LaCie's 5big NAS Pro is a major upgrade to the company's previous 5big Network 2. The new server is now significantly faster while retaining the excellent physical design of its predecessor.
The 5big NAS Pro does have some shortcomings, however, including a spartan feature list and the lack of customization options. The sever also doesn't provide a way to quickly set up its hard drives into a RAID configuration.
All things considered, at the current price of some $500 (disk-less version, or $1,100 and $2,000 for 10TB and 20TB, respectively) it's an excellent choice if you're looking for a robust and easy-to-use network-based storage solution. For more options in terms of features, also check out the Synology DS1511+ or one of alternatives on this list.
Design and setup
The 5big NAS Pro looks exactly the same as the previous model, the LaCie 5big Network 2. With its cubelike design, the NAS server looks more decorative than you generally expect a storage device to be. On the front, there's the signature design touch found in all of LaCie's storage devices: a big, round LED blue indicator. This indicator light doubles as the server's power button.
On the back, the server has five drive bays to host five SATA standard 3.5-inch hard drives of any capacities. With hard drives currently capping at 4TB each, the server can offer up to 20TB of raw storage space. When used in a RAID setup, it offers up to 16TB of protected storage space.The bays are locked in by a latch that can be opened with a coin. Once opened, each bay can be pulled out easily when you want to upgrade or replace the hard drive. While the latch can be opened with a coin, you do need a screwdriver to install or remove the drive from the tray.
The 5big NAS Pro supports three standard RAID configurations: RAID 0, RAID 5, and RAID 6. On top of that, it also comes with LaCie's new SimplyRAID configuration. (Read more on RAIDs.)
Similar to Synology's Hybrid RAID or Netgear's XRAID 2, LaCie's SimplyRAID automatically sets up hard drives in the best RAID configurations depending on the number of hard drives being used, to offer redundancy against a single-drive failure (at least two hard drives required) or two-drive failure (at least three hard drives required). (Read more on redundancy.). For example, when two hard drives are used, SimplyRAID is equivalent to a RAID 1, and when three drives or more are used, it will be similar to RAID 5 or RAID 6, depending on the user's choosing. In addition, SimplyRAID also allows for upgrading an existing RAID setup to larger capacities without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch, and using hard hard drives of different capacities in a RAID setup.
While SimplyRAID worked well in my trial, it takes a long time to set up. For example, it took almost a day to put five 2TB hard drives into a SimplyRAID setup. Expect it to take even longer if you use larger drives. In fact, other than RAID 0, which takes just a few minutes, the rest of the server's supported RAIDs take a long time to set up. This is not really a big deal if you can just let the server run overnight, but it's a hassle if you want to get the server up and running right away.
While it's common for RAID building to take a long time, other NAS servers, such as those from Synology, have a quick-mode option that lets you set up a RAID in just a matter of minutes regardless of how large the hard drives are.
If you choose to use SimplyRAID, note that it also takes a long time to upgrade/replace the hard drives (tens of hours for each) and you can only change one hard drive a time. This is again quite normal and similar to when you replace a hard drive in a standard RAID setup. The server is still working during the upgrade, just at a slower speed.