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What is faster that USB?

Situation.

We have a hard drive running Windows that is used to take inventory. The device that is enclosing is really out of date.

There is a product on the market that has the ideal design of the enclosure for the computer, however it boots up to something other than a SATA. We think we can just change the bios to boot up to the harddrive by just connecting it via USB. However the read/write speeds that USB can do it not ideal. Is there another other option other than USB that can give much higher rate? Thanks in advance.
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fstinc
Asked:
fstinc
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6 Solutions
 
☠ MASQ ☠Commented:
A USB 3.0 Enclosure? You'd need to upgrade your PC with a PCI card.
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
My external USB 2.0 drive enclosures have SATA drives in them.  ??
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garycaseCommented:
"... We have a hard drive running Windows that is used to take inventory ..."

"... The device that is enclosing is really out of date. " 

==>  It's not clear what you're asking here.    First, a hard drive doesn't "run Windows" ... it's just a storage mechanism for a computer that runs Windows.

Are you simply looking for a faster interface for a hard drive that's in an external USB enclosure?     If so, your best choice is an eSATA enclosure, ASSUMING your computer has either an external eSATA connection or an internal SATA port that you can connect externally via an eSATA bracket.

If you're looking for faster INTERNAL storage, you could replace your drive with a faster drive -- either a higher rpm unit or (fastest) a solid state drive (SSD).

But to give more specific advice, you need to give a more complete description of your current hardware and exactly what you want to accomplish.

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fstincAuthor Commented:
Ok, let me simply the question. Is there anything that writes faster than USB?
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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
USB 2.0 is 480Mbps, SATA 2.0 is 3Gbps, SATA 3.0 is 6Gbps.
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DavidCommented:
There are 3 flavors of USB, 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0.  The higher the number, the higher the speed.  All of these sync up to lowest common denominator, and are not upward compatible.
All of the above are an interface, and the write speed is gated by the interface or the device, whichever is less.

If you had USB 3, you'd probably know it, because they are relatively new.  HDD speed with a USB3 controller & USB3 enclosure is going to be about the same speed as if the HDD was mounted internally.

So what writes faster than USB isn't really a good question.  My guess is since what you have is "old" you're getting on the order of 5-10 MB/sec.

Keep the same HDD, and get an eSATA enclosure (that is compatible with your disk), and an eSATA controller, and you have something designed for this very task, and will set you back less than $50.  Speed will probably be 10X faster.    Since what you have is older, my guess is you have an IDE drive, and I don't think you will find  USB3 enclosure compatible with an IDE disk (also called ATA, which should not be confused with SATA).

So open up the HDD enclosure, take a pic with your camera of the interface, go to a PC store with $50 and they can set you up
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garycaseCommented:
Which version of USB?

USB v2 is 40 times faster than USB v1

USB v3 is 10 times faster than USB v2

These are theoretical bit rates -- real world transfers don't achieve these speeds, but do have roughly the same speed differentials as noted.

Internal interfaces -- i.e. SATA (especially SATA 3) are faster yet ... and the newer firewire interfaces are also faster.

Since you said "writes" -- be sure that your system is set to use buffered writes ... this can make a HUGE difference in the write throughput.     Otherwise it can run VERY slow when copying large numbers of files, as every file results in a seek to the directory and a directory write.
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garycaseCommented:
... as I noted before, however, we can provide much more specific advice if you provide the details of your SYSTEM rather than just focusing on what the USB write speeds are.     The interface speed is not the only factor that impacts disk throughput.
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giltjrCommented:
SCSI maxes out at 640MBps, which is over 5,000 Mbps.
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noxchoCommented:
Intel Thunderbolt is faster. But you can get it with Macbook Pro only.
So the fastest would be internally connected SSD drive via SATA interface. And moreover RAID0 built of two SSD drives would give higher speeds.
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DavidCommented:
Actually there are some SAS-2 SSDs now, that sustain around 6GB/sec, but a pair of SATA SSDs will probably cost less.
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faster4233Commented:

eSATA is much faster and pretty common now for external enclosures. Something like this will give you the ports:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B000NPKGH4/ref=asc_df_B000NPKGH42775370?smid=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&tag=googlecouk06-21&linkCode=asn&creative=22206&creativeASIN=B000NPKGH4

They just plug into a standard SATA port the you plug the enclosure into that.  Any enclosure using this will need to be externally powered as they dont provide power like USB.


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giltjrCommented:
Umm, just wondering how does this device take inventory?

You seem to be worried about hard disk speed and that USB is "slow".  However USB 2.0 at 480Mbps is actually fairly fast when you think about it and USB 3.0 is 4800Mbps is real fast.

I mean if we were to assume that this device is connected say to a LAN and we even further assume it is connected at 1000 Mbps, using normal standard Ethernet settings the best you might get through the LAN is 300-400 Mbps, which is just slightly slower than the USB 2.0 speed and well below USB 3.0.

My point is, you need to look at the slowest part of the setup.  It does no good to have hard disks that can do data transfer at a gazillion bytes per second if you are hooked up to a 300 bps modem and you need to transfer the data over that modem.
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DavidCommented:
Real-world, 480 Mbps works out to 36-40MB per second file transfer BEST POSSIBLE CASE.  You have to add overhead for the protocol.  Plus everything has to sync up at USB 2.0 "high-speed" mode, which often isn't the case.   A native ATA/SATA or eSATA connector and adapter can do twice this, or even more if you are doing cached I/O.  Go with a SSD and you can do 10X the USB speed, as I wrote several posts back.

Don't confuse interface speed with real-world speed of devices.
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ocanada_techguyCommented:
I'll note it is possible to use an adapter cable that does from SATA on motherboard IF motherboard has SATA to eSATA, so even if the desktop doesn't have an eSATA port you could still have a cold-swap or possibly even hot-swap external eSATA drive.  http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=2703743&CatId=5445  notice the slight difference between SATA and eSATA, eSATA was longer with pins redesigned to avoid shorting out on hot plugging whereas SATA was originally thought of as internal.

Here's usb to external drive adaptors http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/category/category_slc.asp?CatId=3770
A nifty device like this (cheaper ones on left and usb 3 ones coming) let you drop a standard SATA drive into them, so you can swap multiple cheaper internal drives as if external. http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/searchtools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=4143852&csid=_21

Drives attached to SATA or eSATA are treated and behave exactly like internal drives, with all those advantages.  USB drives go through a translation of sorts, all usb drive commands use the SCSI command set, not the native drive commands, which means there are some things "you can't get there from here" "lost in translation" such as direct disk diagnostics, monitoring of the drive's S.M.A.R.T. status and registers and such..  There can be extentions in the driver to pass-thru but then that depends entirely on the bridge mechanism hardware circuitboard and drivers.  Most don't.  Some badly engineered enclosures circuitboards, and they're many of those, totally choke or ding-dong dong-ding reboot go offline back online instead of properly reporting anytime the drive internal to the enclose encounters an unreadable bad sector or such, whereas via SATA directly that would not be the case.

While SATA/eSATA bus (assuming the 3Gbit speed, fairly standard, you could have older 1.5 or newer specialized 6Gbps SATA) is 7+X faster than USB 2 bus, that speed happens to be about double the throughput of most physical hard drives with platters and read/write heads, so, an eSATA drive is about 3.5x faster than a USB 2.  Mind you, also depends if the USB 2 drive is high performing or even slower for other reasons.  Also as already pointed out, USB has different speeds andwith multiple devices connected the usb bus goes the speed of the slowest device, so some badly behaved devices or drivers can cause everything to slow down, as well as sharing throughput (two external drives simultaneously would halve the throughput)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA#Comparison_to_other_interfaces

USB 3.0 solves some of these problems by being a dual type, with extra pins used just for usb 3, and should offer speeds comparable to SATA bus.  I think the USB 3 standard still translates alldisk commands to the SCSI command set and any extensions manufacturers may add themselves so it is unclear that they've yet resolved the directly accessing the drive in the enclosure shortcoming.

2.5" laptop-sized external drives can maybe get away with taking their power from the usb or firewire, but 3.5" desktop sized usually draw too much power and you could burn-out your entire USB bus and chipset, which is integrated on the motherboard so not cheap to fix.  USB 3 increased the maximum power by about 50%, it's just about enough for 3.5" drives, but still borderline.   It is adviseable to have external drives that are or have the option to be powered from their own AC or auto adaptor, or else use a powered USB hub.  eSATA did not have power so adapter was pretty much necessary, some laptops have eSATAp which also provide power so running from battery is not impossible.

Some laptops have one usb/esatap combo port http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESATA/USB

SSDs, Solid State Drives, are considerably faster than physical drives, but so far still far far more expensive and generally smaller largest capacities.  http://www.harddrivebenchmark.net/
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giltjrCommented:
dlethe,

Obviouly you missed my point.  

Even if we say that using USB 2.0 we only get 1/3 of the rated speed, you are still talking over 100 Mbps.

What if the interface to the inventory system is somebody typing at a terminal?  
Or a USB 1.0 based scanner?  
Or a 10 Mbps Ethernet connection on a LAN someplace?

My point  is:

Without knowing the whole setup a super high speed solution (that could also be expensive) may be worthless.
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garycaseCommented:
As I've noted twice before, to really provide specific advice here requires details of the SYSTEM ... not just a discussion of interface speeds.

Modern hard drives can provide disk throughput on the order of 80-120 MB/s.   As long as the interface exceeds those speeds, the interface speed doesn't matter.     Note that the ONLY transfers that occur at interface speed are to/from the disk's buffer ... which is a VERY small % of disk transfers.

The only commonly used interface that's slower than that is USB 2 (of course USB v1 is MUCH slower, but is not very common these days).    And, as noted above, if you're accessing this over a network, then the network speed is also an issue -- although a GB network can achieve speeds approaching 100MB/s  (I typically get 85-90MB/s on mine).

But we need the SYSTEM details to really provide specific help here.

... in the absence of that added detail, the author's basic question ["... Is there anything that writes faster than USB?"] has already been answered quite well.
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DavidCommented:
Right, missed the point.  I guess I reinforced yours :)

Bottom line, USB is open to too many weakest links.  Go eSATA and make life easy, or if you want better speed, get yourself a SAS/SATA controller with an external connector and then you can put in SAS-2 disk(s) or SSDs and comfortably stream anywhere from 250MB/sec to over 1GByte / sec.  Or just to round it out, go infiniband and you can push well over 30 Gbytes/sec, but that would cost a lot of money and you wouldn't be able to even use that must bandwidth, let alone create it w/o spending $$$ on beefier servers.  

The point being, throw enough money at it, and you can get more speed than you can possibly use.
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garycaseCommented:
Actually, the fastest consumer "drives" available right now are the PCIe x4 SSDs ==> these don't use a traditional interface (e.g. SATA), so are able to transfer at the actual speeds the SSD logic can support -- in excess of 500MB/s

But whether or not these are even an option here depends on the characteristics of the SYSTEM ... which we don't know :-)
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driskolltCommented:
A single SATA hard drive for an actual production workload is not going to max out the bandwidth of a USB 2.0 bus.  When they give the speeds of interfaces, they're mainly referring to the bus speed, that doesn't mean that your 6gb/s SAS drive is ever going to see 6gb/s of bandwidth.

I would focus more on the workload and various performance metrics to determine if the drive is the bottleneck.  If you just want a new hard drive, go get one - they're cheap.  Running a production workload that's performance sesitive on any USB interface is probably not a good idea.  Using consumer products for workloads that have business value is not really a good idea.
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garycaseCommented:
"... A single SATA hard drive for an actual production workload is not going to max out the bandwidth of a USB 2.0 bus ..."    ==>   WRONG.     Modern drives easily achieve 80-120MB/s sustained transfer rates ... well above what USB v2 can achieve.

A USB 2.0 connection has a theoretical maximum of 480Mb/s == 60MB/s ... and in practice achieves about half of that due to the "handshaking" protocols used in transfers.    So you'll see ~ 30MB/s of throughput with a USB v2.0 connected drive, vs. 80-120MB/s if the same drive is connected via a SATA port.    I agree it makes little difference whether the SATA connection is SATA-I, -II, or -III, as transfers to/from the drive's buffer (the only time transfers occur at interface speeds) are a VERY small % of the transfer activity.

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DavidCommented:
"That doesn't mean that your 6gb/s SAS drive is ever going to see 6gb/s of bandwidth"

I just happen to have a (unannounced) SAS-2 SSD in the lab that pushes 550MB/sec sustained transfer.
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giltjrCommented:
Well as garycase and myself have said, we need to understand what the system really is and how it does it.

Pushing 550MB/sec does nothing if the input side is a 30 year old serial interface running at 300 bps.
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garycaseCommented:
The already-announced-and-shipping PCIe x4 SSDs I mentioned earlier easily hit the same speeds.    But this discussion is long past the question ... and can't really be enhanced without feedback on the SYSTEM from the author.
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fstincAuthor Commented:
Very late reply, but I have been extremely busy. Here is what I will be emailing my manager. I wish I could provide much more information but I dont even have that information. Basically, hes one of the heads in the office so I thought I would share what I will tell him:

Last week we were talking about how to get faster speeds from a Device that you were looking at as an alternative to USB.. There are lots of options. I included a diagram that pretty much sums it up. The document attached to the email that  shows all speeds (at least most of them) that are feasable. The easiest approach would be to be able to connect the hard drives via USB 3.0. This will give all of the tranfer rates needed. The main problem would be the connections on the LAN. We can have great transfer rates on the devices via SATA, however, if LAN is bottle necking, then much of it gets lost. USB 3.0 if fairly new technology, but I think is what you were looking for to increase the transfer rates and be easily implemented. Hopefully this helps. Thanks.


OK guys I attached is the drawing.



Transfer-Rates.pdf
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garycaseCommented:
Not a very descriptive or informative drawing -- it even shows an ancient (25+ years) 300bps modem.

You REALLY need to know FAR more about the SYSTEM you're talking about to make any intelligent recommendation about how to improve the speeds.

I'd also consider USB v3 one of the poorest of the choices ==> it will require not only a newer system (or an add-in card) but will also require getting external drives that support this speed.    An eSATA connection is very simple and can use your current SATA drives.     But it's really impossible to say without a SYSTEM level understanding.
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fstincAuthor Commented:
Agreed, made changes

Last week we were talking about how to get faster speeds from a system that you were looking at
other than using USB.There are lots of options, so I thought I would show it in a diagram. Theres a document attached to the email that  shows all speeds (at least most of them) that are feasable. The main problem would be the connections on the LAN. We can have great transfer rates on the devices via USB 3.0, however, if the LAN is bottle necking at 400 mbps, then much of it gets lost. Also USB 3.0 is also one of the most expensive approaches that would require new HDD's. Too expensive. Given the specifics on the system, we can find out which options are available and which options give the best results. None the less if I had to make a suggestion, given eSata was possible, I would say that a Sata HDD with an eSata enclosure would be the best way to go. I can increase throughput 10 fold for roughly ~50 dollars investment. But again, it really depends on the hardware. Hopefully this helps.



I also need to update the diagram
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giltjrCommented:
It sounds almost as if you don't even know what the system is.   The drawing is a bit confusing as it shows what appear to be the hard drives directly connected via LAN interfaces talking to a database.
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driskolltCommented:
"That doesn't mean that your 6gb/s SAS drive is ever going to see 6gb/s of bandwidth"

"I just happen to have a (unannounced) SAS-2 SSD in the lab that pushes 550MB/sec sustained transfer."

When you put a drive in a lab, max out the IO size to a non real-world value and crank out the perfect IO stream, I guess you can get good rates.  Production concerns me more, not lab environments.  I look at drives in terms of IOPS and not bandwidth.  Bandwidth on a drive is not really a good measure on performance.  IOPS gives a much better indication of a drive's performance anyway,

I was also referring to spinning rust, not SSDs - I should have mentioned that.  I usually refer to SAS as spinning rust - it's bad terminology on my part.
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driskolltCommented:
"... A single SATA hard drive for an actual production workload is not going to max out the bandwidth of a USB 2.0 bus ..."    ==>   WRONG.     Modern drives easily achieve 80-120MB/s sustained transfer rates ... well above what USB v2 can achieve.

"A USB 2.0 connection has a theoretical maximum of 480Mb/s == 60MB/s ... and in practice achieves about half of that due to the "handshaking" protocols used in transfers.    So you'll see ~ 30MB/s of throughput with a USB v2.0 connected drive, vs. 80-120MB/s if the same drive is connected via a SATA port.    I agree it makes little difference whether the SATA connection is SATA-I, -II, or -III, as transfers to/from the drive's buffer (the only time transfers occur at interface speeds) are a VERY small % of the transfer activity."

to get 30 MB/s on a SATA drive figuring 70 sustained IOPS, you'd need an average IO size of ~428k - Not many production workloads use IOs that large to a single drive, backups might be an exception.
Also - judging from the fact that a USB hard drive isn't going to do any intelligent caching algorithms, you'd probably see lower write sizes to disk - Probably 64k or lower.  Benchmarking software can always make the perfect IO type/size to give you pretty numbers.
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DavidCommented:
Actually that SSD is running real-world I/O for a military "black box" I'm working on. That 550MB/sec is real-world application I/O as part of a RAID set also, we're getting many GB/sec transfer.   It is not running a benchmark, but application software.

But with SAS-2 spinning rust, as you call it, one can easily saturate the interface with just a few drives in large block video streaming apps.

I do agree with benchmarking.  So many people foolishly take a windows box, build a RAID0 with it, set a large block size, and the system looks great on a benchmark. But then they also know every application OTHER than a benchmark then gets really sluggish.  
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fstincAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all of the great feedback.
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