A secure cloud for your private circle. Available in the Apple Store
One of the frustrating things about our new technological world is, where do we put all the data. We have data on our phones, tablets, and cameras. It never fails, we have limited space for what we need to do. My wife is worried she will lose her phone and not have a backup. We have tried Dropbox, Shutterfly, external hard drives and online cloud storage. None of this is really that shareable. I had the pleasure of talking with Vijay from Promise Technology, the makers of the new Apollo personal cloud, this past Wednesday, June 1, 2016. Promise Technology has been around for 30 years, as a Data storage company. They have been involved with Enterprise file, sync, and share products and with backup technology. The company had talked with consumers, talked with Apple and on 06/07/16 they are releasing the Apollo personal cloud inside of Apple Stores, throughout the world. Their goal was to great a consumer product, that was easy for just about anyone to use. This product is built and lives completely within apps and links up to 10 people/users into a single 4TB storage space. This is a brand new product for the consumer. People are used to cloud accounts and cloud storage and to monthly fees. This product has no monthly recurring fee. Rather, it is as if you are buying a hard drive and getting “anywhere” access for a single one time fee.
The concerns that I and many people may have are about cost, limitation and privacy. The idea, this is not for the high-end user, rather for small business and casual users. Thus, some of the features associated with more advanced network-attached storage devices (NAS) may be lacking initially, but may be added with firmware upgrades in time. Promise wanted a device that was easy for us all to use, that you get to control, with no monthly fee, private and no limitations for file size. Essentially anyone you bring into your circle has full access to the device. You as the owner cannot see their data. You can, however, remove them and free up their space. Communication from device to device is highly secure, using AES 256 encryption. You as the owner send people evites, messages, emails etc. and invite those people that you want. They set up the app, sign in and they can utilize the storage space. Each person can set up shared files/folders for certain people to use or for themselves only. Again, I cannot access data that someone else adds to my Apollo unless they choose to share it with me. For a total of $299 and 4TB of data, this seems like a lot of product for the price.
When it comes to sharing, you can choose read or read/write access, you can choose what is seen. This sets up a variety of levels of sharing. So far this will not allow you to stream video as it has no internal transcoding ability and relies on the end device. You can store your iTunes library/videos in this location, but they are not functional. The device does not preserve the library format (at least not yet). Perhaps down the road you can expect this to be a storage repository for iTunes library/movies. Vijay continued by describing the Apollo as a device made for the average person. It is run within a single and simple application. Transfer from one device to another through the application. This provides for much less administration time/energy and is perfect for the average consumer and small business. If I add something to my computer I can see it on my phone and my iPad. That is a pretty neat feature, very similar to Photo Stream.
The packaging is very Apple-esque in the use of the clean white glossy color. The box is 9 5/8″ long 8 7/8″ tall and 3 5/8″ wide. The font of the box is very classy/professional, displaying a front view of the Apollo, detailing 4TB data storage along the top right and that this is from Promise Technology. To the left of the device is a summary of what to expect from the device, “a secure cloud for your private circle.” Rotating the box ninety degrees counterclockwise, you get an included parts list: Apollo, AC power adaptor, Ethernet cable, Quick start guide (14 languages), serial number card. You will also see what you need to use the device: A router with GB port, Internet connection, Smartphone/tablet/computer, Promise Apollo Cloud App. Rotating the box another ninety degrees shows the back of the packaging, shows the Apollo locked yet connected to multiple devices and the promise of sharing videos, photos, folders, documents with all of the connected devices. It promises easy setup (truly is easy, see setup below), storage, access, and management from any device anywhere (assuming you have a web-enabled device and access to Internet). Furthermore, it details that each member will have access to their own space, their own data, and control of what data they share. Data is safely stored on the Apollo and not the web. These same instructions are provided in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese. Finally, rotating the box another ninety degrees, you have the other side of the packaging. Here you see the Specifications, OS support (7.0, OSX 10.8 or higher, Android 4.0 or higher, Windows 7/8/Vista/10. The top of the box shows “Apollo” and again shows the secure cloud quote. The bottom of the box shows all of the typical product labels.
Opening the box, you will first find a cardboard box with the Ethernet cable and the AC adapter. This AC adapter is rather large and is not shipped with installed prongs. The device came with Type A wall prongs (USA) and I assume that the region you purchase the device will determine the included prong type. The Ethernet cable is short, possibly too short in my opinion, at 43″ long. This is just under 4 feet long and does not allow much distance between the router and the Apollo device. The cable on the AC adaptor is better at roughly 72″. Unfortunately, the AC adaptor has a huge boxy look to it, which makes finding a plug on your power strip difficult. I would have preferred if they had a small plug leading into the control box instead of the control box attached to the AC adaptor (think Xbox power brick). Perhaps future power cables can be updated/upgraded to a better wall charging option. Beneath the cardboard box is the device wrapped in thin foam plastic with a sticker labeled Attention observe precautions for handling electrostatic sensitive device. Remove the packaging, install the A type prong onto the AC adaptor and set-up the product.
The initial step for the Apollo is to go to http://www.promise.com/Apollo/Downloads and to download the Mac or Windows OS version to your computer. This asked if I wanted to allow the app to make changes and the InstallShield Wizard began (yes PC). You can use the default location or browse and choose your own. You will then be greeted with a rather large screen “Apollo a secure cloud for your private circle.” Attach the included power and Ethernet cables to the device and to your power plug/router. You will not be able to keep this very far from your router with the short Ethernet cable (just under 4 feet). When connected, the LED on the front of the Apollo will blink green for ninety seconds and will then be solid white/green. It is now ready to link. From the PC application, select “Find new Apollo, and wait for the application to find the device. My firewall blocked this, and I had to allow it access. It will then display a serial number (if not select “I don’t see the Serial Number in the List.” Select the serial number and then select next. Enter an email address and password twice, select agree to the EULA (End User License Agreement) and again select next. They will send a validation code to the entered email, which arrived within a few seconds. Input that code and select next. Lastly, select the sync destination folder. Download Apollo Cloud from IOS App Store or Google Play store, You are now ready to use the Apollo.
On the iPhone 6S plus, download the free application and open it. It will ask you about push notifications, send notifications, and will then take you back to the same page listed above to “Find New Apollo.” If you select the blue button it will try to take over the Apollo as the main user/owner. If you notice, below the Blue oval it says “Already an Apollo Member? Sign in.” Select that! The first time I did this, I was dismayed that my iPhone did not auto-discover the Apollo. It should have no issues finding the Apollo on the same local network. Again, my phone DID NOT AUTODETECT the device. In this instance, you can either input the Serial number and key, located on the included card or scan the included QR code to get this to work. It will then ask for an email address and password. These pre-populated the fields with the same information that I added above on my PC. I selected agree to the EULA and selected next. It then told me that the email was already taken and that I had to change it. I contacted customer support, who were very helpful by the way. They noted that the Find New Apollo is only used once unless there are multiple Apollo.
Sign in, add your email and password information and you will go to a screen that asks you to enable camera roll sync. You can choose to skip this if you wish and change it back later. This step will automatically allow you to upload and sync your camera roll to the apollo space. Scroll right, to learn more information. When done, select “skip” along the bottom right. My camera roll immediately began to upload over my network, all 978 of them. This took 30 minutes to upload all of them. You have to have the app up and in the foreground for the sync, else it will pause. I did find that this is not shareable, however. You can create a folder and add images to this shareable folder.
The website is very useful and provides a great how-to section: Getting started, Basic Use, Advanced Use, Share Apollo Cloud, Setup, Customize Your Apollo Cloud, Service and Support, return information and FAQ section. There are multiple videos showing the easy use of the Apollo and the network. Here I learned that there are limitations placed within the device as well, something contradictory that Vijay had told me. The maximum file size is 30B to upload and the maximum shareable size is 1 Gb (that is for public sharing). Private shared file links to other members of same Apollo do not have this limitation. The FAQ and the website, in general, are really understandable, easily searched and informational. The Camera roll update is actually pushed to the background if you decide you want to upload something else.
You can add or remove members. Under the files page, tap the gear icon, then your Apollo and then members. Here you can see the members, you can add new members or you can delete them, freeing up their used space.
There are a few cons that I have seen with the device, none of which would sway me from buying this device. I feel that it is a great blending of storage and online features and partners wonderfully with my apple devices. I would like to see the AC adaptor modified to allow for decreased wall plug usage. I like the application, it is easy to use and it is quick/responsive. Invitations are easy, my wife liked how easy it was to add her phone data to the device. My biggest complaint and this is a big complaint is that this is a hard drive, a single hard drive. Any of you who are involved with computers have had a hard drive fail at one point or another. It is saved in a proprietary format and thus most of us would not be able to get data from the device simply by plugging this into your computer like an external drive. We are reliant on the app for the data and thus reliant on the Internet for our data. This is a nice feature when it works. So far it is working flawlessly. However, what happens when it doesn’t. Having used this device now for about 3 days, I can say that it is much easier to use and to explain than my Synology Diskstation DS416j. A single hard drive is much riskier than a Raid system. If the device fails, the data is lost. Thus, Promise recommends that you create and depend on a backup to recover the data. It really is not a bad idea to have a backup of the backup anyway.
The Apollo is a good backup of your phone, but not likely the best option for a secure backup of sensitive data. If you want to have the data truly secure, online storage and personal storage may be a better option for you. Or your can burn a digital copy with a Blu-Ray burner. The device does have a USB 3.0 port on the back for external backup/restore function. There is currently no online backup with the present version of the Apollo. However, I have been told that this may be coming in the future. There will likely be firmware upgrades that add new and more powerful features.
For now, this is a really easy device to install. The application is really easy to navigate and to use and this does serve the purpose of allowing me to access this information through the application, reliably and quickly. I was able to upload about 900 images/videos in about 40 minutes as stated above. I am cautious about trusting all of my data into one place. I did add a movie from my iTunes to see what would happen and tried to share Big Hero 6 (DRM protected Apple iTunes movie). I received a warning that the file exceeds maximum size allowed (1 GB) for a shared file. When I double clicked the file, I see a big lock that says DRM on it. If you select it, you get the message, “This app is not authorized to play this file.” This is not what I was told when Vijay said there were no limitations on file size. Apparently there are on shared files. There are some advanced features, change your thumbnail photo, enable Touch ID password protection, add/rename/comment or delete folders. You can swipe folders and images/files and leave comments on them. You can copy folders, move folders etc, and you can rename Apollo. Families can have a single folder to add photos to share. Grandparents no longer have to upload to Facebook or store on Dropbox. This way even the most distant relatives can share your memories.
Check out the Apollo in an Apple Store near you, releasing 06/07/16. You now possess the storage device and can choose what to share in your own cloud. You have a great capacity for data storage, without recurring fees. The company provides a 2-year limited warranty on hardware and 90 days of free tech support with the purchase of the device. You will be pleased with the device. I am certain that future firmware upgrades will continue to add functionality. For now, I rate the device highly at 4/5. This may change with time.