Personal storage has been growing in popularity for years. At this point everyone is pretty much used to the idea of cloud storage via Google, or Dropbox, but online services don’t always fit the needs of users. The solution is a shared drive, usually attached to your network. NAS (Network Attached Storage) systems have been the norm for years, so it piqued our interest when Promise Technology introduced their first NAS consumer product, the Promise Technology Apollo Cloud.
Promise Technology is a best known for its hard drive and RAID controllers, and was one of the first to market with a FireWire RAID. So, they know the storage field, but this is their first entry into the NAS market. Most NAS systems are the same, a hard drive, or hard drives in an enclosure that has an Ethernet port, a USB port, and software that allows you to set up shares, remote access, and for backup.
The Promise Apollo is no different; the unit is an elegant vertical white frosted plastic enclosure, with a minimal design aesthetic. The difference between it and other NAS devices is based around the idea that each user has their own storage environment, which is to say that they see their area as uniquely theirs.
On most NAS systems, the administrator creates shared folders and then assigns permissions and access for users. Promise approaches this in a different manner. Instead of “Users”, the administrator invites people to become "members" of the Apollo, and then each member has their own storage area on the unit. Once invited, the share is private in that members can’t see or access others folders or files, unless the administrator specifically grants permission. On most NAS software, you can see whatever folders there are, with access granted to some users and not others. But on the Apollo, you can only see your data or folders, so it appears that you are the only one using it.
It’s an interesting approach, especially at home where you might need storage for yourself, your office, children, spouses, or colleagues. Like any NAS device this permits you to connect the Apollo to your router and let everyone on the network to have their own space on the drive, and their data is available via the net using their dedicated apps and if you create a folder for remote access data. When we first started with the unit, there was one drawback to this scheme as originally implemented. There wasn’t a way to set a quota for each member, so you had no control of limiting data, thus the drive could fill up with no way to set limits. And if you have a member who is a data hog, it might present a problem when the drive is full. We hoped to see the ability to set a quota added to future software upgrades, and our wish was answered. As of mid-November a free software update added this feature, so with that feature set upgrade the Apollo is now a full-fledged contender in the personal NAS space. It was a feature that most reviewers noted, as well as customers, so it’s nice to see that Promise took it seriously, and engineered the feature and released it to consumers quickly. If only more companies were that responsive!
On most NAS systems, you can reach the NAS via the net by using its IP address. Not so on the Apollo, you can access it only by using Promise’s mobile or desktop apps. Even the Finder or Explorer can’t access it, so one must hope that Promise will continue to support the unit into the future. Compared to most NAS devices, setup is quick, easy, and fast. And the latest update allows for direct download to USB devices, so while not quite a flexible as a traditional NAS, the direct download feature goes a long way in usability. With the desktop client it is very easy to use, just drag and drop. And synchronizing our phones with it to download photos from the camera roll was just a couple of clicks.
We did have some teething issues with our unit. For some reason, after running it for about a month it suddenly couldn’t be found by the app. We tried restarting it, uninstalling and reinstalling the Android App, all to no avail, the phone still couldn’t find the unit. Finally, we installed the Mac Desktop client software, available for free from the App store. It launched fine, we requested a new password, and once that was sorted out, it asked where you wanted your synchronized folder to be, and finally checked the firmware version, updated it to the current version, it restarted, and all is well. One limitation of the Mac Client version is that we couldn’t find a way to invite other users, to do that you must use either the iOS or Android app. We would like to see the desktop app updated so users could be invited from there, instead of depending on your phone or tablet.
There is a substantial support system in place, but in the FAQ’s we couldn’t find any discussion of troubleshooting, so we would suggest listing some steps and causes for apps not finding the unit. When you are in the utility clicking on the “How to use Apollo” option takes you to a colorful FAQ’s webpage with options such as “Adding Members” and it’s here that you are reminded that Promise is new to the consumer sphere. That option brings you to the normal Promise support page for all their products, with a GUI that only a geek would love, so as the product gains momentum, we hope they will create a more consumer friendly support area, geared only to this product. But, it’s workable, and the Downloads area was easy to use and efficient, as were some easy to follow videos. It has a 2 Year Limited Warranty with 90 day web/phone support.
Launching an entirely new product line is difficult unto itself, but having a solid and respected background in the professional server space is certainly a plus. But what works for professional IT managers isn’t quite the same as the consumer who is using a NAS for the first time, and with the last software release the Promise Apollo is realizing its potential as a new approach to setting up a personal NAS, as well as a growing feature set that will satisfy most advanced users. Its easy to use process to schedule Time Machine and other backups, and member quotas set a new standard for other manufacturers. We look forward to future products, and recommend the Promise Technology Apollo Cloud for users looking for a friendly approach to having a personal cloud.
Harris Fogel & Frank Schramm, posted 11/25/2016
For more information on the Promise Technology Apollo Cloud visit: www.promise.com