If you don’t know what a USB flash drive does, it is quite simple. It is a small device that plugs into the USB port of most any computer and holds a large amount of data. Think about it as the floppy disk for a new generation.
I remember my first USB flash drive quite well. It held 128 MB of data and doubled as an MP3 player. I didn’t go anywhere without it. That was five years ago and I’m not sure I could find that one today if I needed it. It just doesn’t hold enough data. After about a year, I got one that held 512 MB. Then a 4 GB drive and now I regularly use two different 8 GB drives.
These things are pretty versatile. You can use them to transfer data from one computer to another. This is especially handy if you have to take a big chunk of data to or from a client site. You can also install software on the drive so that you can take your most used applications with you on the road. This makes a great tool for checking e-mail or browsing (with all your bookmarks intact) at an Internet cafe.
The current drives I carry are both SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8 GB drives. They support holding data as well as installing applications and sell for only $22. If you want a larger version of the drive, it is available in a 16 GB model for under $40. You can also get a 4 GB model for under $11 each. At these low prices, they even provide an inexpensive way to back up your important data and take it off-site. I wouldn’t rely on it as my only backup device, but rather an easy way to backup the most important data each day.
If you don’t already have a drive, you should seriously consider it. And if you do have one, it is probably time to buy another bigger one. I find that I “upgrade” at least once a year.