An easy-to-use backup appliance with file and print sharing thrown in for good measure, the LaCie 5big Backup Server is a robust and functional small business backup solution. The recent price reduction makes it even more compelling, although it faces lots of competition from other WHS products and Linux-based appliances.
Beautiful design; quiet; low power consumption; disks pre-configured; automatic backup of Windows PCs; bare metal recovery; optional file and print sharing; reduced price
Low-spec processor; 1GB RAM; single Gigabit port
£697 (5TB); £1,045 (10TB) ex VAT
Single-core Atom D410 processor, 1GB RAM, 5x 1TB Samsung 5,400rpm hard disks, Gigabit Ethernet LAN connector, 4x USB 2.0 connectors, and 1x eSATA connector for external disk attachment, WHS Connector disc, PC Recovery and Server Recovery discs
Several vendors use Windows Home Server (WHS) to power small business backup appliances, among them HP and, more recently, LaCie with its 5big Backup Server.
Able to protect up to 10 Windows PCs and 25 Macs, LaCie uses WHS to automate backup and provide quick recovery of individual files and whole systems should the need arise.
Network file and print sharing are a bonus, with a couple of other extras thrown in for good measure, not all of which gel with the small business concept.
The idea of using 'home' software on a business-oriented appliance may seem a little odd, but a lot of companies are doing it. Moreover, Microsoft has announced a new Small Business Server product, codenamed Aurora, based on WHS technology and designed to support up to 25 users.
That, however, won't be available until later this year and, in the meantime, products like the Lacie 5big Backup Server are based on the existing WHS 1.0 platform.
That said, the LaCie server is a very professional and competent product housed in the same solid alloy case used by other 5big products, with a single blue eye on the front making it look a little like Davros from Doctor Who. It's not an eye, sadly, but the on/off switch combined with a status LED.
There are no other visible controls or connectors, at least not when viewed from the front. This is because the works are all round at the back, including five storage bays, each fitted with a pull-out metal caddy in which is mounted a standard SATA hard disk.
Ours came with five 1TB Samsung drives, plus there's a larger 10TB model fitted with 2TB drives instead.
Power comes from an external AC adapter, and there's an ultra-quiet fan making it possible to site the appliance in an open plan office and not worry about noise. In fact we put it under a desk and, more or less, managed to forget about it.
Added to which it's pretty power efficient, consuming just 35W when in standby mode and shipping with tools to further customise what it needs when in operation.
The disk carriers are solidly made with a simple locking mechanism operated by the somewhat flimsy plastic key supplied. Easily lost, a 5p piece works just as well, but when unlocked we found the mechanism stiff and the carriers fiddly to remove.
Still, you shouldn't have to change disks that often, and with a little effort we eventually got the hang of it.
Beneath the caddies are the connectors, with a single Gigabit Ethernet port for network attachment, plus four USB ports and a single eSATA connector, all of which can be used to connect extra disks.