB * 365 day per year = 365GB per year or rounded 0.36 Terabytes per year.

Outstanding Endurance in USB Flash Drives for a Casual User

The time model’s results are not very appealing; however the time model is more suited for a server, professional CAD, or a audio/videophile who are constantly writing large amounts of data each day. For a casual user or a professional who does not reply on writing significant amount of data per day, the data model is much more appropriate.

The data model shows more than 40 years of life for a 16GB USB flash drive. That’s an outstanding endurance number for any electronic device. It’s comforting to know that even though it’s a tiny device, it can be trusted with many years of service for keeping the data safe.

Conclusion; Just Before You Go

Our time and data models show promising results for the SSDs and the USB flash drives. If you’ve got data to move, the flash memory provides the fastest route available today. In the time model, the life of the drive is only shortened due to the incredible amount of data being written to the drive. In the data model, the casual and some professional users can take comfort in the results. The longevity of the 256GB USB flash drive pushing 700 years is as safe as it gets.

Just before you go, only one note. As the drive fills up with data, the models need to be re-referenced. For example, if you manage to fill up half of your 16GB USB flash drive with data on the first day, you’ll only have the remaining 8GB for writing. Then it would be best to reference the endurance for the 8GB drive to get a closer approximation.

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How long will your USB flash drive last? It’s much shorter than you think!

[Updated - March 2013]

Every electronic device has a set lifetime, no matter how reliable it may be. Either the mechanical components of the device fail and/or the electronics fail. It may be great news to the manufacturing companies; however not so much to us – the regular consumers.

The news of failing electronics get worse if you consider storage devices such as hard drives, SSDs, and flash memory. Drive failure frequently means loss of important data and utter disappointment.  If there is a chance or restoring the data from the backup,  it may take hours or even days.  It’s difficult to find reconciliation, unless you’re into target practice.

It’s almost impossible to reliably predict a point of time when a drive will fail. Fortunately, there are some tools to estimate an average lifetime of a storage drive. We’ll focus on the flash memory (NAND) storage in this post, and will leave the hard drives to other blogs. Keep in mind that we’ll show a relatively simple way of computing the life of an average flash drive with typical usage.

Let’s dive in! Wait… before we do; let’s go over some basics really quickly.

  1. Flash memory consists of billions of transistors. Each transistor can store from one bit to three bits
  2. The smallest data that the flash memory can read or write is 4KB worth of data. 4KB = 32768 bits
  3. The smallest data the the flash memory can erase is 512KB – that’s huge!
  4. If the data is overwritten in the flash memory, it must first be erased and only then written.
  5. Each time the data is erased, the life of the transistors involved is diminished.
  6. Each time the data is written/read, the controller on the flash drive interacts with the flash memory. That interaction is referred to as IOPS (Input/Output [operations] Per Second)

Now we can start calculating the life of your flash drive. The usual life of each transistor for erase/write cycle is about 1,000 or less. The reason it’s not higher is because the USB flash memory makers often use MLC or TLC type flash memory. From the lesson #1 above; it is the type that stores 2 and 3 bits respectively per transistor (cell).

The average write IOPS measure for a flash drive is about 2500. However, if you’re geeky enough, you can measure yours with Intel’s iometer tool.

So how do I actually get the life of my drive?!

Flash Memory Lifetime Updated

Previously, we used 256K data block in our calculation instead of intended 4K. The result was not a happy number! With this more appropriate computation, the 4GB gets a reputable 32.36 days of heavy duty usage!

The calculation assumes that 15% (that’s the 0.15 in computation) of the time you’ll be writing to the drive. That’s 15% of the 24 hours per day for those 32.36 days. Also, the calculation assumes that you’ll be overwriting (erasing and writing the data) evenly on the flash drive. These are 32.36 pure and hardcore writing days for a causal and even professional user.

Practically speaking, a lot depends on the usage of your drive and the capacity. Additionally, there is a hidden attribute – a factor of how well the controller on the flash drive distributes the writes. In any case, a 4GB drive can last many years. Increasing your capacity, increases the lifetime of your drive so it’s always a good idea to pick the largest size you can.

So what’s that magic number that is used in the formula, you ask? It’s quite simple :) It’s purely used for conversion purposes. Since we use GBs in the numerator and seconds in the IOPS argument, it’s easier to use the 33.25 conversion factor to simplify computation. You get 33.25 with the following operation: 1,000 cycles X (1,048,576KB) / 31,536, 000 sec [There is 1,048,576KB in 1GB; there is 31,536,000 sec in one year]

So how long will your USB flash drive last? That really depends on many factors. However, there are few things you can remember if you want to extend the life of your drive.

  1. Buy the largest capacity you can afford.
  2. Do research. Choose SLC memory over MLC. And MLC over TLC.
  3. Avoid erasing data.
  4. Even the best technology fails; don’t forget to backup!

Armed with the information, you now can protect your investment better. Most of our valuable work is now stored on hard drives and flash memory. The flash memory is being utilized more and more due to its high speed and the lack of mechanical parts. However, there are important facts that you must know to better guard yourself from data loss.

[Update] We continue and expand our discussion on the endurance of flash memory here.

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Your Logo in 3D USB Flash Drive Body

Your logo is so 2-dimensional

The logotypes or simply “logos” try to tell the whole story of a company or a brand. If you had a chance to create one, it can be a long and most of the time not overly creative process that occasionally yields fantastic results.

Fantastic or not, the logos are almost always printed on paper with the occasional exclusion of an exposition stand. What if you could take your logo and re-create it beyond the constraints of a 2D piece of paper? What if you could market it as a usable product?

We can take almost any logo and bring it into the 3D world as a USB flash drive!

Custom Shape Logo USB Flash Drive

This particular logo is 4-color molded front and back USB flash drive. It incorporates the artwork and text to create a highly versatile logo USB flash drive.

Custom Logo USB Flash Drive Open Cap

3D is Simply Better

Even with the 3D feel to the logo USB flash drive, we can do better. There are almost no limits to how your logo can be molded. The shapes don’t have to be blocky; they can be curved, rounded, acute, or obtuse. That’s the benefit of playing in the 3-dimensional world.

2-dimensional is so yesterday. It’s time to free your logo from the restraint of paper; it’s time for the 3D logo USB flash drive.

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