I have written a number of times about jump drives, also called thumb drives, USB drives, flash drives, memory sticks, and a number of other names. They are all about the same, regardless of name used. These devices are great for short-term backups and for transporting data from one computer to another. Want to copy data from your desktop to the laptop computer? Use a jump drive. Want to copy data from your cousin's genealogy database and take it home with you? Use a jump drive.
I suggest that every computer-owning genealogist should own at least one of these tiny devices. You can purchase one for less than five dollars.
See http://www.google.com/cse?cx=003715150024579880844%3Aulyzue1ivzu&ie=UTF-8&q=%22thumb+drive%22&sa=Search for some of my past articles about jump drives.
Almost everything in the computer world drops in price rapidly, but jump drive prices seem to drop even faster than other hardware. I recently purchased a 32-gigabyte jump drive at a local computer store for $59.95. That's the equivalent storage space of more than 22,000 floppy disks and also more capacity than 48 CD-ROM disks. One 32-gigabyte jump drive can even store six or seven full-length movies without compression, even more if you compress the files first. Not bad for a device that is smaller than a tube of lipstick!
I remember that one of my first thumb drives stored 32 megabytes (that's megabytes, not gigabytes), and I thought that the storage capacity was amazing. I forget the price but suspect it was in the $20 to $40 range. Now four-gigabyte thumb drives sell for eight dollars, (see http://www.rootsbooks.com/shop.php?i=B000NWVAFO for one example and you can find others) and prices go up as storage capacities increase.
My new 32-gigabyte thumb drive stores 1,000 times as much data as the first one I owned. I keep copies of my genealogy data, newsletter articles, several thousand photographs, checkbook information for the past year, all of the PowerPoint presentations I have made in the past six years, a word processor, an e-mail program, several computer games, and more on the jump drive. Even so, I have nearly 20 gigabytes of empty space still available. I do encrypt the more sensitive information in case I lose the jump drive and some stranger recovers it. However, most of the other data is a simple copy made from the various computers I use.
The $59.95 I paid for a 32-gigabyte drive is about the most cost-effective price today for a jump drive when calculated on a per gigabyte basis ($1.87 per gigabyte of storage). Low storage capacity jump drives sell for five dollars or less but typically do not approach the $1.87 per gigabyte price point. I have seen 64- and 128-gigabyte jump drives advertised but at rather high prices. The size of 32 gigabytes seems to be the most cost-effective. Of course, all that will probably change again within a few weeks as prices continue to plummet.
I love thumb drives for short-term storage – that is, storing data for a few weeks or months. However, the technology is so new that the manufacturers are not making any claims about how long the data will be preserved on a jump drive. I wouldn't trust one of these for long-term storage of a year or longer. I do think they are ideal for keeping a backup of your current data and then making new backups frequently. Almost all of today's Windows and Macintosh genealogy programs will back up data directly to a jump drive.
Have you backed up your genealogy data? If not, pick up a jump drive for five bucks or more at the local drug store, department store, or at any computer store.