Promise Technology announces SmartStor Zero NS2600 NAS

Promise Technology has announced its new SmartStor Zero NS2600 network storage device, a “non-techie” consumer-focused two-bay network attached storage device and digital media server. Set to be unveiled formerly at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) later this week, this new storage unit marks a shift in focus for Promise, a company known for its feature-rich high-end storage devices. With prices starting at $279, the SmartStor Zero NS2600 will available in the first quarter 2010 and will offer up to 4TB of storage.

“Today’s consumer does not want to be concerned with complicated setup procedures, media compatibility or dealing with the process of accessibility. The consumer wants a one, two, three approach to store, share and play music, movies and photos without the hassle of integration,” explained Promise CTO Chi Chen Wu.

The press materials for the SmartStor Zero NS2600 boast of the device’s abilities to bypass normally complicated setup processes thanks to a software management tool called ON. ON is supposedly designed for both Mac and PC systems and will hopefully make Promise’s high-end features accessible to the average consumer. The ON tool will map an open network share, allowing instant access for data backup and DLNA media sharing via digital media players such as the PlayStation 3. Like many home media servers, the SmartStor Zero NS2600 also functions as an iTunes Media Server allowing music and video to be streamed (including apparently protected content) using iTunes.

“Today consumers are put off by the configuration and management of traditional NAS devices,” said Promise product manager Billy Harrison. “Consumers want plug and store instant access. The process of creating users, managing permissions, managing shares and enabling/disabling services is a thing of the past. With SmartStor Zero, we’re solving the consumer’s most basic problem by delivering to market a DLNA NAS-simple device anyone can use.”

According to Promise, the installation does not install any device drivers or virtual components into the operating system. The SmartStor Zero NS2600 supports Mac OS 10.5.2 (or later), Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, with one-touch configuration. It remains to be seen if the lack of a device driver and all this streamlining will actually make it more usable or if they’re throwing out the baby with the bathwater and actually offering consumers less flexibility with their features. But for now, the press materials look encouraging that they’ve rethought how to make a device more consumer-friendly.

Promise is also pitching an improved ability to access your digital data on the go. For remote access, the embedded setup wizard is supposed to guide consumers through the setup process and auto-configure the router allowing for seamless access to important data from anywhere on the planet. Remote access is one of the most difficult features to configure properly, and if Promise has broken the code on simplifying it, mainstream consumers can finally take full advantage of accessing their data remotely.

Perhaps nodding to the increasingly younger demographic of storage users, the SmartStor Zero has Facebook integration that allows for easy uploading of photos to Facebook. The Facebook Upload feature will hopefully allow any photo stored on the device to be uploaded to Facebook via Promise’s Web FIle Manager tool in a matter of seconds. The Web File Manager tool itself looks to have been upgraded—a welcome change considering the tool was often found to be confusing and cryptic by our reviewers.

The Promise Web site has not been updated with a SmartStor Zero NS2600 product page at the time of this writing. Many companies will be unveiling new products at CES, and Promise’s new device shouldn’t get lost in the mix.

[Chris Holt is a Macworld assistant editor.]

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