The NAS package was quite spartan. The contents of the box included the following:

  1. LaCie 5big storage server
  2. Cat 5E Ethernet cable
  3. 150 W external power supply
  4. DVD / CDs for server restore / miscellaneous software
  5. Getting Started guide
  6. Drawer key to lock / remove the storage drives

The storage server unit weighed in around 8 Kg, but was surprisingly diminutive considering that it packaged 5 3.5" hard drives inside. LaCie has always been known for its excellent industrial design, and the 5big storage server is no exception. It is beautiful to look at, but we all know that in the NAS area (particularly in professional file sharing appliances), looks are never the factor in a purchase decision.

The blue LED lamp up front seemed a touch annoying in the beginning, but its brightness could be controlled from within the OS. It also doubles up as a switch to power up the appliance. Thankfully, it is recessed to ensure that the unit is not accidentally switched off.

Considering that the NAS comes with dual GbE NICs, it would have been nice if LaCie had packaged in 2 Cat 5E cables instead of just one. The diminutive size of the appliance is enabled by going in for an external PSU. This is one of the bulkier power supplies you are likely to encounter, rated at 150 W.

The Quick Start Guide provided by LaCie is good enough for a company without dedicated IT staff to get the unit up and running. However, Windows Storage Server 2008 has a lot of features. End users who are not familiar with NAS units are likely to get overwhelmed. Though LaCie does carry some technical briefs to set up RAID configurations and NFS / SMB / AFP shares, we would have preferred a FAQ to be created. We encountered quite a number of issues which weren't covered in the technical briefs, particularly for iSCSI setup.

Our review unit had 5 Seagate Barracuda 7200 rpm 1 TB drives bundled inside. Our understanding is that Seagate drives are not exclusive for the 5big server, as we have seen some units with Samsung drives inside them.

As can be seen in the above picture, the drives are not user replaceable without voiding the warranty. Considering the premium that LaCie demands for these standard 1 TB drives, we found the restriction a bit harsh. However, LaCie offered us the reasoning that they wouldn't want to service a unit with some drives not officially sanctioned by them.

As mentioned in the previous section, the 5TB version of the NAS has around 3.5 TB space for data. The Server Manager program can be used as a one-stop shop for all the management tasks. The disk management snap-in shows how the disks are partitioned in the default setting.

The Hardware Monitor program serves as a way to adjust the fan, LED and power management settings.

Dynamic link aggregation (IEEE 802.3ad) is one of the advertised features of the 5big storage server. It was quite simple to set it up from the Device Manager console, as shown in the pictures below. Dynamic link aggregation allows us to view the 2 GbE NICs as a unified 2 Gbps link.

In the next section, we will explain our testing methodology and how the testbed setup gets connected to the 5big storage server configured as above.

Introduction Testing Methodology and Testbed Setup
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  • DanNeely - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    On the server management screenshot on page 2, what is the 31MB disk5? Did someone go digging through the junk drawer for the smallest USB drive they could find, or is it something else?
  • ganeshts - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    That is the USB drive I use to quickly transfer files from one review unit to the other (considering that this setup was isolated from the rest of our network) :)
  • mcnabney - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    $1475 for an available 3.5TB ~ $2.37/GB which is about how much SSDs cost for storage.

    Other options for the same money -

    $100 WHS or Vail
    $100 nice case
    $75 nice PS
    $25 1 GB RAM
    $75 nice mATX MB with lots of SATA ports
    $25 optical drive
    $50 expansion cards for extra SATA ports
    $25 fans and extra cables
    $1000 - Ten 2TB drives
    $1475 total

    So at the very least TRIPLE the storage (if everything is duplicated) and superior access times when using my option.
  • ganeshts - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    If I personally want 18 TB of storage, I would definitely go with your configuration :) However, the professional storage appliance market is different. People are ready to pay as long as the seller guarantees uptime of the storage. At my workplace (not AnandTech), vendors have turned up at 2 AM on a Sunday night to replace failed drives in our SAN. Of course, to get such response, one needs to purchase some extended maintenance options. However, these options aren't available unless one purchases the original unit from the company.

    That said, LaCie has had a history of catering to the Apple market. So, you know that the likely customers would be graphics design firm which are heavily Apple oriented. (And Apple customers are those who don't mind spending a premium) -- At least, this is my opinion (not what LaCie told me)
  • mcnabney - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    What you are saying makes a lot of sense, but this isn't a big service oriented server vendor like HP or Dell. I checked out LaCie and the box comes with a 1 year parts and service warranty. For an extra $150 you can stretch that out to two years.
    There is no on-site repair option available. If something goes wrong you check the faq online and then call tech support. Support will go through the usual list (is it plugged in, did you turn it on....) before issuing you a RMA number. There is absolutely no guarantee of uptime or anything close to policies designed to keep the data available at all times. I don't know about you, but once that box is populated it is never going back to a service center for 'warranty work'.
    A product like this is going to require someone in the office to be able to setup and troubleshoot a NAS-like product or the IT support vendor that has been used in the past will need to understand it. I just don't see the LaCie brand to do much more than I would expect of NewEgg. For me, I build my own because I support my own. I get the best price and exactly what I want/need. Since we are talking about critical data here I think that only Dell/HP types can really offer one-stop shopping with guaranteed on-site service. Also, don't forget that there is nothing in this box that could even remotely be considered to be server-grade - starting with the footwarmer power supply.
  • ganeshts - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    I believe LaCie has some sort of on-site maintenance plan too. This is mainly targeted towards people who don't have full time IT staff or lack the technical know-how to build and maintain one themselves.

    LaCie also has a Pro line (12-rack NAS server) which fits the 'server' grade criteria.

    All said, I personally don't think the unit is worth that much money, but there are probably features in Windows Storage Server (available only to OEMs) which some small / medium business owners may be willing to pay for.
  • mcnabney - Tuesday, November 9, 2010 - link

    I found something comparable to it. It costs $25 more and is also made of the same grade of consumer parts.

    It also provides 12TB of storage and includes the footwarmer power supply.

    Also, what is it about these consumer-grade NAS appliances and pokey network speed? I assume it is related to the RAID functionality. Every WHS box I have assembled can saturate gigE with large files and runs at over 60MB/s when backing up (which includes lots of small files).
  • ira176 - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Just change the blue to red....
  • Kaurin - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    If AnandTech did a comparison of this type of commercial solution VS FreeNAS. (Preferably using same hard drives as in the LaCie tested).
  • ganeshts - Monday, November 8, 2010 - link

    Will keep this in mind for a future review.

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