USB flash drives for industrial apps aren't throwaways

February 26, 2016 OpenSystems Media

Have you ever been to a trade show and received promotional literature on a USB flash drive with a company’s logo on it, or maybe just a generic device? I bet when you were done downloading the files from the drive, there’s a good chance you put it in a drawer and never touched it again. I’m looking at several in my desk drawer right now.

Since this is a typical usage model for most USB flash drives, most are manufactured with the lowest-cost memory, controllers, and construction. They’re basically disposable memory devices – write once, download, and forget.

Rugged physical construction is not a priority on these parts and many lid sets come apart with little use. If more than a few simple file transfers are done, many drives get errors or corrupt their internal firmware, making them unusable.

So that brings me to a USB flash drive usage model for industrial applications. While they’re make up a minority of such applications, they require something with better reliability. The solution for these applications is the Industrial USB flash drive, which is made with SLC NAND memory for high write endurance cycles, wide temperature operation, and best-in-class data retention.

These SLC drives are designed with controllers made for reliability versus lowest cost. Industrial wear leveling and defect-management algorithms are a given. Some higher-end varieties have a SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) feature for predictive life management and encryption for use in secure applications.

Finally, the physical construction of the Industrial USB drive is more robust than a giveaway drive. They will typically last over a decade even in very rugged operating environments.

I’d like to leave you with this message. If your application is a giveaway for customers that will likely be a one-time use, by all means use the lowest-cost supplier possible. If you have a long-life industrial application, make sure you check under the hood of your drive to get the reliability and robustness you need.

Steve Larrivee is VP of sales & marketing for Cactus Technologies Limited. He has more than 30 years of experience in the data storage market, including 10 years with SanDisk and 5 years at Seagate Technology.

Cactus Technologies Limited

Steve Larrivee, Cactus Technologies Limited
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