Seven months after the 5.0 release of Network Magic, which was the first release by Cisco, the software received a major update on Tuesday, becoming the standard network management mechanism for all Cisco routers sold under the "Linksys by Cisco" branding.
This 5.5 release of the software also includes support for 33 languages and an updated user interface that's easier to use.
According to Cisco, novice home users will now have comfortable control over devices on their networks from within a single network map window. The new interface also adds simplified access to printer and file sharing, a more straightforward process for adding wireless devices, and support for a broader range of devices.
Parents can now monitor how the Internet is being used by any member of the family at any given time. For example, an admin user can set limits for Web browsing, game playing, and overall Internet usage for a particular computer within the network via a few mouse clicks.
Network Magic 5.5 comes in four versions: Basic, Essential, Pro, and Mac Add-on. Other than Mac Add-on, which allows a Mac to be managed, the other versions reflect the comprehensiveness of the software. For example, the Basic version, which is free and included with Cisco's routers, has only basic functionality. The Pro version, on the other hand, has all the bells and whistles.
I tried Network Magic Basic with one of Linksys' new Wireless-N routers, the WRT400N, and found that it was a handy tool. However, you do need to install it on a computer before you can manage it. The installation deposits a few start-up processes onto our hard drive that run each time the computer starts, which to some extent adversely affects the computer's performance, unfortunately.
Nonetheless, this is a useful application for those who want to find out what's really going on in their networks.
Network Magic 5.5 is available immediately and costs $50 for the Pro version, $30 for the Essential version, and $25 for the Mac Add-on version. During the launch period, however, you can get any of them for 20 percent off.