USB Flash Drives – Expanding the Possibilities

USB flash drives have evolved from their initial use as marketing swag to devices capable of addressing corporate needs ranging from mobile computing platforms to files stores with encryption and biometrics protection. Over the past few years, the thumb drive has outpaced other hardware devices in terms of storage capacity growth. And USB drive capacity is outpacing Moore's Law by doubling every year instead of every 18 months. Capacity of those drives is expected to leap from 128mB for most manufactures to 128GB in 2008.

The biggest concern of IT managers related to USB memory sticks is the ability to walk away with proprietary corporate data. Vista addresses this concern with new system policies that control USB flash drive interactions with a computer. A policy can be set preventing flash memory from working with the USB ports on a computer, while still allowing the USB port to be used with other devices.

USB drives easily secure data. Biometric thumb drives store fingerprints, flash drives come with encryption programs such as Secret Zip, PCLock, and programs that synchronize data between devices. USB flash drives come in your choice of fun form factors with the capability to store your Windows desktop for mobile computing. The USB drive can store user preferences, profiles and settings. You can plug the thumb drive into another person's PC or laptop and use it as if it were your own. Your e-mail program and browser, for example, can run from the USB stick on any Windows PC with all your messages and bookmarks and settings intact. It will appear as if the programs were installed on the local PC, when they're actually on the USB drive. All cached data is stored on the USB drive, leaving no evidence of its use on the host computer.

Some USB drives have recently developed the capability to run sophisticated applications, replicate e-mail and transfer desktop and laptop settings, directly from the USB stick in conjunction with any Windows PC. Companies are developing “thin” applications, such as Open Office for office productivity, Skype for VoIP, Trillian for instant messaging and Mozilla's Firefox Internet browser that are developed specifically to run on a thumb drive.

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