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Cisco Connect Cloud eases networking niggles and adds apps

Cisco's new Connect Cloud app lets you configure and manage its new range of Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers wherever you are

Do you enjoy playing with routers and configuring QoS settings? Of course not, but it’s a necessary evil, and one that’s becoming increasingly common with the advent of smart TVs, downloadable Full HD media content and increased reliance on network storage.

We’re using our home routers more than ever, but for the majority of people their router’s web interface is just as complex and frightening as ever. Everyone wants to get the best network performance from their router, but not if it means altering arcane and incomprehensible options that risk the failure of your internet connection and the loss of your sanity.

Cisco Cloud Connect
Cisco’s Connect Cloud app eases configuration of its new Smart Wi-Fi routers

To make life easier, Cisco has just announced Cisco Connect Cloud, which is a software platform that it hopes will simplify the process of configuring its new Linksys routers so that anyone, even the uninitiated, can rectify problems or improve performance. SimpleTap is an element of this software suite of which Cisco is particularly proud. It lets users quickly and conveniently connect devices using a button within a smartphone or tablet app, or by scanning a near-field communication (NFC) card or tag with your portable device.

Is it useful? We’re not sure. We don’t think connecting our devices to wireless networks is a particularly challenging task, but we look forward to trying SimpleTap. More interesting is the ability to configure your home router while you’re out and about, which is probably as much a curse as it is a blessing. Solving router-based problems for your family when you’re at work sounds like a great idea because it means you can either solve the problem or inform your family that it’s your ISP’s fault, but it also means you’ll get hassled every time something happens to your network or internet connection whether it’s router related or not.

Exciting New Apps
Also key to Cisco’s Connect Cloud-enabled range of Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers is a suite of new apps that give you greater control over your family’s internet access and your media. These third-party apps were commissioned by Cisco for launch, but other third-party developers are encouraged to write apps too.

Block The Bad Stuff
Block The Bad Stuff lets you restrict access to certain types of website

Block The Bad Stuff, for example, is a site-blocking app that lets you prevent access to certain websites using a pretty user interface that most users will find more natural to operate. Another great app is HipPlay, which lets you use your network-based media wherever you are. We witnessed a Cisco rep stream music and movies from his network in Amsterdam to his iPad in London and then play that media through an Apple TV. This means you don’t have to risk your precious music or video collection on the train anymore. You can take your smartphone or tablet round your mate’s house and access your home media there.

HipPlay Screenshot
The HipPlay app lets you access your home media collection anywhere

Other apps include Gemini IP Camera Viewer, which lets you keep tabs on your home using your smartphone, Twonky Video, which lets you browse and play online video services, Device Monitoring, which gives you real-time information on the state of your connected devices, and Netproofer, which lets you block or limit the use of popular websites such as Facebook and YouTube.

The ideas aren’t particularly new, but Cisco’s attempt to simplify router configuration is very much welcome. More people than ever watch online or catch-up TV, game online and stream media from NAS drives or networked PCs. Anything that gives people the confidence to exploit their technology and make their lives easier and more fun gets a thumbs-up from us. Is Cloud Connect a worthwhile and useful platform? Keep checking Expert Reviews to find out.

Check out the Apple App Store and Android marketplace for more information on the Cisco Connect Cloud and third-party apps.

More information can be found on the LinkSys website and you can buy Linksys Smart Wi-Fi routers at its online store