Promise SmartStor NS4600 review

£425
Price when reviewed

Best known for its RAID controllers and enterprise storage appliances, Promise Technology is now targeting the UK small business NAS appliance market. Previously, its four-bay SmartStor NS4300N failed to impress us.

The SmartStor NS4600 has an improved hardware spec, with an Intel Tolapai SoC (system on chip) and a double helping of DDR2 memory. There’s also an SR1 firmware upgrade with a new Ajax web interface, support for IP SANs and more backup and media-streaming features.

Build quality hasn’t been much improved. The hard disks are still mounted in flimsy plastic carriers, and the internal power supply is a little too loose. However, the front door can now be secured to stop it popping open and the appliance runs very quietly.

Promise SmartStor NS4600

Installation is swift. The SmartNavi utility automatically finds appliances on the network. The new Ajax-based WebPASM 2 interface kicks off with a quick-start wizard to get networking up and running and your drives configured.

For testing we loaded a quartet of 1TB WD GreenPower SATA drives and went for an automatic RAID5 array build. The NS4600 supports Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac clients, and to control access you can use its internal database or integrate with an AD server. Quotas help manage storage usage and these can be applied at the group or user level.

The NS4600 supports scheduled snapshots for point-in-time volume backups and full replication to a remote SmartStor. The SmartSync tool can be accessed directly from the SmartNavi interface, and you can create scheduled workstation backups to the appliance.

The One-Touch button can be used to start instant copies of data from USB and eSATA devices, and can be programmed to start SmartSync jobs.

Performance has improved over the NS4300N, but it’s nothing radical. Dragging and dropping copies of a 2.52GB video clip run from a dual 2.8GHz Xeon X5560 Broadberry CyberServe returned read and write speeds over Gigabit of 33MB/sec and 25MB/sec. FTP speeds were much better, with FileZilla reporting average speeds of 37MB/sec and 29MB/sec.

For iSCSI target creation the manual makes a huge blunder as it fails to state that you must set space aside for these during volume creation. We didn’t, so our RAID5 array was useless. It had no spare space for targets, so we had to delete it and start again. We were rewarded for our extra work by average IP SAN performance, with Iometer reporting a 75MB/sec raw read speed for a 50GB target.

The NS4600 is a more polished NAS appliance than its predecessor and the new SR1 firmware offers a good range of extra storage features, including web, database and media-streaming servers. Backup options are particularly good, but performance is slow compared to similar products from Thecus, Qnap, Synology and Netgear.

Basic specifications

RAID capability yes
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Connections

Ethernet ports 1
USB connection? yes
eSATA interface yes

Software

Software supplied SmartNavi and SmartSync

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