Since the first computers, administrators have been wrestling with the challenge of moving files from one PC to another. With the Internet, the amount of data transferred has increased dramatically, and for security administrators who need to apply security patches, service packs and hot fixes to a large number of PCs, this can be a challenge, even though there are a lot of solutions available. A relative newcomer, the USB flash device, promises some relief.
Floppies, of course, were always slow and annoying and now they're just too small to be practical. Zip drives were popular for a while, but somewhat inconvenient because of the luggage and drivers you have to carry around. The network itself is also a popular option as workstations can download the files directly, however the administrator often has to log out and log back in under a different account, or ask users for their passwords and this solution isn't always appropriate for users traveling from other offices. The most popular option for the last year or so has been burning the files to CD. This is relatively easy and everyone has a CD and you don't have to mess with accounts. But most administrators I know now have a tremendous pile of out-of-date CDs stashed somewhere around their workbench. The rewriteable CDs may serve to reduce this waste somewhat, but there is one more solution I've found just a little bit better.
Consider using a USB flash device. For about the price of a CD burner, you can get a flash drive with more than adequate space (128-256 MB) and similar performance. Like CD drives, everyone has a USB port, assuming your system is less than 5 years old. The flash devices can be used on Windows, Macs, Linux and other OS without the need for drivers. The advantage over CDs is that you can read and erase and write to them from any device, without using a burner. This is handy because the computer with the file you want to transfer isn't always the one with the CD burner. Most flash devices also have a write-protect switch to keep your drive from being infected with anything.
Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.
This was first published in December 2002