Cisco Connect Cloud for iOS and Android brings remote router management to the masses (app review)

Cisco is a household name among techies and laymen depending on which brands you interact with. Almost everyone owned, or had a friend who owned, the popular Linksys WRT54G, that harsh blue-and-white box which faciliates (and likely still does) connections to the  internet in millions of homes across the world.

Cisco has since revamped its router series, refocusing on its own brand (and minimizing the Linksys name) in the process. Its new line of EA-series supports the Wireless-N standard, which provides between 300 and 450Mbps data speed over the air in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz ranges. Despite the antennas being inside the router (a trend I’m not entirely happy about) we found that vertical performance on the flagship EA4500 was still excellent, and overall data speeds were among the fastest we’ve ever seen in a router.

But this is an app review, not a router review. We’re looking at Cisco’s Connect Cloud app for iOS and Android, a means to interact with your router, that bastion of complicated virtual and literal switches and settings, in a simple way with your smartphone. It’s no secret that many of us are the go-to tech geeks for our families, which means receiving calls at 10pm relating to, “The internet is not working!” or “There are no lights on that box next to the cable modem!”

Connect Cloud allows you to store credentials of multiple routers on a secure Cisco server, allowing you to log in and manage multiple devices over a WiFi or 3G connection. The only pre-requisite is for the Connect Cloud firmware to be loaded onto your existing EA-series router, namely the EA2700, EA3500 or EA4500. The interfaces between the two are virtually identical, adding some fantastic continuity to a process that may otherwise be daunting to someone who doesn’t know the ins and outs of networking.

The mobile app doesn’t give you access to everything the desktop interface does, but all the important stuff is there. Namely, you can remotely reboot the router; prioritize certain types o traffic on a specific device, or prioritize the overall traffic on a specific device; set and control Guest Access and Parental Controls; and manage specific devices already connected to the network.

For more advanced users, the app allows you to change important router settings such as SSID name, password and wireless security settings, on the fly. This is great if you’re troubleshooting a connection and need to temporarily disable WPA encryption, or need to doublecheck whether your DHCP server is working properly.

So far, the app has been incredibly reliable, able to connect to my home router over 3G on both the iPhone and Galaxy S III. The Android app has a bit of trouble scaling to HD screens and will hopefully be updated soon.

If you have a Cisco EA series router, do yourself a favour and update to the Connect Cloud firmware, and then download the app for iOS or Android. You’ll thank yourself the next time your parents call and the app saves you a drive to the ‘burbs.