We’ve all bought the lesser brand before, saving money on various items like cheap CDs and DVDs, or inexpensive headphones, no frills lollies, and the home brand milk. But one area you shouldn’t cut down on costs is memory for your digital camera.

Last weekend, a friend of the family dropped by after their trip to Europe and said their memory card didn’t work. The story they recanted basically went along the lines of this:

They had been on vacation, snapping photos here and there on their new digital camera, and after filling the card, they wanted to take the images off and upload them to a computer or tablet.

Back at the hotel, there was a problem, with the card reader reporting that there was nothing on the memory. Two thousand images gone, just like that.

They took the card out of the reader and put it back in, but still nothing, resigning themselves to the fact that the images may be lost forever, and waiting until they returned to Australia where a person familiar with fixing tech problems could take a look at the problem.

Any memory card can fail, but you can usually expect it from brands you've never heard of.

So why did this happen?

There are lots of reasons why memory cards can fail, with some of them stemming from quick removal of cards, poorly made card readers, and even low grade memory used in the production of cheaper cards. Ultimately, you should back up the images as soon as you can, not leaving the card to be the sole place where the pictures reside.

Unfortunately, quite a few of these cards come from brands with little or no history in the storage space, grabbing excess memory wafer and producing them at a cost to try to undercut the big names.

“Brands are able to offer these products at a discount because they generally do not provide the support that the major brands do,” said Richard Clarke, Sales Manager for Lexar Media in the Australia and New Zealand region.

“We’re not about to put anything but the best components in our drives and cards, and are very passionate about being able to produce world leading products on an ongoing basis.”

Without a support mechanism, you may find it next to impossible to recover images on a decaying card, with no software provided by the company you bought the card from.

But it’s more than just poor support that can stop a card from surviving, with memory testing going on at the major manufacturers.

“SanDisk conducts rigorous testing on its products,” said SanDisk’s George Saad, Country Manager for SanDisk ANZ. “The cards are waterproof, temperature proof, X-Ray proof, and shock and vibration proof.”