Setup Impressions - Rescue Web Admin & SimplyRAID

The 5big NAS Pro comes in a package similar to the 5big Storage Server. In the box, we have the unit itself, a USB key, a plastic 'key' to lock/unlock the drive bays, a 150 W AC/DC adapter and a single 6ft. Cat 5E LAN cable (we would have liked two, given the dual GbE links in the NAS).

Tackling the Diskless Configuration Issue

Diskless NAS units often require some sort of setup program running on one of the clients to be able to get the NAS up and running with the proper configuration. For example, Netgear uses the RAIDar utility while Synology has the Synology Network Assistant. On the other hand, some NAS vendors make their unit obtain a DHCP address even when diskless (without waiting for any special setup procedure / timeouts). LaCie adopts an innovative strategy here. Instead of relying on the internal firmware to do this (which might be an issue if that is itself corrupted), LaCie provides a bootable USB key. The rescue disk can also be downloaded from the website and put on the user's own USB drive, if necessary. One needs to simply plug in the key to one of the USB 2.0 ports of the NAS and boot up the unit. After entering the MAC ID of the network interface, the unit can be configured as per the user requirements. Disks can be added and the firmware can be upgraded, amongst other things

LaCie's rescue USB key is an interesting way to tackle the problem of corrupted firmware or diskless configurations. I am sure other NAS vendors will also recognize the advantage to this type of approach. However, we will give LaCie credit for being the first NAS vendor (that we are aware of) to provide such a feature.

RAID Setup

Standard RAID setups are fine for scenarios where all the disks are of the same size. However, variable sized disks result in wasted capacity. To address this issue, NAS vendors have come up with their custom solution to maximize disk usage while also providing the required redundancy. Netgear has X-RAID 2 and Synology has the Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR). These custom solutions shield the novice user from the intricacies of understanding the various RAID levels. Now, LaCie has also joined the bandwagon. Their solution is called SimplyRAID, and the features are very similar to that of Synology Hybrid RAID.

LaCie's review configuration of 2x 1TB and 3x 2TB drives would have been an ideal setup to show how SimplyRAID works. However, for today's review, we will just be using SimplyRAID with 5x 4TB disks with a 1-disk redundancy. In this case, there is no difference between RAID-5 and SimplyRAID. We will go into detailed evaluation of SimplyRAID in the second part of our review. The short message is that it is good for LaCie to have a novice-friendly RAID solution similar to its competitors.

NAS OS 3 in the 5big NAS Pro

The UI of the NAS OS 3 hasn't really changed since the 2big NAS review. Certain additional options are available thanks to the 5-bay and dual GbE link nature of the offering. The available file serving protocols include SMB, AFP, NFS, FTP, SFTP and iSCSI. In today's review, we will be only looking at SMB (CIFS) and iSCSI. NFS evaluation will follow in the second part of the review. An interesting aspect is that each of these protocols can be set to be active on one or both of the network interfaces. However, we set up the network interfaces for link aggregation in our benchmarking. The ability to allow protocols to operate on certain interfaces only provides the network administrator with more control over performance in the bigger scheme of things. A limitation of the FCS firmware will be that only one iSCSI target is available right now. For a mid-range SMB NAS, it is essential that multiple iSCSI targets be supported (particularly since LaCie claims the 5big NAS Pro is suitable for up to 50 users). Fortunately, we were assured that multiple iSCSI targets are definitely in the pipeline. Multiple application services such as Wuala (more on this in the next section), TimeMachine, DLNA server, iTunes, printer server, rsync backup and Download Machine (BitTorrent / HTTP) are available. Access protocols can be enabled on a per-share basis.

Link aggregation can be set up in either load balancing or fault tolerance mode. We used the load balancing mode in our review. Unlike the Thecus N4800, it is possible for the teamed interface to obtain a DHCP address. In addition to Wuala cloud access, remote access over the Internet can also be enabled. Appropriate ports need to be forwarded in the router (the OS does try to set up port forwarding automatically on supported routers in simple configurations). Power management features (including sleep timer for the HDDs and power on/off scheduling) are also available.

On the whole, the UI and NAS OS 3 are functional right away. However, some aspects such as the HDD SMART information reporting and other such details are unavailable in the current beta firmware. We will see whether they are addressed in the FCS firmware in the second part of the review.

Introduction and Testbed Setup LaCie's Hybrid Cloud - Wuala and a LaCie NAS in One Interface
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  • klassobanieras - Thursday, January 31, 2013 - link

    A personal bugbear I have with NAS reviews (one that is apparently shared by no-one else in the world): How about evaluating the reliability side of things in a bit more depth?

    What happens when you yank a disk in the middle of a metadata-heavy write?
    What happens when you yank the power-cord in the middle of a metadata-heavy write?
    What happens when an HDD in a RAID set is silently corrupted? (simulated by, say, mounting it under Linux and flipping some bits)
    What happens if the box breaks and you want to get your data off the disks?
    What's the underlying file-system?
    Does it scrub the disks?

    If I just wanted to know how friendly the GUI is, I'd be reading CNET ;)
  • me_too - Monday, February 18, 2013 - link

    I'm very interested in this NAS and I would like to read as many previews as I can before it hits the stores here in The Netherlands. Thanks for Part I :-)
  • me_too - Sunday, February 24, 2013 - link

    More questions...

    Why does Lacies harddrive compatibilitiy list not have Western Digital RED series drives on it? I asked them about these drives and the 5Big NAS Pro and they said they can only guarantee listed harddrives to work properly, they could not tell if they tested these drives at all.

    Strangly the WD GREEN drives are listed, but online I keep reading about many problems with these drives in a NAS due to acessive head parking. Will this not be the case when used in a 5Big NAS Pro?

    When can we expect Part II of the review? :-)
  • NVISION - Wednesday, March 6, 2013 - link

    Only if there would Thunderbolt and USB 3.0 interface connectivity, along with RAID10 - it would be perfect. For my use anyways :)

    If there would be Thunderbolt connectivity and ability to that interface use most of the systems resources, this product would suite the needs of both high performance users as well as an NAS solution.

    RAID10 would be great, also on marketing viewpoint as many users prefer RAID10 over RAID6 or at least would like to have that as an option.
  • ejunyhu - Monday, March 11, 2013 - link

    what is the vga port for? can you connect a monitor and get config&monitoring display?
  • bobasaur - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 - link

    I read elsewhere that the VGA port is for seeing boot up sequence & settings, useful during disaster recovery.
  • bobasaur - Wednesday, April 3, 2013 - link

    can't wait for part 2!
  • xpro - Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - link

    I've been holding my breath, I look like a smurf.
  • bobasaur - Thursday, July 18, 2013 - link

    I'm an honorary smurf now too
  • Bob38489 - Monday, July 15, 2013 - link

    With regards to the choice of drives, what drives are reliable? It seems many internal drive reviews on amazon report having multiple drives bought in one go fail on their nas. This shows up under the one star ratings for the seagate barracuda, wd red green and black. Why such high failure rates?

    Is there a good drive to use on a nas, without going for the WD RE Enterprise drive? I don't really need too much performance, just high reliability for moderate cost.

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