What can I use instead of external USB3's?


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siringo
siringo
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I'm currently backing up a mix of remote servers & workstations to directly connected external USB 3 disks.
This works pretty well however sometimes after reboots I've found that these devices can 'disappear' from Windows and not be relocatable until unplugged and plugged back in.

This got me to thinking, is there a device that can attach to the network so it can be managed & monitored remotely that uses a USB3 interface for backups?

I'm not a NAS expert, but from what I can see most if not all NAS's back up over a LAN connection, which is quite a bit slower than a USB3 connection.

Or will anything that uses a USB connection 'disappear' from time to time just like my current USB3 disks & that is why most if not all NAS's back up over a LAN connection?

Thanks for any help.
jphughan
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The acronym "NAS" stands for "Network Attached Storage", so by definition a NAS device will connect to a network rather than directly to a particular PC over USB.  To my knowledge, there is no storage device that connects via USB3 and also includes a separate network interface for remote management of that device, I expect because if you've got the device attached via USB, then the expectation is that you would manage it locally from the PC it's attached to, or else access the attached PC over the network to manage it.  But of course that doesn't work in your case because your USB devices are disappearing after reboots.  That shouldn't be happening, so that's the issue that should be solved rather than looking for workarounds.  If these drives are connected to a hub, have you tried connecting them directly to the PC?  Additionally, when these drives have not appeared as expected, have you checked Disk Management to determine whether the drives are there and simply have not been assigned a drive letter or are in fact completely missing from the system's hardware environment? If this is a Windows 7 PC, are your USB 3.0 drivers up to date?

With respect to your last question, no it is not normal for USB devices to disappear from time to time, even after reboots.  I've never experienced the behavior you're describing despite having worked in IT for over a decade, during which time I've worked with more than my fair share of PCs and external hard drives.  And that therefore is not the reason that all NAS devices use the LAN for their connectivity.  The main reason NAS devices exist is to allow multiple PCs to simultaneously access the same external storage, without any PC having to be physically attached to it and constantly powered up in order to host it for the others. For example, if the only PCs in your home are laptops, it would be inconvenient to use one of those to share an external hard drive out to the network.  You would either have to keep the "file server laptop" parked in the same location with the external drive, which mostly defeats the point of a laptop, or else carry that external hard drive around with that laptop as you moved around the house, which is impractical and would also mean network connections would be occurring over WiFi, which is even slower than a wired connection.  NAS devices often also support RAID configurations, and again if you only had typical laptops at home, your only way to achieve RAID would be through a relatively expensive external enclosure.  And NAS appliances also typically include some built-in app support, so you can have them synchronize with Google Drive, download torrents, manage (and be managed by) smart home devices, etc. — all autonomously.  NAS devices often consume much less power than a full PC with an equivalent storage configuration.  But yes as you've said, transfer rates to/from a NAS are much slower than with a directly attached USB 3 device because network connections are slower than USB 3, unless maybe you had 10-Gigabit Ethernet everywhere.  It's a speed vs. convenience/functionality tradeoff.

Edited 28 March 2018 2:33 AM by jphughan
siringo
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Thanks for your comments jphughan, much appreciated.
I'm getting USB3 disks dropping off everywhere. I've been using them for about 4 years and I lose them regularly. They are all the 'self powered' type or non AC power types, I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

A server stopped backing up over the last few days, it's been working fine since it went live about 6+ months ago, then all of a sudden the USB drive disappears. Not showing up in Disk Management or File Explorer.

Maybe it's time to NAS things up a bit?

Thanks for your help.

jphughan
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Ok, so it's NOT just an intermittent failure to discover the disk after a reboot, then.  You're saying that sometimes the disk will simply drop off of a live Windows environment?  That plus the fact that your drives are bus-powered makes me wonder if the PC's USB controller isn't supplying enough power to meet the total demands of whatever devices you've got connected to the system, or isn't able to do so totally consistently.  Recently one of my clients found that his portable 15" display suddenly stopped working with his Surface Pro 3.  Upon investigation, I discovered that if I connected the display to a powered hub and then the hub to that same USB port, it worked fine -- and lower power devices such as flash drives also worked fine when directly connected to the Surface's USB port -- so evidently something broke on his Surface that reduced the max amount of power it provided on its USB port.  So I guess in this case I'll suggest the opposite of what I did above: If you haven't already, get a reliable powered USB 3.0 hub, connect your drives to that, and see if that improves things.  I'm a big fan of Anker products, for what it's worth, and they make a wide range of USB hubs.  I have their 14-port aluminum hub because even though I don't have nearly that much stuff to plug in at any given time, it's built like a battleship and I love the "surge protector" layout where the ports all face upward, which makes it a lot easier to plug things in than a hub where they face towards you and you therefore have to hold the hub in place when plugging something in or removing it.

If you do go the NAS route, the major players are Drobo, Synology, and QNAP.  I only have limited experience with Drobo and no experience with the other two, although I've heard good things about both of them from people whose opinions I trust.  But I would try to resolve the USB issue since that definitely should not be considered behavior that you simply have to accept, and NAS devices have their own set of potential snags and pitfalls, which shouldn't come as a surprise because as lightweight PCs that run some flavor of Linux, they're much more complicated than a simple USB disk, and complexity breeds potential problems.

Edited 28 March 2018 3:51 AM by jphughan
Froggie
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Siringo, as JP mentions, your experience is not typical of constantly connected USB3 devices so something strange is going on.  That being said, Windows goes through a "discovery" process when it starts up... it's during this time that it is supposed to discover those devices and configure them.  Apparently they appear not to be there at that time... maybe a USB-based power startup issue, especially since you mention they work fine once you disconnect and re-connect them.

Something to try before you make any large investments for a change is a simple scheduled batch job after startup that runs the Windows device discovery process once again, hopefully sometime after everything has settled a bit from your startup.  I run this process for a totally different reason as it relates to a connected USB device that is no longer "on the System" as far as Windows is concerned.  The process simply goes through the Standard Windows hardware discovery process and as a result of its finds, will allow Windows to configure accordingly.

If interested, we can chat privately as to the location of the proper task to run and the simple structure of the scheduled batch job that needs to be set up.  The process will only discover devices that have not been discovered by the Windows automatic discovery process... it's very benign in its workings.  You can simply test its effectiveness during your problem times by manually running the process in a Command Prompt window if you'd like to see if it can help.
Edited 28 March 2018 1:24 PM by Froggie
siringo
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jphughan - 28 March 2018 3:48 AM
Ok, so it's NOT just an intermittent failure to discover the disk after a reboot, then.  You're saying that sometimes the disk will simply drop off of a live Windows environment?  That plus the fact that your drives are bus-powered makes me wonder if the PC's USB controller isn't supplying enough power to meet the total demands of whatever devices you've got connected to the system, or isn't able to do so totally consistently.  Recently one of my clients found that his portable 15" display suddenly stopped working with his Surface Pro 3.  Upon investigation, I discovered that if I connected the display to a powered hub and then the hub to that same USB port, it worked fine -- and lower power devices such as flash drives also worked fine when directly connected to the Surface's USB port -- so evidently something broke on his Surface that reduced the max amount of power it provided on its USB port.  So I guess in this case I'll suggest the opposite of what I did above: If you haven't already, get a reliable powered USB 3.0 hub, connect your drives to that, and see if that improves things.  I'm a big fan of Anker products, for what it's worth, and they make a wide range of USB hubs.  I have their 14-port aluminum hub because even though I don't have nearly that much stuff to plug in at any given time, it's built like a battleship and I love the "surge protector" layout where the ports all face upward, which makes it a lot easier to plug things in than a hub where they face towards you and you therefore have to hold the hub in place when plugging something in or removing it.

If you do go the NAS route, the major players are Drobo, Synology, and QNAP.  I only have limited experience with Drobo and no experience with the other two, although I've heard good things about both of them from people whose opinions I trust.  But I would try to resolve the USB issue since that definitely should not be considered behavior that you simply have to accept, and NAS devices have their own set of potential snags and pitfalls, which shouldn't come as a surprise because as lightweight PCs that run some flavor of Linux, they're much more complicated than a simple USB disk, and complexity breeds potential problems.

This is great advice thank you so much.
I've been looking into NASs and I must agree, I'm sure they're great, but I just need a backup device, a dumb disk that can accept data, I don't need all the extra sharing, encryption, searching and other services that they offer.
I will buy a few powered hubs, I can see that this will only help my situation, I had completely forgotten about this sort of problem with USB devices.
Thank you so much for your help.

siringo
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Froggie - 28 March 2018 1:22 PM
Siringo, as JP mentions, your experience is not typical of constantly connected USB3 devices so something strange is going on.  That being said, Windows goes through a "discovery" process when it starts up... it's during this time that it is supposed to discover those devices and configure them.  Apparently they appear not to be there at that time... maybe a USB-based power startup issue, especially since you mention they work fine once you disconnect and re-connect them.

Something to try before you make any large investments for a change is a simple scheduled batch job after startup that runs the Windows device discovery process once again, hopefully sometime after everything has settled a bit from your startup.  I run this process for a totally different reason as it relates to a connected USB device that is no longer "on the System" as far as Windows is concerned.  The process simply goes through the Standard Windows hardware discovery process and as a result of its finds, will allow Windows to configure accordingly.

If interested, we can chat privately as to the location of the proper task to run and the simple structure of the scheduled batch job that needs to be set up.  The process will only discover devices that have not been discovered by the Windows automatic discovery process... it's very benign in its workings.  You can simply test its effectiveness during your problem times by manually running the process in a Command Prompt window if you'd like to see if it can help.

Thanks for your help Froggie, it's greatly appreciated.
I'm interested to hear about this script, I'm suspecting it does the same as the Scan for new Hardware function within Device Manager.
I've been thinking about this problem since posting and it is like the USB devices don't power up in time for Windows to see them, post reboot, so they just don't show up.
So maybe with your script & some powered hubs I may be able to come out of tis looking like a hero!
Thanks again.


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