[RndTbl] USB3 to Ethernet, to make NAS

Hartmut W Sager hwsager at marityme.net
Tue Jan 24 07:10:31 CST 2023

Now my detailed response.  I initially asked:

> Can someone here recommend some specific USB3 to Ethernet hardware adapters, to make a reliable NAS drive.  I want this architecture because the external USB3 drive will frequently need to be disconnected from NAS usage and connected locally to another computer via USB (for certain data updates).

When I initially received several "interesting" responses, I already realized I had better consult with Bill Reid before I stick my foot any further into my mouth.  :)  Thank you, *Bill*, for the detailed phone discussion we had on Monday evening.

When I referred to "USB3 to Ethernet hardware adapters", I completely forgot that this could so easily refer to those USB adapters that simply provide an Ethernet port (or an additional Ethernet port) where needed on a computer/laptop/whatever.  *Adam*, I'm sure you at least, and maybe others, got confused by this.  (I love your "orthogonal" comment, though I never did mention a NIC in my query.)

*No, I meant* an intelligent device/box/adapter that would have some NAS server logic in it.  *Chris Audet*, you got me 100% right.

*Applicable tagline:*  I know what I meant to say; I said this instead.  :)

> Adam> Also, I'm afraid I have to point out that "USB to Ethernet adapter" and "reliable" don't belong in the same sentence to begin with.

LOL.  Good one!  And I agree.

> Vijay> I have some USB-2 Gigabit Ethernet adapters you can try if you like. I found it to be quite reliable for the following use cases — I used two of them on a ThinkPad as a firewall (Shaw gigabit and MTS). It worked quite well to create an HA VPN. I also have used it to test virtual Ethernet performance (vether on OpenBSD).

Thank you, *Vijay*.  I'll keep these in mind, though they are USB2 (or did you mean USB3 *to* Gigabit Ethernet?).

> Chris Audet> I'm going to make the following assumptions:
> * You're trying to do this using a USB portable hard drive like these
> * You want to use the USB hard drive as a NAS most of the time
> * You want the flexibility to connect the hard drive directly to a computer sometimes
> * Your USB portable drive isn't using USB-C

*Chris*, you nailed it 100% on all 4 assumptions!

> Chris Audet> Some recommended solutions:
> * Many home wifi routers include a USB port which can be used to make USB storage available on the network.  For example, Mikrotik hEX.  If your router has this feature, this would be a quick solution

Both I and the person (Lynn) that I'm doing this for have the *Shaw Hitron CGNM-2250* cable modem/router combo, and, upon me looking closely several months ago, it does have two such USB ports (blue inserts, so maybe even USB3).  However, even a *cusadmin login* into the modem has nothing in the menus for these ports.  Web research did reveal that those ports can accept NAS, but configuring requires a secret URL into that part of the Hitron, and there are a few digits in the URL that vary across these modems, depending on carrier (Shaw), firmware version, etc, and the phase of the moon.

I'd rather not pursue this possibility (even if it's USB3), in case the modem ever fails and Shaw can't give the same model anymore.  They already don't like issuing this model, preferring their new consumer "Mars lander" contraption.

> > * If you have an existing home server or PC that's always powered on, plugging in your USB drive and configuring the drive to be shared over the network might be OK as well

I had considered, and still am considering, that solution.  My computers are always on, but Lynn's computer is not (so far).  This does remain an attractive solution though.

> > * If you don't have existing hardware that can be used, then you could consider buying a single board computer or refurb PC to convert it into a NAS or use an off the shelf NAS unit

An SBC is attractive, except that the learning curve doesn't work for me at this time.  A refurb PC is too bulky for me and Lynn (we both have very small residential premises).  Off-the-shelf NAS doesn't (?) give USB access, and we already put good money into this high-end external USB3 unit.  It's a Seagate high-MTBF 3.5-inch 8TB drive in a 5.25-inch case (with AC power adapter of course).

> > Cursed solution:


> Trevor> It cannot be done.  There has to be a "smart" device, ..... Ah, Chris found .....

Thanks *Trevor*, for your very detailed reply.  You too got fooled by my poor terminology in my very first sentence.  And in any case, even after "Chris found", USB2 is a deal-breaker.

> Trevor> I will warn that external USB HDDs are (usually) the worst quality garbage drives the companies can produce.  Especially Seagate.  They often explicitly state FOR BRIEF USE ONLY, i.e. not always-on in a NAS.  They aren't lying.  The motors/bearings are designed to fail after a tiny number of hours.  WD might be slightly better.

Oh I know, and I totally agree.  I often give this "junk HDD" lecture to others.  And WD is no better - those two companies must have used RAID to synchronize their junk in real time.

> Adam> ..... the use of snapshots or daily/hourly backups, in either case stored on a second non-mobile drive.

It's a thought, but nah, see further down.  This isn't really a snapshots/backups scenario.

> Adam> I hadn't thought of the drive quality and fragility issue, but I can confirm Trevor's right.  And even if you buy the best HDD money can buy and are using (e.g.) a USB-SATA adapter with it, all that moving around WILL reduce the drive's lifespan.

*Adam*, agreed - see my comment to Trevor above.  But, we do have a high-end drive, and the movement won't be all too frequent, and will be done with care in small premises (i.e., not big movements).  And depending on exact location details, we might even be able to just plug/unplug and move the USB3-type-A connect at the other end.

(Ironic aside:  No 5.25-inch or 3.5-inch HDD (of the high-MTBF kind) in daily use has ever failed me over the decades, while *every* 2.5-inch HDD I've ever had in daily use has failed me.)

> Adam> Hartmut, can you elaborate on why you think you need to connect this drive to a PC directly, in the first place?  There may be a better solution for your problem.

*Adam*, I'll give an initial answer here now, but this might be fruitful to expand on in further forum posts in this thread.

This 8TB drive shall contain Lynn's life collection of photos, music, and a few other things, adding up to about 5TB at this time, which seems to rule out reasonably-priced cloud storage and access (like the Dropbox I subscribe to).  The music and photos need to be accessible to her wireless Android devices (plural) and her computer, at least while she is at home, and the access from her wireless Android devices would also be desirable while out-and-about.

The whole collection is still in need of much re-organizing, which needs to be done on an ongoing basis, as time permits, from her desktop computer, and once in a while even at my place from my computers (we currently live in the same building).  The re-organizing consists of identifying and deleting duplicates across the whole directory tree, and also lots of grafting, pruning, merging, splitting, and renaming of folders.

Whew!  I hope that sums it up.

Again, in true MUUG tradition, I appreciate all the thoughtful input I've received.


On Mon 23 Jan 2023 at 23:14:19 -06:00, Hartmut W Sager <hwsager at marityme.net> wrote:
> > Hartmut, can you elaborate on why you think you need to connect this drive to a PC directly, in the first place?  There may be a better solution for your problem.
> Thank you to all the folks here who responded.  I hope to produce a detailed reply during the coming night, so please be patient, and "hold your further fire".  :)  As some of you know, my neurology limits how quickly and how thoroughly I can respond.
> Hartmut
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