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USB memory drives
The following advice about USB memory drives was contributed in discussions on the RNLD list (May 2009):
Note that the price of this equipment falls all the time, so it may be cheaper now than when this note was written.
This Corsair Flash Survivor USB memory drive looks like it could stand up to some serious fieldwork abuse and still work just fine. It might serve as a good backup device, even better than recording to CD-Rs. And with sizes up to 32 GB you could keep an awful lot of audio recordings on it. It also seems to have a very fast read-write speed, so you can use it with larger files more easily. Their website doesn't list (for me) any places to buy it, but Google gives plenty of results. Also here's a good review of the device, which includes links to retailers:
The Corsair site lists some retailers, I went and followed one of the links and found a US price of $78.90 for the 32GB version. Not too bad if you ask me. Depending on what you're doing and what sort of formats you're using, 32GB could be plenty of space to backup your data for a treacherous journey back from wherever.
The XS-drive is another useful device, which apparently hasn't been copied by other manufacturers. It is basically a hard drive which has the ability to suck all the data from a recording device without going through a computer. I think all you need to do is put in a CF or SD card and hit 'backup'. They have a regular 2.5" SATA hard drive inside, which makes them unfortunately susceptible to failures and breakages from dropping, etc., but if you were cashed up enough, you could buy a 2.5" SATA solid state drive of comparable capacity to make it more secure. The only failure point then, would be the connectors from the SATA drive to the shell.
In case you're wondering about this last option, solid state 2.5" hard drives cost about 350.00 (AUD) for 128GB. Probably not a viable option just yet, but they're due to dramatically fall in price as they soon get to fit more GB per square inch into a 2.5" drive bay sized space. If you think about it, 32GB compact flash cards are almost cheap enough now to make them worthwhile, so it shouldn't be long at all.
I looked into the rugged usb market a while back and learnt the following things:
- My impression is that flash drives are already fairly rugged just as they are. I've had one that became faulty through water damage but since then I've just dried them out with a cloth they've worked fine. Likewise mobile phones: remove the batteries when it starts raining to prevent a short circuit and then dry them with a cloth when you can. I've done this a dozen times with my cheap nokia. The only thing that eventually killed it was total immersion.
- The biggest risk (for me) is loss rather than damage. I purchased a usb that advertised itself as rugged but the chain attaching it to my keyring was weak and I lost it on a bumpy uphill journey.
Backing up to an external server such as Jungle Disk or dot mac is an option if you have occasional access to the internet. That way you know that even if all your equipment is completely pulverised, the last back-up will still be sitting happily on a server somewhere in California. Jungle Disk is really quite cheap especially if you think of it in terms of data insurance.
I have a Lacie Rugged Hard Drive - 250GB. It has mostly only received office use so far and I have to say that I’m not impressed. It never ejects which means you have to pull out the Firewire cable. It also freezes often which means that it is a nightmare to use as a backup or to play something off it directly e.g. audio or video. I might just have a faulty one but I have had problems with Lacie in the past.
James Crippen, Piers Kelly, Felicity Meakins, Aidan Wilson