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Cisco Connect Cloud Reviewed

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Introduction

Cisco Connect Cloud Dashboard

At a Glance
Product Cisco Connect Cloud [Website]
Summary Cloud-based platform for Cisco's Linksys EA series of app-enabled routers.
Pros • New, easy to use Dashboard interface
• Android and IOS applications for remote management
• Supports third party apps to add and enhance features
Cons • Working internet connection required for full admin feature access
• Limited number of third-party apps seem half-baked
• Remote USB storage file access via FTP only
• No browser admin option for Android devices

Cisco Connect Cloud (CCC), the new cloud-based software platform for Cisco’s line of Smart Wi-Fi routers, has had a rough start. It immediately came under fire from users who didn't realize they had authorized Cisco to update their EA-series routers by default. Nothing like logging into your router admin one day and discovering that you had lost the ability to access it unless you signed up for an account with a service you hadn't heard of! Then things got stickier when folks realized that they had to be connected to the internet to be able to access all router configuration options.

Cisco quickly responded by providing a way to completely opt out of Cisco Cloud and restore traditional non-cloud router configuration and administration. But hard feelings and distrust remain among some current and potential Cisco EA router customers, along with questions about whether cloud-based routers are a good idea at all.

To give Cisco time to recover and provide a more informative review, we purposely waited a few months for the dust to settle and let Cisco get its initial group of apps launched and debugged and perhaps release a few more. So now it's time to try to answer that last question by looking at what CCC really brings to the table.

In a nutshell, CCC allows you to securely connect to and manage your home network from virtually anywhere using either a web browser or via applications available for both the Android and the ioS platforms. No port forwarding is required and CCC works through multiple layers of NAT, i. e. cascaded routers. In addition, applications from third party developers can extend the features of the platform. (More on that later.)

In developing this article, I used the EA4500 Dual-Band N900 Router with Gigabit and USB – Cisco’s top-of-the-line EA series router. However, this article isn’t a review of the EA4500, but rather the Cisco Connect Cloud platform and features. If you are interested in the speeds and feeds along with a complete review, check out Tim’s review of the E4200V2. From a hardware standpoint, the EA4500 is identical to the E4200V2, so you can expect the performance to be the same.

To help you sort out Cisco’s line or routers, here’s a simple comparison chart (Figure 1) from Cisco’s web site. If you click on this link and select “Compare All Features”, you can view a more comprehensive comparison. For our purposes, the chart shows that “EA” series routers are CCC capable, and “E” series routers are not upgradeable to CCC. The only exception is the E4200v2. The EA4500 is actually a rebranded E4200v2, so the v2 can also be upgraded to CCC.

Cisco router family comparison

Figure 1: Only the EA series of routers are Cisco Connect Cloud capable

Setup

Setup is accomplished by running the Cisco Connect program provided on a CD that comes with each EA series router and supports MacOS and Windows installs. While Cisco has used Cisco Connect for quite some time, the latest version has been updated to include additional steps required to set up your Cisco Connect cloud account.

The Quick Start guide is a simple three step process that’s printed on the inside cover of the CD Sleeve: 1. Insert CD; 2. Run Setup; 3. Follow on-screen instructions. Figure 2 shows you how to connect your routers. If you click on the orange “Show me how” button, you get more detailed instructions.

Cisco router family comparison

Figure 2: Cisco Connect helps you connect and configure your router

Next, Cisco Connect determines your type of internet connection. If it determines that it requires more information, such as a user name/password for some types of internet connections, you will be prompted. For my connection, it determined that simple DHCP was adequate.

After setting up the internet connection, you set up your wireless network. Your router is pre-configured with an SSID, a wireless password, and a router administration password. You can change any or all of these fields as shown in Figure 3.

Configuration of wireless settings using Cisco Connect

Figure 3: Configuration of wireless settings using Cisco Connect

When the wireless router settings have been completed, the router checks for, and if necessary, installs firmware updates. If all went well, you’ll see a Congratulations screen (Figure 4) that summarizes your router’s settings.

Congratulations screen

Figure 4: the Congratulations screen summarizes your settings and prompts you to launch Cisco Connect Cloud.

You then click on the “Launch Cisco Connect Cloud” button. This takes you to a web page to create your Cisco Connect Cloud account (Figure 5). You need to create an account to have access to the full features of your router.

Create your Cisco Connect Cloud account

Figure 5: Create your Cisco Connect Cloud account

After clicking on an email validation link your account is activated. You now have one more step to go. On your first login into your CCC account, you will be asked to associate your router with your CCC account by typing in the router administrator password that you previously set up. (Figure 6).

Associate router with CCC

Figure 6: Associate your router with your CCC account by typing in your administrator’s password

The last step of the setup process is to go to www. ciscoconnectcloud. com (or 192. 168. 1. 1) and log in as shown in Figure 7. This takes you to the new CCC dashboard, shown at the top of the review.

Sign In page

Figure 7: The Sign In page provides complete access to all router functions if you are connected to the internet.



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