Archive for November, 2009

Tech Support Favorite – Dashboard Display Options

Frequently when using my Meraki Dashboard account, I find that I’m interested in more information than is displayed by default on the Dashboard. This may be true for Access Points, Clients, or Logons. The “Display options” link on these pages is a little button with big value to help me learn more about my network.

Here is the link on the Access Points page:

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Click on the link to discover the fields that you can display:

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Add those fields that are most helpful to you and hide the fields that you don’t need.  This way you can display the information that provides the most value to you while eliminating unnecessary clutter.

There are plenty of great ways to use this data to trouble shoot. For example, when there is a connectivity issue on a portion of a network, I add the Gateway field and sort the APs by gateway. Frequently I discover that the outage is associated with a single gateway… that tells me to look at the wired network and ISP service supporting that particular gateway. There are many other ways to sort these fields that can help you to better understand your network performance and behavior.

We hope this helps make your Dashboard experience even better.  We’ll periodically share our favorite Dashboard features with you to help you make the most of the troubleshooting tools at your disposal.

-Posted by Jeff

New Dashboard Channel Utilization Tool

With so many different types of wireless devices out there today, you’re probably experiencing radio frequency (RF) interference in your wireless network whether you know it or not. RF interference is ubiquitous and there is no way to completely avoid it; the best you can do is identify sources of interference and take them into account when designing your network.  Meraki has introduced a new tool in Dashboard to determine whether interference is affecting your network adversely and to help you optimize your network for the local RF environment.

In the Meraki Dashboard, go to the access points list under the Monitor tab, and click on any active access point.  The channel utilization graph shows the percentage of time the access point has seen RF interference on its channel.  For example, if the access point is operating on channel 1 in the 2.4 GHz band, then the graph will show the amount of time channel 1 has seen interfering RF energy.

Util graph

The percentage of utilization on the channel proportionally affects the peak performance that access points will be able to achieve.  Percentages higher than 30% can cause considerable connectivity issues. Here are some suggestions for reducing or coping with high levels of interference:

1.  Perform an RF site survey before deploying your network.  You can use the Real-Time Spectrum Analysis tool found on the Client Survey Tool tab of with a battery-powered access point or a 3rd party spectrum analyzer to get an overview of the RF environment in your chosen place of deployment before installing your APs.
2.  Remove interfering devices from the area.  Common culprits are 2.4 GHz cordless phones, Bluetooth gadgets, microwaves and wireless video cameras.  A 3rd party packet sniffing tool can be very helpful to identify and locate interference sources.
3.  Ensure adequate wireless coverage to avoid weak spots; a weak signal from your access points is more easily degraded by local RF interference compared to a strong signal.
4.  Avoid using the same channel as neighboring wireless networks.
5.  Turn on channel spreading in Dashboard (go to the Configure tab and click on Network-wide settings) so access points can individually pick their own channel based on the RF interference they detect.
6.  If you are using Meraki 802.11n hardware, consider using the 5 GHz band to avoid the often congested 2.4 GHz band.

Using this new tool and following these simple tips will help you minimize RF interference effects in your Meraki network and optimize performance.

-Posted by Ahmed Akhtar

Meraki at 2009 EDUCAUSE Denver

Last week Meraki participated in the 2009 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Denver, Colorado.  EDUCAUSE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the intelligent use of technology in higher education.  This was the first time that Meraki has participated in an EDUCAUSE event, but it will certainly not be the last!  We have never seen such a concentration of tech-savvy, higher ed IT thought leaders (more than 4000 of them) in one place before, and it was exciting to be a part of it.  Each day was packed with seminars where schools could share best practices and their experiences with various IT initiatives with their colleagues, as well as keynote talks on the latest trends and issues in higher ed IT and technology plus workshops from over 250 vendors doing demos of some very cool products on the trade show floor.

Meraki hosted a booth on the floor as well as a special dinner event for CIOs and Directors of Technology for a small group of colleges and universities.  We had the opportunity to chat with folks from schools with as little as 100 students all the way up to big state schools with over 25,000 students, and to learn about their needs and pain points.  We saw tremendous interest at the booth in Dashboard demos of some of the networks of our current higher ed customers, such as Westmont College in Santa Barbara and Sweetbriar College in Virginia.  Both schools have recently done campus-wide 802.11n deployments with Meraki, and their respective techology gurus spoke at our EDUCAUSE event about their experiences.

Major takeaways from the event:

-With the degree of budget-cutting that higher ed has seen over the last 12 months, schools are more than ever looking for ways to increase their bang-for-buck on IT spending and for ways to make reduced staff more efficient and more productive.
– There is a tremendous amount of excitement surrounding new ways to leverage cloud computing to reduce capex and operating costs of IT departments while increasing reliability and manageability of systems.
– Meraki is a great fit for higher ed, organizations that even in the best of times make due with limited budgets and IT staff that need a fully-featured wireless LAN that won’t break the bank, can be managed by a small staff and can easily scale and be rolled out across entire campuses.

We are excited to help our new friends from EDUCAUSE find ways to save money while simultaneously improving the quality of services that they can provide their students, turning their wireless networks from a liability into a strategic asset for recruiting and student retention.

Look for Meraki at future EDUCAUSE events, especially in places where the weather is as gorgeous as it was in Denver last week!

Mort and Hans giving Dashboard demos and chatting with booth visitors

Mort and Hans giving Dashboard demos and chatting with booth visitors

-Posted by Greg Williams

Support through the Cloud

Deploying the industry’s first cloud-based enterprise wireless LAN provides our customers with many unique and powerful benefits that can make IT administrators’ jobs easier.  One particularly powerful and useful tool is the ability for Meraki support staff to help remotely troubleshoot and resolve any technical issues that arise when deploying and integrating Meraki wireless networks with existing wired networks.  Leveraging the secure tunnel that is created between end devices and the Meraki Cloud Controller, Meraki can upon request assist you with basic diagnostics like checking if your firewall needs some tweaking for proper communication with your Meraki Cloud Controller.   In addition to the basics, Meraki can also conduct an in depth traffic analysis to determine what type of communication is flowing through your wired uplink as well as your wireless client connections.  This monitoring is captured in .pcap form for simple integration with popular network analysis tools such as Wireshark.  Since all of this testing can be conducted at the Meraki HQ, it allows Meraki’s Support Organization and its partners to act as natural extensions of your own networking team.  So if you’re struggling with a wireless issue and are still perplexed after searching the knowledge base, reach out to Meraki Support via Dashboard, our website or phone and save valuable time by leveraging these additional tools at your disposal.

-Posted by Dan Pittelkow