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Cool Tool: USB Memory Fobs                                               -Agate Technologies Memory Fob
by Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA, CITP (August 31, 2002)

James Bond is alive and well and practicing as a CPA!?  That is the only way we can explain some of the really cool technologies that are being used within our profession.  When looking at storage devices, floppies just don’t cut it anymore, as our storage demands are increasing geometrically.  Case in point; as firms transition to the digital audit environment, the size of files is increasing to tens of megabytes to store all the workpapers, documents, and supporting materials.  As these files should be backed up on a daily basis when auditors are in the field, this can take a large number of floppies (which are slow to backup), a zip disk (requires additional proprietary drive), or backing up over a phone line (incredibly slow).  This is where USB memory fobs take center stage. 

A USB Memory Fob is essentially a solid state memory chip, about the size of a remote car key fob that holds up to 1GB of memory.  These devices plug into the USB port on your computer and essentially act as an additional drive that you can copy files (or an entire client directory to), and then conveniently slip into you audit bag or pocket (as part of your keychain).  Auditors can use Windows Explorer to drag the directory, or save individual files to the external drive, which is usually designated the e:drive or f:drive.  

These devices are (almost) indestructible.  Over a year ago, we paid $200 for the 64Mb Agate (www.agatetech.com) fob and have carried it in our computer bag, bouncing around with a slew of other peripherals, where no damage was sustained.  Unfortunately, during one demonstration, were we threw it against the wall to show its ruggedness; the plastic casing cracked and the fob broke into three pieces.  We stuck the pieces together, added a little transparent tape to support a portion of broken casing, and the unit continues to work perfectly without any memory loss or technological consequences.  (James Bond would never have carried any tape repaired device…until he became a CPA!). 

Prices are dependent on the amount of memory ranging from 16Mb for $25 to over $1,000 for 1gigabyte (1,000 megabytes).  We predict most firms will opt for the 64Mb or 128Mb versions, unless they already have a substantial amount of audit workpapers and image storage over that size.  Some of them even come with built in password security.  The Targus (www.targus.com) Go-Anywhere USB Key Chain allows you to select a password to lock down files that are stored on the disk.  In addition to Agate and Targus, these devices come from a variety of other vendors including Apacer (www.apacer.com), PenDrive (www.meritline.com) and Memory Suppliers (www.memorysuppliers.com). 

The important thing is to remember to backup data every day.  In addition to utilizing USB Fobs in the field, we also encourage firms to also backup to other machines and to provide standardized training on how to do it. So the next time you are on a “secret mission” and have to capture a huge amount of data, consider using USB Memory Fobs…and order you coffee stirred, not shaken (as you would probably spill it).

(C)2002 InfoTech Partners North America, Inc.
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