Small Business Storage Review: LaCie 2big NAS

Monday Aug 27th 2012 by Joseph Moran
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LaCie’s 2big NAS is a solid storage server for small business, but remote access support could be better.

For any small business that wants to centrally store, share, and protect their important data, a good NAS device is all but a no-brainer. In this review, we take a closer look at the capabilities and performance of the LaCie 2big NAS. LaCie’s newest NAS looks much like its predecessor the 2big Network 2, but under the hood there are improvements including a faster (2GHz) processor, higher capacities and new features. 

NAS Specs and Setup

The 2big NAS is a compact two-bay device with the familiar and elegant LaCie design cues -- specifically, an upright gray aluminum chassis and a large glowing blue orb indicator light/button front and center.  That blue orb is the only item you’ll find on the front of the device; the rear of the 2big NAS provides connectivity -- one Gigabit Ethernet, one eSATA, and one USB 2.0 port (USB 3.0 would have been nice) along with access to access to the drive bays. In addition to external storage, the USB port supports (some) printers and uninterruptible power supplies.

Lacie 2bigNAS

Figure 1: The 2big NAS’ compact aluminum chassis features a prominent button/indicator light on the front panel.

The drive bays, which support hot swapping, feature sturdy metal trays that latch into place. They don’t lock, though -- you can unlatch the trays using a coin if the small plastic tool LaCie provides for this purpose isn’t handy. While convenient, this ease of drive removal means that you may want to keep the 2big NAS in a secure area.

The 2big NAS comes in three flavors -- 4 TB and 6 TB for $499 and $649, respectively, plus a diskless model that costs $209. (LaCie provides a fairly extensive list of compatible drives.) The 2big NAS devices come out of the box configured in RAID 1 for data redundancy, so their usable storage is roughly half the advertised capacity.

Our 6 TB test unit, which held a pair of 7,200 RPM Seagate Barracuda drives, had about 2.7 TB available (you lose a couple hundred MB to the operating system). You can also opt to reconfigure the 2big NAS as RAID 0 to use the full storage capacity, but since this provides no protection against data loss, doing so is inadvisable unless you regularly back up the unit’s contents.

Getting the 2big NAS up and running is quick and easy. A few minutes after connecting the unit to the network and powering it on, we reached it by pointing a Web browser to http://Lacie-2big-nas.local. After we set an administrator password and configured the time, the 2big prompted us about an available firmware update, which it proceeded to download and install automatically. LaCie also includes a Network Assistant utility (available for Windows, Mac and Linux) that can detect the 2big on a network and provide access to shared folders.  

2big NAS Administration and Use

LaCie offers one of the better administrative interfaces found on a small business NAS device. Navigating the dozen configuration categories is simple enough, but you can also customize the layout of a half-dozen "widgets" to keep your most important status information and configuration settings within particularly easy reach. 

2bigNAS2 network attached storage review

Figure 2: Hard drives are easy to get to at the rear of the 2big NAS, but you can’t secure them within the unit.

Te 2big NAS supports SMB, AFP, and NFS file protocols for Windows, Mac, and Linux access, plus both FTP and the preferable Secure FTP for remote file transfer. The 2big can stream media via UPnP/DLNA or iTunes, plus the included "Download Machine" provides automated BitTorrent transfers and lets you control how much downstream and upstream those transfers can consume.   

The 2big offers excellent power management, with the capability to spin down the hard drives after 3-20 minutes of idle time and to set the entire unit to automatically power off and back on according to a custom schedule.  There’s also a deep sleep mode which LaCie says can reduce the 2big’s power consumption down to a mere 0.8 watts (compared to 6 watts when hibernating and 22 during file access).You can use the front button or a Wake-on-LAN feature (WoL) included in the aforementioned LaCie Network Assistant to wake up a dormant unit.

When we pulled out one of the 2big’s two hard drives to simulate a failure, the big blue orb turned crimson, but the unit didn’t miss a beat. There was no discernible impact on performance, including video streaming, while the 2big was down a drive. And, it kept humming after we replaced the drive and while the system rebuilt the data to the new drive (a process that took slightly less six hours to complete).

2big NAS and Remote Access

For small businesses that need to access their files from outside the office (and who doesn’t these days), the 2big NAS offers two different remote access options.  One is LaCie’s MyNas service -- after assigning your 2big a unique device name, you let UPnP forward the necessary port automatically (or do it manually if need be), and then you can access the 2big by pointing a browser to mynas.lacie.com/yourdevicename. It worked without a hitch when we tried it. If you prefer not to have LaCie act as your remote access intermediary, the 2big supports using the third-party DynDNS service instead.

lacie 2bigNAS network storage review

Figure 3: The 2bigNAS's configuration interface is easy to use, with "widgets" that keep important information and frequently-used features front and center.

Whichever remote method you choose, accessing files from a Web browser isn’t quite as slick as Iomega’s StorCenter NAS devices’ Personal Cloud feature, which lets you remotely access your files through Windows Explorer as if the NAS device and PC were on the same local network. And, while LaCie’s browser-based UI is attractive and easy enough to navigate, we’re not thrilled about how it handles transfers of multiple files.

For example, when you want to download from the 2big NAS, you can’t select an entire folder, only individual files, and while you can select multiple files to download at one time, there’s no batch download offered (e.g. ZIPping them up so that you only have to download only a single file, like the Remote Web Access feature of Windows Small Business Server).

Instead, 2big NAS queues your file selections into a list from which you must individually click and download each file. When it comes to uploading to the 2big, you can’t upload an entire folder either, though you can select multiple files to upload at one time.   

LaCie offers a free iOS app to access files on the 2big NAS, but there doesn’t appear to be a comparable app for Android-based devices.

You can back up 2big NAS data to a directly-connected external hard drive, or to another local or remote rsync-compatible NAS.  For backing up client computers, the 2big NAS includes Genie Timeline Pro for Windows as well as Intego Backup Manager Pro for Mac (LaCie provides three licenses for each program).

Bottom Line on the LaCie 2big NAS

We’d prefer the 2big NAS improve its remote access capabilities with a better way to handle multiple files and an Android app, but for small businesses looking for a solid and easy-to-use NAS, the LaCie 2big NAS warrants a close look.

  • Price: $499 4 TB, $649 6TB, or $209 without disks 
  • Pros: easy setup and configuration; myriad server and client backup options, eSATA port
  • Cons: No USB 3.0 port, no Android app; remote access doesn’t handle batch file downloads/uploads well

Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.

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