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Hands On

I connected the WAN port of my test EA4500 to a LAN port of my public-facing router. Cisco Connect determined that the “WAN” port was connected to a DHCP server and obtained an IP address from my router. While I had fully expected that I would not encounter any problems establishing internet access, what did surprise me somewhat was that I could log into Cisco Connect Cloud from virtually any network and get connected to the EA4500. It worked flawlessly in a “double NAT” environment. Often, in order for that type of configuration to work, you have to do additional setup with port forwarding and DDNS. The EA4500 just worked.

I tried connecting to it from external networks, from computers on my upstream LAN and from my Droid Maxx. All connected without a problem. It’s worth noting, however, that if you’re not connected to the internet, you’ll only have access to menu items related to connectivity and troubleshooting when you log into the router locally. Check the gallery in Tim's Opting Out of Cisco Connect Cloud article if you want to see the specifics.

The DLNA server seemed to work quite well. I had about 14 GB of content on a 16 GB flash drive mounted on the EA4500. The WDTVLive recognized the EA4500 as a media server and streamed video, audio and photos without a problem. Similarly, I was able to map a drive letter to the flash drive and mount it on my MacBook desktop.

I found it difficult to test media prioritization, however. I guess the good news/bad news is that I have enough bandwidth (33 Mbps down, 6 Mbps up) that I couldn’t effectively “break” it. I started two NetFlix HD movies to see what would happen. One movie was streaming through my WDTVLive media player and the other was streaming through my desktop. The WDTVLive was set for High Priority and my desktop was set for normal priority. Both were connected to the 2. 4 GHz network on the EA4500. I watched the two streams side by side for the duration of a two hour program (on both) and didn’t see any video dropouts on either.

Additional testing by Tim Higgins

I tested with a 10 Mbps down / 1 Mbps up connection, with two QuickTime 720p trailers streaming from trailers.apple.com to two different machines while downloading a large file via SSH from an internet server to one of the two machines. On multiple attempts with Media Prioritization off, I could only occasionally get a freeze or glitch in one of the video streams.

Cisco says that Media Prioritization also helps on wireless traffic. So I tried a 720p QuickTime trailer stream and downloading a large file via SSH to a laptop connected via a strong three-stream N connection (217 Mbps link rate). Again, with Media Prioritization off, I could not get the video stream to break or even show an occasional glitch.

Based on our experiments, it seems that the Media Prioritization feature will be most useful with connections with more limited download bandwidth, perhaps 5 Mbps and below.

Mobile Apps

Cisco has provided CCC mobile applications for both iOS and Android platforms, allegedly for easier admin access from mobile devices. But Figure 18 shows what happened when I tried to log into www. ciscoconnectcloud. com with my Droid. I ran into the same problem when trying the Android Dolphin browser. Hitting the same site with an iPad's Safari browser, however, brought up the full admin site.

CCC does not support the Android Chrome browser

Figure 18: CCC does not support the Android Chrome browser

I thoroughly tested the CCC Android mobile app. It doesn’t allow you the complete control of your EA series router, but you can manage the essentials. You can’t, for example, create/modify a parental control schedule restriction. Nor can you add applications to Media Prioritization – you can only edit devices. Similarly, you can’t control port forwarding or many other settings accessible from the browser interface. These are key features that Cisco is trying to differentiate its "App-Enabled" routers on, so it's both puzzling and disappointing that they can't be controlled from apps.

I created an extensive gallery of screen shots on my Droid. Be sure to scroll through them if you’re interested in the user interface.

The iOS Cisco Connect Cloud app provides the same functionality as the Android app, providing the ability to manage many, but not all router features.  It seems like the same app core is used for both the iPhone/iPad versions, since little use is made of the iPad's larger screen. On both apps, the home screen has snippets of the adjacent screens along the left and right sides of the screen (Figure 19) to provide a clue that you can swipe left or right to get to additional screens.

Cisco Connect Cloud landing screen

Figure 19: Cisco Connect Cloud landing screen

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