The value of having a WiFi network at home is pretty obvious: no unsightly wires, whole-house access, ability to surf the web out in the yard, etc. However, setting up and administering a wireless network can be more of a challenge than many non-techies may want to take on. Apple’s Airport WiFi is a snap to get up and running, but their gear requires a Mac for setup. Even with Apple’s typical elegant ease of use, one still has to know a little about IP addresses, security protocols, etc… Cisco, the giant in networking, now has a line of self-configuring WiFi routers which was design to do Apple’s Airport one better. The claim of the Cisco Valet line of wireless routers is that they setting up a home network as simple as plugging them in and turning them on.
We have setup many WiFi networks and have, along with many others, struggled with getting all of the parameters setup right. When we heard about the Valet, we were intrigued. Could Cisco really have designed the Valet to let anyone without technical knowledge of networking to quickly and easily wirelessly connect their laptops, desktops, game consoles, and mobile devices to the Internet? Well, the first good sign is that Valet does use the latest WiFi technologies (Wireless-N, WPA, etc…):
- Model: Valet (M10)
- Technology: Wireless-N
- Bands: 2.4 GHz
- Transmit / receive: 2 x 2
- Antennas: Internal
- Ethernet ports x speed: 4 x 10/100
- Software setup: Easy Setup Key
- Parental controls: Duration Limits, Domain Blocking, Website Filtering
The rhomboid-shaped Valet router looks very different from the usual boxy unit made for the IT equipment racks. The Valet is thin and has no external antenna or buttons. On the top of the unit is a row of icons/status lights. In the back is one ethernet-in and four ethernet-out ports.
Cisco’s approach to setup simplicity is to take care of all of the typical setup (SSID naming, security protocol selection, etc…) configurations with the use of an Easy Setup Key. When the USB key is inserted into a computer, the software on the key will launch Cisco’s Connect software, walk the user through a few simple screens, and automatically configure all of the router’s parameters.
Readers who have setup WiFi networks in the past may be skeptical of anyone promising “easy setup” when talking about networking gear. Tomorrow we will take a closer look at the actual setup and configuration process and see whether the Valet can really live up to Cisco’s claims.