The LaCie 5big Network 2 is a big upgrade from the company's Network Space 2, both in terms of performance and physical size. The new five-bay server looks impressive with its metal casing and cubic shape. It's also practical with easily accessible hard drive bays. What could be a little more impressive about the server, though, is its performance and features. The server performed well in our testing but was quite noticeably below similarly configured Synology DS1511+ .
If you're in the market for a high-capacity, easy-to-use network storage device, with the prices that started at $750 (for the 5TB version), the LaCie 5big Network 2 will definitely get the job done. Those who want to get the most out of a NAS server, however, should also check out the Editors' Choice DS1511+ from Synology.
At a glance, the LaCie 5big Network 2 looks more like a black box of a spaceship than a storage device. The almost perfect cube-shaped device has nothing but a big round LED on the front that shines solid blue when the server is turned on or flashes during data activities.
On the back, you'll find five drive bays that host five SATA hard drives. These bays are locked in by a latch that can be opened with a coin. Once opened, each bay can be pulled out easily in case you want to upgrade or replace the hard drive. You do need a screwdriver to install or remove the drive from the tray. Note, however, that the servers come preloaded with five hard drives; if you decide to replace any of them, it voids the warranty. This is a little counterintuitive, as the server's design is clearly intended to let users service its internal storage easily.
The hard drives come preset in RAID 5 configuration but they can be changed in to other configurations, including JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 6, and Auto RAID. Auto RAID is LaCie's proprietary flexible RAID configuration available with the version 2.0 of the NAS OS that LaCie announced recently. Similar to Hybrid RAID of Synology or XRAID 2 of Netgear, LaCie's Auto RAID automatically set up hard drives in the best RAID configurations depending on the number of hard drives being used. On top of that it also allows for upgrading an existing RAID setup to larger capacities without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch. Note that it would take a long time to upgrade the hard drives (tens of hours for each) and you can only upgrade one drive a time. However, this is quite normal and similar to when you need to replace a hard drive in a RAID 5 setup. The server is still working during the upgrade, just at a slower speed.
Also on the back of the server, there are two eSATA ports and two USB 2.0 ports to host more storage. There are also two Gigabit Ethernet ports. These ports can be used at the same time to either balance the load or for failsafe purposes. Unfortunately they can't be aggregated to increase the data throughput rates of the server.
Like the Network Space 2, the 5big Network 2's setup process was fast and easy. The device includes the LaCie Network Assistant software that helps identify the NAS on the network and maps the network drives, so you can use them as connected hard drives. The software also helps launch the device's Web interface that helps further customize the NAS server.
The LaCie 5big Network 2 runs the newer 2.0 of the NAS OS, which, among other things, offers full support for Lion, including its Time Machine. We tried this out and it worked as intended. You do need to turn the support on via the Web interface, however, as support for Time Machine is by default turned off.
Similar to the previous version of the NAS OS, the interface of the version 2.0 is simple and straightforward. It consists of two lines of big buttons on the bottom and the right side of the webpage. Each button is a category, such as Users, Shares, RAID Management and so on, and when clicked on shows all the functions and settings of that category on the main part of the webpage for users to customize. Since there are only so many buttons that can fit on the two sides of the page (three on each side), the lower right corner area of the page contains little icons of other categories that you can drag out to replace any of the buttons that are currently displayed on the sides.