Why I don't recommend decorative USB drives

Decorative USB drives are common in the professional wedding industry, and are often sent in accompanying bamboo or other pretty wooden boxes.

There is a whole micro industry that surrounds the creation of these beautiful, decorative USB drive holders and drives. My main gripe with offering them in the first place (whether as part of a package or optional extra) is that it provides a false sense of security and peace of mind.

The biggest problem with these unbranded drives is that they are mostly made in China in bulk and sold on sites like Alibaba and Ebay at the lowest possible price. While these drives may look pretty, they are mostly all unbranded which means the quality and durability of the drive is highly questionable.

One of the most reliable and long standing flash drive brands in the world is SanDisk. Another popular brand of flash memory and drives used to be Lexar. Unfortunately, in 2017 they sold their brand name to a Chinese manufacturer LongSys.

SanDisk was purchased by Western Digital for $19 billion dollars, the world’s largest hard drive manufacturer. SanDisk is the brand I use exclusively for memory cards in my cameras, and for storage in general during editing. It is also the brand I exclusively use to send your digital files for the very best reliability and durability.

Interestingly, SanDisk previously manufactured decorative bamboo USB drives (around 2014). They no longer manufacture bamboo flash drives, and for this reason, I strongly disagree with the practice of providing precious wedding photos on non-branded decorative USB drives.

The other concern with sending maximum resolution photos on a USB flash drive is that even SanDisk Extreme drives are not designed for long term storage. While the lifespan of a USB flash drive will depend mainly on the number of write/read cycles, they are still not designed to last reliably for more than ten years.

So the problem with sending a decorative USB drive is that it implies that the device is a sentimental keepsake which should be kept forever. However, nothing could be further from the truth! A USB drive is only useful for transferring files to multiple long term storage cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or Google Drive.

It serves absolutely no other useful purpose. Therefore, the most sensible way to transfer these files reliably is to use the best quality USB drive that is available (which is currently in 2019 the SanDisk Extreme flash drive).

I don’t recommend storing your USB drive in a cupboard or safe somewhere, I recommend sharing it with at least two other close family or friends who can also upload it to their cloud storage service.

Once you have three copies in cloud storage (across various cloud storage providers) then by all means keep the USB drive, just don’t rely on it working in 20 years time.

Finally, I also recommend actually printing your wedding photos (or at least the highlights) using a professional print lab on archive quality paper that will last 100+ years. The only 100% reliable backup of your wedding photos is printing them.

Chris Jack