Creating memorable client deliverables with customized USB drives

With broadband's continual increases in speed and stability, delivering large amounts of data to clients is usually done via a file-transfer service rather than via physical media as in years past.

That said, there is still a time and a place for delivering images or video via physical media. Sometimes it's simply a matter of presentation, other times it's helpful to provide your client with a physlcial backup copy of the files.

Generic USB thumb drives are cheap and ubiquitous - most folks can quickly point to an office drawer containing at least several examples. In addition to a more polished presentation, customized drives also allow for easy identification of the data they contain without having to connect them to a computer.

Look familiar?


USB Memory Direct is a well-known vendor of customizable USB drives. They offer a variety of styles and sizes of drives, all customizable via either screen printing or engraving depending on drive type and material.

I opted for their Tab style in 8 GB, which has a solid aluminum body with an integral keyring attachment loop and no cap to worry about losing. The process of ordering the drives and sending the logo files was simple, and the drives appeared at my door within a couple weeks. They arrived formatted as MS-DOS (FAT32), which can be both read and written to by both Windows and Mac computers. I use a Mac, and many of my clients use Windows machines, so I plan to leave the formatting as-is.

The USB sticks arrived in a plastic bag within a padded envelope; each drive was also in its own small plastic bag to protect it from scratches. Fancier presentation boxes are also available, but this bulk method works well for my uses.

The print quality on the drives was good - there were some minor inconsistencies here and there, and some had very small blemishes visible under close inspection. The printing seems very durable - I deliberately put one in the cable-and-connector storage pouch that lives in my laptop bag - it's filled with cables, metal adapters and clips, and, as I discovered on emptying it to look for the drive, a handful of loose coins at the bottom. I left it in there for several weeks, during which time the bag traveled with me to very busy photo shoots in Dallas, L.A., and Las Vegas, and it still looks the same as when I first dropped it into the bag.

The drive looks good plugged in to a USB port.


Prices vary based on drive type, size, and type of printing, perhaps that's the reason why no prices are listed on the company's site - a customized quote is required. I do prefer the ability to price shop up front, but I can also understand the desire to provide accurate pricing based on requested parameters.

Data transfer speeds are slow. It's not an issue for me, though, as the expected use case is for the client to read the data from the drive and leave it there as an archive; I can transfer the data in the background while doing other tasks, and these aren't going to be used for every project's deliverables.

As a test, copying 4GB of data from the desktop to the drive took 17 minutes via a USB 3.0 port on my Macbook Pro, which works out to about 0.5 Mbps write speed. Copying the data from the drive to the desktop was much faster, taking just four minutes, which translates to a 2.2 Mbps read speed.

Write speeds aside, I do recommend these — the printing workmanship, physical drive quality, and ordering process were all great.


Disclosure: USB Memory Direct provided the drives to me at its expense for the review; my opinions remain my own.

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