LaCie 5big NAS Pro Review - Part Iby Ganesh T S on January 7, 2013 7:00 PM EST
LaCie's Hybrid Cloud - Wuala and a LaCie NAS in One Interface
LaCie's marketing impetus for the 5big NAS Pro is focused on three main aspects - the rescue web admin, SimplyRAID and the Hybrid Cloud. The first aspect is innovative, but nothing ground-breaking. The second aspect is simply LaCie catching up with the competition in terms of RAID management features. The third aspect is what we feel may make certain consumers strongly consider the 5big NAS Pro for their usage scenario.
Wuala - Cloud Storage and Backup Done Right
I had been vaguely aware of Wuala as a Dropbox-like service from LaCie. Dropbox, undoubtedly, has caught the imagination of the general public like no other cloud storage company. Personally, I use Dropbox to backup and maintain versions of my review notes and other material which I need to work on from multiple computing platforms. Would I trust Dropbox to backup really sensitive data? I would probably not, because, Dropbox hasn't been the most secure solution going around, and is often cited as a poster child for cloud insecurity.
Under these circumstances, it is important that the public be made aware of solutions which offer additional security. Wuala is one such service. Similar to most other cloud storage services, there is 5 GB of free space upon sign up. However, the differentiating aspect is that the data stored on the Wuala servers is encrypted before even being uploaded. Even, LaCie doesn't have access to the user data. A slight downside to this aspect is that web access to an account on a computer without the Wuala client is not possible without Java.
When compared with Dropbox, Wuala provides many more features. Some of these include the ability to choose multiple pre-existing folders on the computer for storing to the cloud. There is no specific 'My Dropbox' folder. Easy access to all stuff stored in the cloud is available through a separately mounted Wuala drive network location. In addition to the locally associated folders, it also has data backed up / synced from other computers associated with the same Wuala account. Unlike Dropbox, Wuala differentiates between backup and sync. Syncing ensures that data updated on one computer is also reflected on another computer associated with the account. Backup, on the other hand, periodically updates the contents of the relevant folder in the Wuala servers. Versioning is also available.
Hybrid Cloud - The Differentiating Feature
How does Wuala tie in with the LaCie 5big NAS Pro? While installing Wuala on a machine, it searches for compatible NAS devices in the same network by broadcasting a UDP multicast message to which the NAS responds. These devices can be added to the Wuala account. In addition, after associating a NAS with Wuala, it is possible for administrators to use the Wuala interface to provide an access code to any e-mail address (creating a new user in the process). It becomes possible for a remote NAS and its contents to be associated with a Wuala account, without the user actually being connected directly to the same internal network (through VPN or otherwise).
After associating devices with a Wuala account, the concept of a hybrid cloud becomes much more evident. Within the same interface, it is possible for users to look at both their backed up / synced folders as well as the NAS content that they have access to. On top of that, the devices appear in the Wuala network drive too. NAS units to which admin access is available can also be configured from Wuala.
The hybrid cloud concept is definitely a very impressive differentiating point, and LaCie deserves a lot of credit for this. It will be slightly difficult for other NAS vendors to match this feature because of the non- availability of a in-house Dropbox-like solution. That said, some work needs to be done to make the Wuala features easier to use. From the perspective of a LaCie 5big NAS Pro administrator, it might make more sense to control / edit / add Wuala user account names from within the web configuration interface. Currently, only enabling or disabling of the Wuala service is available through the NAS web interface.