Promise SmartStor NS4300N-2TB review

Price when reviewed

We really thought the storage industry wouldn’t be able to come up with any more acronyms, but now we have Promise’s NS4300N-2TB and its BYOD. Fortunately, it’s nothing technical, as Bring-Your-Own-Disks simply means you can buy this compact desktop NAS appliance empty and add your own SATA drives if you wish.

Promise SmartStor NS4300N-2TB review

There’s no need to with the review model, as PlanetAudio supplied it kitted it out with four 500GB Barracuda drives that are the ES variant that Seagate designed specifically for RAID arrays. Aimed primarily at the SMB and SoHo markets, the appliance looks very good value and offers a decent range of data protection features; the embedded Promise RAID controller supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5, along with hot-standby and even RAID migration capabilities.

Scheduled snapshots for point-time backups of selected volumes are also on the menu, and the entire appliance can be replicated at regular intervals to another box on the same network. The bundled SmartSync software secures selected data from your workstations to a schedule, and the One-Touch Backup feature will fire them all up together just by pressing the extra button on the appliance’s front panel. A nice idea, although performance isn’t great, as a test backup of 12GB over Gigabit Ethernet returned average speeds of 4.2MB/sec.

The appliance is reasonably well specified with the 400MHz FreeScale processor teamed up with 128MB of memory. Physical security is minimal, as the front door can’t be locked and the drives are mounted in simple plastic hot-swap carriers. Noise levels for the single cooling fan at the rear are quite noticeable on the desktop, although power demands for a four-drive appliance aren’t excessive, as we measured it drawing around 45W in idle and under load.

Installation won’t take long, as the Smart Wizard tool picks up the appliance on the network and offers Express and Advanced configuration modes. The smart web interface also offers a wizard for starting up files services, creating users and groups and adding shared folders. Client support is good as Windows, Unix, Linux and Mac users are on the guest list, and the appliance runs FTP services as well. Along with the local user database, you can also use AD authentication for greater security and apply disk quotas to each user.

Only a passing nod is made to multimedia services as the appliance has a DLNA server for streaming content such as music, pictures and videos to UPnP-compliant devices but, unlike most of the competition, no iTunes server is provided. Storage can be expanded via the two USB ports at the rear, which can also be used for sharing printers or monitoring an APC UPS. Performance is nothing to write home about, as a range of file-copy tests over the network returned average read and write speeds of 15.8MB/sec and 11.5MB/sec respectively. FTP tests didn’t see any improvements, with the FileZilla client utility reporting read and write speeds of only 10.7MB/sec and 9.4MB/sec.

If you feel the need for file-copy speed then the A-Listed Synology DS508 is by far your best choice, although it costs nearly the same empty as the NS3200N-2TB does fully populated. If you can go with the lower performance then this 2TB desktop NAS appliance does look very good value and offers plenty of backup features and access security.

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