Using a USB Flash drive for data backup?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by MRxROBOT, Apr 14, 2016.

  1. MRxROBOT macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #1
    The price point of 256GB USB Flash Drives has become so affordable now that I'd like to use them for essential data backups on the go (no media).

    What is the failure rate in regards to todays USB flash drives?

    Are they better or worse that traditional Hard Disk Drives?

    i couldn't find any recent threads on the matter. I look forward to any thoughts.
     
  2. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    #2
    I wouldn't entrust my data (at least that MUCH of my data) to a USB flash drive. I'd rather use an SSD inside a USB enclosure, which is a little more cumbersome than a USB flash drive, but much more reliable.

    I haven't seen any research regarding the failure rates of USB flash drives, but for the most part, they are mostly made to a price, use slow flash memory and are best used for temporary transport of data rather than long-term storage.

    Something like this:

    http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/ENVMKU3S240/

    uses much higher quality flash memory and offers speeds on par with other SSDs. It's priced accordingly.
     
  3. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #3
    I have always understood USB Flash Drives to be inferior to portable SSDs (I have 2 x 500 gig portable SSDs for at home backups/media), but to what extent? Do you know or could you point me in the direction of USB 3.0/3.1 Flash Drive Fail rates / longevity?
     
  4. matreya macrumors 65816

    matreya

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    #4
    There doesn't appear to be any major study on the reliability of USB flash drives. You'll see what I mean when you google "usb flash drive failure rate"
     
  5. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #5
    Yeah I did and that's why i finally made an account here (been lurking around reading for years) to hopefully find some answers. I have two USB 3 Sandisk Extreme Flash Drives from 2012 that are running just as well today as the day I bought them. So After looking at prices on the 256GB drives I thought it could be a nice ultra portable way to back up files. Just thought I'd get some fellow enthusiasts thoughts on the subject. Thank you for taking the time to respond.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 14, 2016 ---
    On another note. Those Envoy mini data transfer rates are misleading. The speeds are for compressible file transfers only. It gets cut down to a fraction of that when talking about incompressible data rates. It's actually slower than some of the high end USB 3 Flash Drives that cost far less.
     
  6. Fishrrman macrumors G3

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    #6
    I use USB flash drives to serve as backups (created with CarbonCopyCloner).
    They work for me.

    Also, the cost of 240gb SSDs has dropped to the point where you might consider using one of those, instead. Even faster.
     
  7. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #7
    Thanks, that is good to hear that you are using USB Flash drives for backups without any hiccups. I have a couple of 500GB SSDs and you're right they are fast. From a pure portability standpoint I really like the idea of using USB Flash drives for mobile backups especially at their price point these days. If properly taken care of I wonder why a USB Flash drive would be more unreliable than say the Flash storage in many computers and external drives. Are Flash drives more unreliable than a mechanical drive that gets tossed around in your bag?
     
  8. MRxROBOT, Apr 17, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016

    MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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  9. MTI macrumors 65816

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    #9
    The limitation of using USB sticks as a backup device is their failure and error rates per read write cycles. They're fine for a one shot "system backup" where you want to create a recovery device, however you increase your chances of disaster if you use that same stick for routine rewrites or as a type of Time Machine incremental backup.
     
  10. MRxROBOT, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #10
    I hear this from time to time without any data to back it up. Can you elaborate? What is their failure and error rates compared to a Hard Disk Drive? Of course it goes without saying that a no name generic drive will fail long before a SanDisk or Samsung drive so let's limit this to respected brands.
     
  11. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #11
    Let's look at it from a common sense perspective: USB flash drives are cheaper than SSD's, smaller than SSD's, and use less power than SSD's. If they were truly on par with SSD's in terms of reliability as well, there would be no need for SSD's.
     
  12. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    #12
    Have had several USB flash drives fails at work (use them as basically read only boot drives for VMware servers - the drives in question would be 8 GB flash running about 1 GB of data off the top of my head and rarely written to - the drives would have been under 2 years old) - failure rate probably depends on the quality of the flash drive you buy.

    However if you are relying on a single drive for your backups you are doing it wrong anyway.

    Have at least 2 backups, one or more kept off site. Because if your backup drive and your Mac are involved in the same disaster/theft/etc. then you're screwed. Having a second or third backup drive stored somewhere else safe avoids that problem.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 29, 2016 ---
    If your computer and mini drive are both stolen, you're boned. Data loss happens due to reasons other than user error or hardware failure ;)
     
  13. MRxROBOT, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #13
    I have a BaseQi (similar to the the Nifty), but mine is to expand storage. It's a great little gadget right?
    Perhaps you should have read post #3

    Common sense huh? Common sense would tell you that I already stated I have a couple external SSDs already for backups. Common sense would tell you I am looking for an additional mobile backup solution not in lieu of. Common sense would tell you SSDs are a world of difference faster than USB flash drives. Common sense would tell you that SSDs don't have the same bottlenecks as USB drives so why would they eliminate them? Are we still talking about common sense, oh yes common sense would tell you that I wanted to know what failure rates were, which you had nothing to contribute to. For someone talking about common sense, you don't seem to have a lot of it.

    How were the drives handled and what brand were they? I find most people are a lot harder on their USB drives then they are with an external HDD/SSD.
     
  14. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

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    #14
    The drives lived inside a server in a rack in an air conditioned environment. They were toshibas (I think).

    The usage for them was:
    Place in dell power edge server internal USB slot
    Install VMware ESXi
    Boot server from it once every so often when power goes out (server booted up and running 24/7 otherwise). Data is not typically written to the drive outside of OS updates, of which there were none.
    the VMs the servers run were running from hard drives.

    Again. If you rely on a single backup you are doing it wrong.

    Stop thinking too hard about how to get media that doesn't fail, and assume that all media fails - because it does. Even if you do find media that is immune to failure or extremely resilient, it can still be stolen or destroyed in a fire. Even if you find extremely resilient media, your particular one my have a manufacturing defect and fail early. Take appropriate actions based on that expectation.
     
  15. MRxROBOT, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #15
    I'm not sure why you're hammering me about multiple backups and why you think I don't already have others in place. I didn't write anything to suggest this was my only mode of backups. I have network backups, SSD local Backups via USB 3.0 and now looking for mobile backups i.e. Flash Drives in addition to the above mediums not in lieu of. I think I'm covered ;)

    Did you use two identical drives? Is this the only time you used USB drives? If not, how often do they fail more or less often than HDDs. That's a less than perfect scenario for this question as they're not really used but still says something about drive life. Like I said I have two drives from 2012 that are functioning like the day I bought them but then again they're top tier SanDisk drives.

    I'm not looking for drives that are immune to failure, just data on failure rates that pertain to todays USB Flash Drives to see if the small investment will be done in vain. I'm not here to overthink it just looking for a healthy discussion :)
    --- Post Merged, Apr 29, 2016 ---
    I also do a clone on my portable HDD every month or two, whenever I get around to it.
     
  16. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #16
    Calm yourself. For someone so high on your horse, I'm surprised my point went so far over your head.

    You wanted to know about the reliability of flash drives, saying you want failure rates. There aren't any reliable numbers published. Why? Because common sense tells most people when they ask how reliable flash drives are, the answer becomes clear: they aren't.

     
  17. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #17
    Your point was clear. If USB Flash Drives were reliable they would replace SSDs but your comparing two different mediums for very different uses at very different price points. The flash storage in USB drives and SSDs are more similar than you might think and the reliability really comes down to the abuse the physical connections take from what I've been gathering. They essentially break before they fail more times than not.

    Your answer was not relative but condescending. Maybe I climbed on top of my high horse to get to eye level with you? If I'm reading that wrong please dumb it down further for me in your eloquent common sense logic.
     
  18. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #18
    Seems you're still picking nits in the details of what I said and missing the big picture as a result.

    As you pointed out, the two different media are at different price points. I pointed that out myself, as well as the fact that flash drives also have a smaller form factor and a lower power draw. Other things being equal, they would be superior to SSD's. Superior in every way, in fact. But other things are NOT equal - namely, the reliability of flash drives.

    Again, since flash drives are cheaper, smaller, lighter, and more energy-efficient than SSD's, if they were equally reliable, or even nearly as reliable as SSD's, then there simply wouldn't be a market for SSD's; they just wouldn't exist. The fact that they DO exist speaks volumes about their reliability; it's so far ahead of the reliability of flash drives that it's enough to offset the cost, the size, the weight, the power draw - EVERY other advantage of a flash drive.
     
  19. MRxROBOT, Apr 29, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2016

    MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #19
    You went on a tangent about SSDs being superior. Surprise! Nobody’s arguing with you here. Yes, USB Flash Drives are more power efficient and smaller but they are not at the place where they can compete in speed nor do they have the onboard technology capable of the same I/O.

    Now lets get back to basics. Both a SSD and USB Flash Drive use NAND. The technology is inherently the same with new data showing MLC and SLC being equally reliable. Now the cheaper USB Flash disks will inherently use cheaper components all around as a cost cutting measure, but my question was never if the cheapest USB Flash disk is as reliable as a SSD. In contrast if we are comparing the Kingston 256 GB HX Savage to a consumer level SSD I would wager it’s disadvantage wouldn’t be using cheap parts but its USB mass storage controller vs SATA/PCIE and it’s embedded USB connecter which is prone to abuse.

    So yes if your point all along was that cheap USB Flash drives are not reliable than of course you are right but I am not sure why you felt you needed to make that point as any bloke with half a brain knows that much.
     
  20. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #20
    Now this thread was never about comparing SSDs to USB Flash Drives, but understanding failure rates of USB Flash Drives. If I only had to pick one medium for backups of course it would be SSDs, but that was never my question was it? This thread got sidetracked to comparing two very different yet very similar mediums when all I wanted to do was better understand the one.

    Of course the cheaper spectrum of USB Flash drives will be more prone to failure, like the old saying goes "you get what you pay for". I suppose my original question should be amended to, what are the failure rates for higher quality USB Flash Drives by the likes of Sandisk, Samsung, Kingston, Patriot etc? What is the first point of failure, is it the USB mass storage controller, the USB connector or the quality of the NAND Flash?
     
  21. Tomorrow macrumors 604

    Tomorrow

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    #21
    It wasn't?

    You could have fooled me.

    Also, be careful when you say you "look forward to any thoughts" when you really don't.
     
  22. MRxROBOT thread starter macrumors 6502

    MRxROBOT

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    #22
    Exactly, I said Hard Disk Drives. You went on and on about Solid State Drives. Try reading the post before you quote it. So perhaps next time you have "thoughts" try to keep them relevant. Do you actually have anything to contribute or were you just in this thread to tell me over and over again how superior SSDs are to USB Flash Drives?
     

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