Promise SmartStor NS4300N review

£407
Price when reviewed

Despite being a major RAID controller manufacturer, Promise Technology also likes to dabble in network storage. SOHOs and SMBs are targets for its SmartStor desktop NAS appliances and the latest NS4300N on review has benefitted from a number of recent improvements since we first looked it last year.

Promise SmartStor NS4300N review

A new feature is Promise’s SmartNavi client utility which runs as a background task accessible from the System Tray and automatically finds appliances on the network. Select one and it takes you to a main interface which provides easy access to key features without having to load the PASM (Promise Advanced Storage Manager) web interface. SmartNavi offers a wizard based setup which checks your network, applies a range of default settings based on what it finds and automates volume creation. You can also manually create volumes and manage users, groups and shares from here as well.

The new Download Station retrieves remote files using BitTorrent, HTTP or FTP. It’s easy enough to use but performance is shockingly slow as test downloads from our FTP server produced nothing better than 0.5MB/sec. New features can now be added to the appliance as plug-ins directly from SmartNavi and Promise includes ones for a Firefly iTunes server with smart playlists plus DLNA and BitTorrent servers and when added they create a new set of default folders on the appliance.

Promise’s backup features are definitely a cut above the rest as the appliance supports snapshots for scheduled point-in-time backups of selected volumes and you can replicate the entire contents of one SmartStor to another over the network. Hourly, daily and weekly scheduled workstation backups are created from the SmartSync option in SmartNavi and pressing the One-Touch Backup button on the appliance fires up all jobs on all systems immediately.

Performance is a major weakness and we found copying a selection of files over Gigabit Ethernet returned low average read and write speeds of 15.6MB/sec and 11.7MB/sec respectively. Surprisingly, FTP performance was even slower with the FileZilla client utility reporting read and write speeds of only 10.6MB/sec and 9.6MB/sec. We tested SmartSync using the button on the appliance and saw a backup of 5GB of test data from a Pentium D workstation deliver a pedestrian 4.3MB/sec. However, subsequent backups of the source data only secure new and modified files so will be much faster.

Nothing changes in the hardware department so you still have a 400MHz FreeScale processor teamed up with 128MB of memory. There’s no physical security as the front door can’t be locked and the drives are mounted in flimsy plastic carriers. The latest firmware does add improved fan controls as we noted that the appliance runs very quietly making it well suited to a small office. The main PASM interface hasn’t been redesigned but it’s easy enough to use. You can enable selected protocols and choose from support for Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac clients and add FTP services. Access controls are good as the appliance can use a local database, integrate with an AD server and apply disk quotas to selected users.

The new SmartNavi utility makes for easier management and the NS4300N scores highly for its data backup, snapshot and replication facilities. It looks good value as well but its perambulatory performance is cause for concern.

Basic specifications

Capacity N/A
Cost per gigabyte N/A
RAID capability yes
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
Default filing system EXT3

Services

FTP server? yes
UPnP media server? yes
Print server? no
Web hosting? no
BitTorrent client? yes

Connections

Ethernet ports 1
USB connection? yes
eSATA interface no

Physical

Dimensions 152 x 230 x 188mm (WDH)

Security and administration

Admin support for users yes
Admin support for groups yes
Admin support for disk quotas yes
Email alerts yes

Software

Software supplied SmartNavi, SmartSync

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