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NAS Reviews

Introduction

Front view

At a Glance
Product LaCie 2big Network (301257U)
Summary No-frills 2 SATA Drive RAID 1 NAS
Pros • Gigabit LAN w/ jumbo frames
• Seamless RAID 1 re-mirror
• Good value ($/GB)
• Quiet
• Read/write/delete web access to shares
Cons • Low performance compared to other two-drive NAS products
• No media or print servers
• Unhelpful logging, no email alerts
• No idle power down

Consumers wanting to add additional storage capacity to their networks face an almost dizzying array of choices. On the low end, "brain dead" simple single-drive NASes such as Buffalo’s LinkStation EZ (reviewed) require almost no setup, and correspondingly lack many features.

If you want a fault-tolerant NAS, you need a device with at least two drives in order to configure it for RAID 1 (mirroring). For two-drive NASes, there are a lot of choices, but they basically fall into two categories:  BYOD (bring your own drive); or devices that ship with the drives already built in. 

If you browse through SmallNetBuilder, you’ll find a number of feature-rich two-drive BYOD NASes; including the QNAP TS-209 Pro (reviewed), the Synology Disk Station DS-207 (reviewed), the D-Link DNS-323 (reviewed), and several others. For each of those devices, you have to buy and install your own drives—something that not everyone feels comfortable doing. 

For those wanting the simplicity of a two-drive NAS with drives already installed, there are relatively few choices. Recently, I reviewed the two-drive LinkStation Pro Duo. Now I’m going to take a look at another two-drive device from LaCie—a name long familiar to Mac users.

Product Tour

LaCie chose an interesting name for their two-drive NAS entry—2big network. Though you might think that the large button on the front panel is a power switch, you’d be wrong. The button is actually for automatically copying the contents of an inserted USB key to a network share. Under normal conditions, the button glows blue, but it changes color to reflect degraded RAID status. (More on that later). 

The case is formed from heavy-duty extruded aluminum. This is probably the most solid NAS enclosure I’ve seen. Its sheer mass alone gives it excellent cooling capacity, but the 2big does include a two-speed temperature-controlled miniature blower.

Rear view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Rear view of the 2big network NAS

The rear panel has two drive-status LEDs, two USB 2.0 ports, a power connector, and two removable drives. The USB ports are only for attaching external storage such as a flash drive or external USB hard drives—the 2big lacks UPS support and does not include a print server. 

You lock the drives into position using a screwdriver to turn the slotted locking screw. The rear panel also has a three-position power switch (on/off/auto). If the on/auto/off power switch on the 2big is set to auto, the Shut Down button in the web admin interface will restart the 2big, not shut it down. The 10/100/1000 LAN port supports 4k and 9k jumbo frames.

LaCie made an interesting design decision by putting a RAID selection switch on the rear panel. You can change the RAID switch from "BIG" to "SAFE 100." "BIG" (JBOD) is the default setting, in which the drives are concatenated for maximum storage (1TB). The name "SAFE 100" refers to the fact that it sets the drives to a "safe" mode, i.e. RAID 1 (mirroring) with 100% data redundancy.

To change RAID levels, you need a jeweler’s screwdriver—a normal small slotted screwdriver is too large. Once you change the selection switch, you also have to log into the management console to confirm the change. Noticeably missing from the back panel is a security slot for use with a security cable.

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