Cisco antics show dangers of the cloud -

Networking giant Cisco has been giving its customers a lesson as to why that cloud thing might not be such a good idea.

According to Extreme Tech, a number of Cisco customers last week began reporting problems with three specific Linksys-branded routers.

Owners of the E2700, E3500, or E4500 routers were being told to login using their "Cisco Connect Cloud" account information. The routers were all shipped with "Automatic Firmware Update" option selected and Cisco "upgraded them" so that they could use the Connect Cloud.

The upgrade was sold to users as "anytime, anywhere" access to their router, delivering free, new apps, and "will keep expanding with new apps to enrich your connected lifestyle".

Practically, it meant that many users found themselves asked to authenticate using a different account with no prior warning.

A couple of network bright sparks worked out that unplugging the router from the wall restored the old login/password function but they lost a number of advanced functions in the process.

There are reasons why some companies would like to avoid Cisco's Cloud Connect. A good one would be that Cisco initially created a supplemental privacy policy which allowed the company to track your company's operations. It changed its mind on this particular idea but it does have the right to update its privacy policy at any time.

One of the things that network managers were concerned about was the clause:  "In some cases, in order to provide an optimal experience on your home network, some updates may still be automatically applied, regardless of the auto-update setting".

This is more or less what happened and last week Cisco forced its customers to register for a cloud service that provides no benefit whatsoever. When they didn't, there was no way to roll back to the earlier firmware and their routers were useless.

Cisco appears to have twigged that this is "not a good idea" and provided a public link to the old firmware and a detailed guide on updating the router.

But that is really not the point. The situation shows how little control companies have when it comes to the cloud and how a policy decision by a vendor can really ruin a network manager's day.