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NAS Reviews

Features

Here’s a summary of the 5big Network 2’s feature set for quick reference. Browse the image Gallery below to explore the actual screens.

  • Supports network file access via SMB,AFP, FTP, HTTP, HTTPS (no NFS)
  • Other supported protocols – Apple Bonjour, BitTorrent, NTP, iSCSI, DHCP, Apipa, 802.3ad
  • Hot swappable SATA drives configurable for RAID 0, 5, 6 and 5+hot spare
  • FTP support
  • HTTP and HTTPS (with self-signed certificate) admin access and AJAX browser based file access
  • Dynamic DNS (DDNS) support – 4 providers
  • Active Directory/Windows domain support
  • Configurable iSCSI target (client initiator not included)
  • Bit Torrent downloading
  • Email (limited) alerts
  • UPnP AV and DLNA media server
  • iTunes (DAAP) server
  • Eco Modes including automatic standby, deep sleep and scheduled on/off
  • Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports – second port can be used for bonding or for fail over
  • 2 eSATA expansion ports
  • 2 USB 2.0 expansion ports
  • Print server support (via CUPS printing system)
  • 3 licenses for Genie Backup Manager Pro for Windows
  • 3 licenses for Intego Backup Manager Pro for Mac
  • UPS shutdown sync support
  • Scheduled share backup to another share or external drive
  • Apple Time Machine target
  • Automatic Firmware update
Image gallery

Drive Pull Test

No review of a RAID-capable NAS would be complete without testing its fault tolerant capabilities.  To test the RAID 5 redundancy, I started a directory copy of about 11 GB to the public share.  While the files were being copied, I unlocked and pulled out drive 5 to simulate a drive failure. 

The file copy paused for a couple of seconds, but then quickly resumed and completed copying the entire directory structure.  No data was lost.  I did receive an email notification indicating that “The component in slot 5 is missing” and a second email notified me that the RAID was operating in a degraded condition. The front panel LED also changed from its continuous blue to a slowly pulsating red to indicate a problem with the RAID array. 

Since I had chosen to display the RAID management widget, the home page also showed the RAID array in a degraded condition.   I continued to use the 5big Network 2 for about 4 hours, and then re-inserted the drive to simulate replacing a defective drive with a new one.  The “new” drive was automatically recognized and the RAID started to resynchronize.  No additional intervention was required on my part. 

Rebuilding the RAID took 8 hours and 15 minutes and at the end of the RAID synchronization, the 5big Network 2 returned to normal operating status.  Although there was a log entry indicating that the RAID had been resynchronized, I did not get an email notification.

Backup

To check out the backup features, I connected a 500 GB USB drive to one of the USB ports. The drive was automatically recognized.  Using the built-in copy function, I successfully backed up one share to the USB drive.  Your schedule options are very limited – you can choose to copy once, or daily at a specified time.

I created a new share and configured it for Time Machine backups.  On my Mac, I changed Time Machine preferences to point to the “Time Machine” share on the 5big Network 2.  Time Machine then started to backup 80 GB.  About 20 GB through, for some reason, however, the 5big Network 2 went into sleep mode and the backup stopped.  I pressed the blue button on the front panel, and the device came back on line. 

Media Serving

The 5big Network 2 has bulit-in UPnP AV and an iTunes servers.  I copied a number of image files as well as a number of directories out of my iTunes library to a public share on the 5big 2.  The 5big Network 2 showed up properly in my iTunes client.  In addition, I was able to connect to the UPnP AV server successfully with my Droid X (via Wi-Fi) and play a slide show of images from a directory I selected.

The 5big Network 2 can also be an iSCSI target, but LaCie does not provide iSCSI initiators (clients).  You can change the size of the iSCSI target without reformatting the entire RAID array, but the iSCSI target is automatically reformatted when you change the size.

One of our complaints about the first generation of the 5big Network was that it didn’t have power saving modes.  The 5big Network 2 addresses those concerns with an "Eco" mode.  The Eco mode controls drive spindown, and in my tests, power consumption dropped from a running average of 37 watts to ~23 watts. 

Though you can set the drive spin down time for a little as 3 minutes, it’s not clear what activity keeps the device “awake”.  At times, I experienced significantly longer spin-down times than I had specified.  There’s also a deep sleep mode that drops power consumption further. But deep sleep takes the NAS storage offline completely and you have to wake it up using the blue push button or the LaCie Network Assistant. 

Performance

Testing and analysis by Tim Higgins

I covered the 5big Network 2's performance in the New To the Charts article and grabbed the Benchmark summary (Figure 4) from there. The main takeaway is that read performance is about 2X write with large file copy write throughput in the high 20 / low 30 MB/s range and read in the 50 - 60 MB/s range, depending on benchmark used.

LaCie 5big Network 2 Benchmark Summary

LaCie 5big Network 2 Benchmark Summary

The main caveat is LaCie's limit of 1024 concurrent open files, which caused some of the NASPT benchmarks to not run. Most users will probably not run into a problem in real-life use. But if you have multiple Win 7 users copying large folders to and from the NAS, you may get some failed copies (and error messages).

For comparison to other current 5 bay NASes, the RAID 5 File Copy charts below tell the tale.

RAID 5 File Copy Write Comparison

RAID 5 File Copy Write Comparison

The closest in performance is the discontinued Synology DS508, powered by an 800 MHz Freescale MPC8543. All the other products are powered by either Intel Atom D510 (Synology DS1010+, QNAP TS-559 Pro) or Celeron M (QNAP TS-509 Pro, Thecus N5500) processors.

RAID 5 File Copy read Comparison

RAID 5 File Copy read Comparison

The main performance takeaway is that the 5 big Network 2 is significantly underpowered compared to other current-generation five bay NASes.

Final Thoughts

Like its predecessor, the LaCie 5big Network 2 blurs the line between business and consumer-oriented NASes.  New features such as built-in media servers, energy management modes and print server in the 5big Network 2 move the balance more towards the consumer.  

But the 5big Network 2 still lacks photo serving and remote media access feautres found in the more consumer-oriented NASes like Synology and QNAP.  And while you can configure the 5big Network 2 for remote file access, products like the Seagate GoFlex Home are miles ahead when it comes to seamlessly setting up remote access, DDNS and file and photo sharing through a dedicated portal.  (For the GoFlex Home, it’s www.seagateshare.com).

From a business perspective, the fault tolerance found in the 5big Network 2 is very attractive, with RAID recovery after replacing a failed drive among the easiest on the market.  And, though it’s less of an issue for a NAS that comes fully populated with all five bays filled, it’s a step behind the competition when it comes to RAID migration and expansion.

More importantly for business use, the 5big Network 2 lacks NAS to NAS backup or replication services such as those found in the Buffalo's NASes.  And for some applications, the relatively low performance may also be an issue.  Finally, like its predecessor, the 5big Network 2 could benefit from better logging and email alerts for more events.

Where the LaCie 5big Network 2 excels, however, is in value.  A fully-populated 5TB NAS can be had online for as low as $724 as I write this.  That’s less than the list price of some competing 5 Bay BYOD NASes.  So if you need a lot of storage at a reasonable price, and can live with lower performance and fewer features, the LaCie 5big Network 2 is worth considering.

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