Archive for June, 2016

Apple and Cisco (Meraki included!) — better together

When Apple and Cisco announced their partnership last year, Meraki customers were left on the edge of their seats awaiting the arrival of the improvements that would be coming down the pipeline for them. Now, there’s exciting news out of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference that sheds some light on the details of what the companies have been working on and when to expect them. Here’s what customers can look forward to, and an overview of how these improvements can be utilized by Meraki enthusiasts in the fall, when iOS 10 is scheduled to be released:

Enhanced roaming capabilities for iOS devices on Cisco (including Meraki) APs — With iOS 10, iPads and iPhones will be able to recognize the most optimal AP on a Cisco network with which to connect. This means Apple devices roaming on a Meraki network will become even more streamlined, eliminating worries of losing WiFi connectivity while on a VoIP or video call.

Fast lane for business critical apps — Meraki networking customers have long enjoyed the simplicity and variety of implementations of QoS for layer 7 web applications. Now, with iOS 10, Systems Manager customers will be able to apply that same level of QoS ease to iOS apps. Prioritize business critical apps while limiting bandwidth usage for, say, video streaming apps that might not be necessary for work. Couple this functionality with existing Systems Manager tools like geofencing, dynamic tagging, and scheduled policies, and the possibilities for customizability are practically limitless.

Cisco Spark calls on the iPhone, just like native calls — When iOS 10 launches, Spark customers will be able answer Spark calls from the lock screen. They’ll also be able to initiate these calls directly from their address books and answer Spark calls from the lock screen. This is an exciting update for our customers using Cisco Spark.

If you want to read more about the Apple and Cisco partnership, check out the details on Apple & Cisco’s websites, and stay tuned for future news from the Meraki side!

IT, Merakified

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Meraki (ma-rah-kee)

(n.) The soul, creativity or love put into something; the essence of yourself that is put into your work.

Origin: Greek

Example: Kristy nailed her sales pitch today, she really gave it some Meraki!

 

Merakify (ma-rah-kee-fahy)

(v. past part. merakified) to add soul, creativity or love to something, improving its performance through innovation, simplicity and flair!

Origin: Meraki, Inc.

Example: Since we merakified our network, IT has been able to spend more time focusing on projects which have made a true impact on the business.

 

At Meraki, we want to help our customers by freeing up businesses to focus on what’s important to them, instead of worrying about whether their networks are running smoothly. To celebrate this widespread effect, we asked our partners to share on Twitter how their customers were able to #merakify and get additional value from their IT solutions. We got responses from all over the world, and had to share some of our favorites!

 

“Set a client up on a fo’ free switch. The client loved the software so much they had to #merakify #thewholething” @EricHorn16, Chicago

“Support pushed a new firmware overnight, I checked the results this morning on the Mob App while stuck in traffic #merakify” @mrizzi2, Italy

“#Merakify is when your customer says that he wanted you to introduce him to meraki a year earlier.” @WebHostNow, Netherlands

“Deployed MX, MS, and MR for customer with 80+ locations to manage internal office networks from one desk #merakify” @dragonfire201, Michigan

“Simplified vpn, wifi and monitoring for 7 stores in 5 islands #merakify” @robinsonassc, Dominica  

“Worked w/ prospect on switch refresh who’s afraid of CLI. Needless to say… #Merakify with some MS220’s and 320’s. #EZPZ management now” @InfinitTech, New York

 

Thank you again for helping us spread the merakify spirit! No one wants to waste time troubleshooting their networks, so let’s help people get back to business. Continue to tweet your successes @meraki using the hashtag #merakify.

 

Multigigabit and Wave 2 WiFi

We’re all mobile now. Super fast cellular and WiFi technologies have transformed our personal and professional lives, ensuring we all have the option to be permanently connected wherever we go. As this technology permeates our lives, we make ever greater demands of it. Point the Meraki dashboard at any network and the evidence is plain to see: demanding real-time streaming applications like video, voice and music often dominate.

To support this relentless craving for data, wireless technology has had to develop rapidly. WiFi standards have advanced a long way, particularly since the advent of OFDM-MIMO with the 802.11n standard in 2009, and Meraki still sells an AP based on that standard to this day. 802.11ac has taken the technology even further, pushing wireless capacity way up past the 1Gb/s typically available through the AP’s wired connection to the network.

Who would have imagined that the wired network would end up being a bottleneck for the wireless! And yet here we are in 2016, with the latest Meraki APs capable of an aggregate PHY rate (connection speed) of 1.9Gb/s. How is this challenge to be overcome? We have a couple of paths for our customers to take.

Most AP mounting points have been fed with just one twisted pair cable, supplying 1Gb/s. Adding new cable drops is certainly a non-trivial, costly exercise. For those fortunate enough to have installed two cable drops, perhaps for redundancy or capacity, the new MR52 is able to take advantage and aggregate the capacity of two connections to eliminate the bottleneck.

In many cases, the second cable drop simply doesn’t exist, so the network admin wanting to provide the very fastest WiFi is faced with a couple of options: either go to the effort and cost of running a second cable through the fabric of their building, to each wall or ceiling mounting point, or turn to a new emerging standard which can squeeze more performance out of their existing single cable.

The 10GBASE-T standard has been in place for many years now, but demands more modern twisted pair cabling than many current installations use. Length of cabling is also a challenge, coming around half of what is achievable with 1000BASE-T. So in 2014 Cisco became one of the four founding members of the NBase-T Alliance, created to take on the challenge of supplying more than 1Gb/s over existing cabling. The majority of networks out there now run over Category 5E or better cabling, making them suitable for multigigabit connections with no additional cabling investment.

To take advantage of this exciting new technology, Meraki recently launched three new products supporting multigigabit. Let’s take a closer look at each.

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In late 2015 we introduced the MS350 product line, adding physical stacking and redundant power supplies and fans. This premium layer 3 switch line has now been extended to include a multigigabit capable switch. The MS350-24X features 8 multigigabit ports, each capable of syncing at 1, 2.5, 5, or 10Gb/s, depending on the connected device. This switch also adds Cisco’s Universal PoE, supporting up to 60W of power draw per port, so the range of potential devices is now even larger.

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For customers who already have multigigabit capable switching but who need the PoE+ to operate the latest APs at full performance, we’ve also introduced a bespoke multigigabit PoE+ injector which can be placed in-line between the switch and the AP.

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MR53

Of course, our motivation for all of this is pushing more bits to the AP to ensure it’s free to operate at full capacity. Our new flagship AP, a super-fast model with a 4×4:4 configuration, is capable of syncing with a multigigabit switch or injector at 2.5Gb/s, comfortably above the maximum theoretical capacity of the AP. 4×4:4 translates to 4 transmit and 4 receive antennas, supporting 4 spatial streams.

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Taken together, these exciting new products provide our customers with the fastest wireless experience today’s standards can provide, with no bottlenecks or additional investment in cabling infrastructure. We’ve put together a multigigabit solution guide which will make an ideal reference for this technology.

These and all other Meraki products are available for a risk-free trial today. We’re confident they’ll quickly demonstrate how our adoption of the latest WiFi standards positions Meraki to address the relentless demand for capacity and performance in our mobile world.

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Our summer kicks off in Denver

It’s that time of the year again — the Cisco Meraki team is packed and ready to attend ISTE 2016 for the 5th year! If you’re also planning to attend, be sure to stop by booth #2537 and say hello to the Meraki team. There’s no way to miss us in our bright green Meraki T’s!

New Products and Dashboard

Just like every year, we’re bringing all our latest products — including the brand new MC 74 — and will be giving 1:1 demos of our dashboard each day. After 4 successful ISTE shows, we have a pretty good idea of what it is you’re looking to learn from us. That’s why we are switching it up (no pun intended) for ISTE 2016 and featuring more than just demos in the booth.

Mobility Management Lab

There’s no denying how important mobility management is in today’s classroom, so this year we are bringing along our Systems Manager experts to show off just how easy it can be with Meraki. Attend one of our hourly presentations in the Mobility Management Lab and you’ll walk away with a FREE Meraki hat! Here’s what we’ll be covering:

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Cisco Collaboration Products

The Cisco Collaboration team will also be joining us in the booth to talk about the newest features for digital classrooms and the digital campus. Each presentation will take place twice a day, so swing by at a time that’s convenient and check out what they have to share.

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No matter what you’re interested in learning this year at ISTE, the Cisco Meraki team is here to help. Hope to see you in Denver next week!

Cheers,

The Meraki Events Team

The New School Year is Just Around the Corner

It may seem like the school year just wrapped up, but for IT administrators, a new school year with new teachers, students, and deployments of managed devices will be starting before long. Meraki wants to help make those device deployments easier on IT admins and their purse strings with special pricing on Systems Manager licensing through July 30th.

Meraki Systems Manager, Cisco’s Mobility Management solution, offers schools a simple, comprehensive way to manage and monitor devices, in and out of the classroom. Seamless integration with iOS 9.3 gives users access to Apple’s suite of powerful classroom tools, making Systems Manager a strong candidate for this year’s most useful teacher’s assistant.

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Set up geofencing rules quickly and intuitively with Google Maps integration.

Geofence devices, push apps, restrict camera usage, and more—all through the intuitive Meraki dashboard. Systems Manager doesn’t require any additional Meraki hardware to work, but it should be noted that using Systems Manager in conjunction with the rest of Meraki’s full stack solution of access points, switches, and security appliances gives customers access to enhanced functionality.

Contact your Cisco Meraki representative or local reseller to take advantage of this fantastic promotion and in the meantime, sign up for a Systems Manager webinar!

Kids Explain The Cloud for St. Jude

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and to show our support for dads (and moms!) and their kids, we’re launching a donation campaign on Twitter.

For every #KidsExplainTheCloud video uploaded to Twitter between June 15th and Father’s Day, June 19th, Meraki will donate $10 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, up to $10,000!

Be sure to have your kid start the video with “Hey Meraki!” and have them do their best to explain the computing Cloud, not the cottony white rainmakers. If some inspiration or an example would help, here’s a perfect example by our in-house specialist, Quinn.

Tell your friends and family how easy it is to help out a child in need this Father’s Day. See you in the Cloud!

Submissions to #KidsExplainTheCloud from adults 18 or over only, please!

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Meraki-Giving Spotlight

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 10.14.39 AMLast November the Meraki team launched Meraki-Giving, a seasonal campaign focused on building relationships with our partner reseller community and their nonprofit customers. Meraki partners submitted some of their nonprofit customers for a chance to receive 5 Meraki APs for free. The only requirement for partners was that they assist in installing and deploying the new network if their customer was selected.

We received an overwhelming number of submissions and learned about some amazing nonprofits that our Meraki partners are lucky to work with. The detailed partner submissions and the inspiring nonprofit mission statements made narrowing the list down to 50 organizations incredibly challenging. Read on to learn more about one of the winners.

The Drake House & Carmichael Consulting Solutions  

Located in metro Atlanta, GA, a nonprofit organization called The Drake House, and partner reseller Carmichael Consulting Solutions have been working together for 4 years. Both organizations are driven by the same mission: helping their customers and residents.

The Drake House is a 16-unit apartment complex that serves as temporary emergency housing for single mothers with children, located in Roswell, GA. In addition to housing, The Drake House provides residents with programs such as tutoring, mentoring, career counseling, and basic provisions. Their goal is to keep families together, especially moms with boys who tend to get separated in a traditional shelter environment. By providing basic needs and resources to help get residents back on their feet, the goal is for them to leave The Drake House employed and financially stable enough to be able to sustain their independence within the community. Led by Executive Director Kathy Swahn, the organization has seen an incredible 78% success rate with their residents.

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Carmichael Consulting Solutions is a local managed service provider to the Atlanta metro area, founded by Tyler Jones just over 5 years ago. Tyler had worked with Cisco Meraki and The Drake House in the past to get them set up with a Meraki security appliance for their network. When he heard about the Meraki-Giving campaign he knew it would be a perfect fit for the organization. The Drake House could benefit from the enhanced wireless performance and security, while Carmichael Consulting Solutions could benefit from the proactive monitoring, visibility and management that comes with the Meraki cloud-managed solution. Tyler described his partnership with Cisco Meraki as fantastic because “Meraki essentially becomes an additional employee” for them, a huge benefit when working with a small team.   

With the new Meraki APs in place, Carmichael Solutions helps The Drake House manage their wireless and wired network, without having to be onsite all the time. With a strong network connection, The Drake House can consistently rely on cloud-based tools used in the office, which is especially important when it comes to managing sensitive client data required to receive funding for the organization. The residents use the network from either a computer lab in the center or their private apartment to connect to the internet, for kids working on school assignments and mothers searching for and submitting job applications.

By combining Meraki wireless and security devices, Carmichael Solutions helps manage how much bandwidth is being used on YouTube or Netflix, prioritizing mission critical applications on the network. When Kathy commented on the performance of the new network at The Drake House, her first reaction was concern, noting that there seemed to be more problems with the network – feedback that is rarely considered good! However, after deploying Meraki APs, Tyler actually had increased visibility into the network issues that had previously existed, explaining “now we can see them and start to make them go away permanently.”

At Meraki, we strive to create technology that can connect and empower people. Based on Tyler’s Meraki-Giving submission, it was clear that both organizations were strongly aligned with this goal. Meraki is proud to support the strong partnership between The Drake House and Carmichael Consulting Solutions to help them achieve success in their community.  

Check out more Meraki case studies here! We’re always looking for more partner and customer case studies, so reach out to a Meraki rep if you have a story to share.

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Let’s talk about 9.3 — iOS 9.3

iOS 9.3 has been live for a couple months, and the buzz has been big, to say the least. So let’s talk about some of the things Systems Manager and iOS 9.3 bring to education and the enterprise.

We will start things off strong with the much anticipated Classroom App. Systems Manager and Apple Classroom enable teachers to guide, view, and track students’ progress. This includes the ability to see and remotely control the iPads of all the students in a classroom. Want to focus everyone on a specific iBook? Easy. Need to drive students to a specific web page? No problem. These capabilities allow teachers to enrich the classroom like never before by giving teachers assistance (pun intended) that they require in the era of the Internet of Things.

This video outlines a simple, comprehensive walkthrough for building Apple Classroom with Systems Manager. For more information the documentation article can be found here.

Another useful tool included in iOS 9.3 is the ability to show and hide apps. This allows administrators to blacklist or whitelist apps rather than having to uninstall and reinstall them on each device every time the student arrives on campus.  This is extremely useful when it’s necessary to temporarily or permanently hide unwanted apps, or automatically disable anything deemed inappropriate for the classroom or enterprise.  

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After the desired apps have been selected for any group of supervised devices, home screen layout provides the ability to arrange and lock all the icons. Configure multiple pages, the dock, and folders with apps. These tools, along with software provisioning, make up the iOS version of imaging a desktop—except Meraki’s cloud management means everything will be done both over the air and dynamically.

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Loss and theft are some of the most common concerns for schools and businesses managing mobile devices for both the devices themselves and any sensitive data contained on them. A new functionality called Lost Mode allows admins to lock a device, add a lock screen message and footnote, and leave a phone number to call if the device is found. Systems Manager can track lost or stolen institutionally-owned and supervised devices with no end user interaction necessary.  As a last resort, admins also have the ability to remotely wipe devices.

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Last but not least, the Managed Domains feature allows administrators to control the flow of sensitive data in a network. Back in iOS 7, Apple introduced the idea of Open In management. This provided a way to specify if documents from managed sources, like apps or email, are allowed to communicate with unmanaged sources—think containerization made simple. iOS 8 introduced the concept of managed Safari domains, so that any downloaded content could also be treated as managed or unmanaged. iOS 9 added AirDrop to the mix as a managed source. Finally, we arrived at iOS 9.3 where Safari Password Autofill Domains can be specified, allowing end users to save passwords from only approved URLs.

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If you want to learn more about how Systems Manager and Apple can provide powerful solutions for education, including a live demonstration of iOS 9.3 with Apple School Manager, then join us for our upcoming iOS 9.3 webinar.

If you’re a Systems Manager legacy customer and are interested in these powerful new features, find out how you can take advantage of them by upgrading to the newest version of Systems Manager.

Team Spotlight: Partner Technical Evangelists

Meet Matt Heim – technical specialist, strategic planner, and traveling embodiment of all things Meraki. He’s got quite a unique role, and goes by the title of Partner Technical Evangelist, or PTE for short.

The PTE team’s mission is to educate partners on Meraki products and the value they can bring to customers. The training also goes both ways, as the team connects with partners while leading training sessions and learns about what different regions and industries are looking for in a networking solution. “Our team works on all Meraki partner training initiatives and enablement programs. These activities are based on what’s needed on the Meraki side, and what partners are requesting,” shared Matt.

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In the field, one of the main ways PTEs connect with partners is through CMNA sessions (Certified Meraki Networking Associate: live, classroom-style trainings on Meraki held in cities around the world). With only 5 PTEs globally, Matt and the team meet and train many, many partners. The CMNA program began about 3 ½ years ago, and the team is currently in the process of offering CMNA Refresh trainings to partners who want to learn what’s changed since then. Another main objective of the team is to make the sessions more scalable:

“The demand for this program is huge. Oftentimes, the sessions fill up in just a couple days, and there will be a 40-person waiting list for a 15-person session.”

These sessions are popular because they offer an interactive, hands-on, and fun experience for partners. “Partners get to sit down, play with Meraki gear, configure it, troubleshoot it, and get that first-hand experience that they might not get elsewhere. Partners learn how to own the Meraki experience, so they can continue training their customers. I think they get a lot out of CMNA, from the people they meet, to the Meraki messaging, to the experience of the lab, and the free gear.” The team also puts significant effort into finding great venues, high quality food, and anything else that can improve the whole experience. “We really try to reflect Meraki in every aspect of these trainings.”

In this same vein of reflecting Meraki through and through, all CMNA trainings are led by PTEs or selected Meraki support engineers and systems engineers. “It’s important to Meraki that these trainings are led by Merakians. We want the best kind of evangelist for the product to be in that room. Partners get to talk directly to someone who works at Meraki and ask any questions they might have. Someone who doesn’t work at Meraki might not be as passionate as all of our trainers are.”

At the end of CMNA, many partners report that this is the “best training they’ve ever taken.” This makes it hard to revamp and continue improving the trainings, but that didn’t stop the team from trying, and succeeding, based on early feedback. “We launched a new training last quarter, and we’re happy that it’s been successful so far.” Matt says the thing that has changed the most about the trainings is the full stack story. “We’ve evolved from teaching about individual products to teaching about how Meraki offers a full enterprise IT solution, but the experience at its core has stayed the same.”

The team also hosts training webinars, and is in the process of developing additional education channels. Following the recent launch of the Meraki communications platform (Meraki MC), Matt has developed an MC74 training webinar for partners. “We’re also thinking about doing a hands-on phone training, but that’s still in the works.”

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Shortly after Matt began working at Meraki, he had the opportunity to become a key player in the strategic planning behind these types of partner trainings. “At Meraki, if you have good ideas, if you take the initiative, and if you really care, the trust is there from management.”

As with many groups at Meraki, the PTE team is always hiring. “This is the face of Meraki to our partners. We need people who are technical, personable, are able to speak to a large group, and who are passionate about Meraki. We want to make sure we’re sending the right people out into the field.”

Matt himself went to school to become a music teacher, before moving to Austin to work for AT&T. After this first exposure to IT, he enjoyed the field and relates it to teaching: “IT is being able to take complex topics and make them understandable for people that may not understand those topics. That’s what teaching is, and having an education background really, really helps in my current role.” His technical aptitude comes from his time at AT&T and later Cisco, as well as leading the training department for a managed service provider.

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Matt finds his current position as a PTE very rewarding. “Getting out and talking to partners is amazing because it gives you a really unique insight into the market. From learning what the market demands are and the kinds of things that partners are seeing, PTEs have a pulse on what people are looking for. You’re talking to so many people and getting so many different perspectives and insights into IT that it makes you a much more well-rounded technical trainer.”

Matt and his team would love to hear more from partners. “We want to know what they get out of our trainings, and we want to hear what they want. We need a lot of information. Tell us the types of programs that you wish Meraki would offer. We want to take this into consideration when planning out the future of the program.”

Have an opinion? The best way of contacting the PTE team is by emailing [email protected], talking with your channel SE or AM, or through the partner portal. While you’re in the partner portal, browse the ‘Training’ tab to see upcoming CMNA sessions, webinars, and other education tools. As you now know, there’s always something new in the works.

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MC74 Unboxing

As the newest member of the Cisco Meraki Product Marketing team with just two weeks under my belt, I had the opportunity to unbox the brand new MC74. This most recent addition to the Meraki line-up brings an entirely new product category—VoIP—to our customers, further streamlining and simplifying the networking experience. Here’s a recap of my unboxing experience:

 

The Packaging

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Unlike other VoIP devices, it’s clear the MC74 has been designed to appeal to the end user—not just the network administrator—right down to the packaging. The MC74 comes in a beautiful matte black box that displays a subtle image of the phone on top. Opening the box is straightforward, and its contents are arranged neatly, with the sleek black palette of the exterior continuing to the interior.

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The Hardware

The MC74 is well-designed and sturdy, and good-looking to boot. It’s modern and sleek, yet subtle enough to blend into any office space. For those who might be concerned about the lack of a physical keypad for dialing numbers, fear not—the touchscreen feels great and is very responsive. It looks great too; the ambient light sensor ensures minimal tinkering with screen brightness and constant visibility. The team has even included a microfiber cleaning cloth in each package to ensure customers can keep their phones looking shiny and new.

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On the technical side, the hardware team spent a lot of time and energy making sure the end-user experience matches the Meraki experience that network administrators enjoy with their Meraki switches, access points, and security appliances. The hook switch that’s typically found under the handset has been replaced by a more robust, not to mention more sanitary, IR sensor. Subtle magnetization helps the handset find its place on the dock while keeping its cord tidy. Physical volume and mute buttons ensure quick access to these important features when on a call. The whole device swivels forward and backward and can be wall-mounted without removing the base.

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Ports are split into two main areas: the edge and back. On the back, you’ll find a USB port, along with network, passthrough and AC adapter connections, plus a reset button. Along the edge lives a 3.5mm headphone jack and a second USB port.

 

Set Up

Meraki prides itself on the ease-of-use of its various products; and the MC74 is no exception. The phone took all of 3 minutes to unbox and connect, and thanks to PoE there’s no need for a separate power cord, as one ethernet cable provides network and power. For those who aren’t yet fully integrated into the Meraki ecosystem and don’t have PoE switch ports ready to go, we do have an AC adapter available as well. The package even comes with a mounting bracket (including a nifty built-in bubble level for OCD types) and anchors for those who’d prefer to wall-mount their devices.

Like all other Meraki hardware, the MC74 can be configured through the dashboard even before the device arrives on site, so as soon as my unit was plugged into the office network, it booted up right away and already had my name and a phone number assigned to it. Pretty slick!

Within minutes, the phone’s colored LED indicator (the same one that all Meraki products share) started flashing and its software had been updated. It might be worthwhile to note that, as with our other firmware updates, there is an option to delay this update to a time that’s more convenient for you, but when all was said and done, the entire setup lasted less than 10 minutes. And like our other devices, these automatic firmware and software updates provide a key advantage to users: Meraki engineers will continue to innovate and push the latest and greatest updates. Coupled with the touchscreen interface, this means each MC74 will always remain on the cutting edge of VoIP services.
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Another key benefit of cloud connectivity reveals itself in the form of address book auto-population and integration with Google Apps. Since the Meraki office already had MC74’s installed, as soon as my phone came online, I had a full phonebook filled with conference room and desk-phone numbers. Combined with the simple, yet beautiful UI, being connected to the Meraki cloud management system made it easy for me to get up and running almost immediately, even as someone who had no prior familiarity with the product.

 

Dashboard Integration

The MC74 integrates seamlessly into the existing Meraki dashboard. Similar to the other Meraki devices, the phone page will show you important information about each device, like serial number, IP address, MAC address, phone number, and more.  This means the days of manually managing spreadsheets full of PSTN and VoIP devices are long gone.

Dashboard integration also provides access to Meraki’s suite of Live Tools: ping, throughput, screenshot, and blink LEDs, all remotely.

 

Conclusion

We can’t wait to get the MC74 into the hands of Meraki customers to see what this VoIP solution can do for them. I’m confident they’ll find the unboxing, setup, and usage as easy as I did. Some of our customers have been kind enough to help us beta test these for a couple of months now, and we’ll be sharing their stories here on the blog soon. Keep an eye out for that in the coming weeks!