Cloud Computing has long been touted as the service to revolutionise the way we use our devices. The likes of DropBox, iCloud, OnLive, Spotify, Google Docs and many more have set the process in motion, but few thought its next place of attack would be our home routers. This is exactly what Cisco has planned however and it has become the first in a wave of networking companies to launch a range of Cloud-based routers.
The 'Linksys EA4500' is the flagship in this line-up and on paper a great deal is familiar. It is a dual band 802.11b/g/n router with a 3x3 antenna array to boost range and performance (theoretically 450Mbit per band), packs in four Gigbabit ports and one USB port and is compatible with IPv6 which means it will work with the 340 undecillion new device addresses the standard will support. It also has DNLA to allow DLNA certified devices like TVs, media players and games consoles to wirelessly stream media . So far so very normal.
Take a closer look and the design of the EA4500 isn't particularly different either as it is virtually identical to its predecessor, the E4200. As such there is the same slim, rounded rectangular shape with smart matt black finish and metallic band around the outside. Build quality remains good too, but the moulded plastic feet really should be rubber. In sum it isn't until you switch on the EA4500 that you start to notice it is wholly different to anything we have seen before.
In a somewhat nanny state manner Cisco insists the initial EA4500 setup is only via the supplied CD (potentially a problem to the legion of netbook/Ultrabook owners who have long ditched CD drives), but the end result is well worth it. The simple process not only connects you to the router, but also automatically updates the firmware and lets you choose the router's SSID, WiFi and network passwords. It even creates a text file on your desktop with this information once it is finished. We found the process seamless and we were up and running in minutes.
From here things become interesting as you are directed to the 'Cisco Cloud Connect' (CCC) website and asked to create a user profile, rather than the usual next step of manually typing in the router's IP address. With your profile created you can now log into the router from the www.ciscoconnectcloud.com website and monitor and control it wherever you have an Internet connection. Yes, the admin is in the Cloud. This gives you far greater control as you can now remotely add or remove devices from your network, adjust privacy and parental settings, setup guest access, determine media prioritisation and much more without being home. Why would you do this? With CCC the fundamental ease of use means: why wouldn't you do this?