Archive for July, 2018

Cisco named a Leader

It’s summertime, and that can mean only one thing… that’s right, it’s time for the 2018 Gartner Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure! Every year, we believe this influential report sheds light on how the many vendors in the networking industry are faring, helping customers choose the technology partner that works best for them.

We feel this year’s report tells a great story for Cisco and its various wired and wireless infrastructure solutions, placing us, once again, in the Leader’s quadrant. As part of the broader Cisco portfolio, we were naturally eager to see how Meraki is being perceived, and this year we believe it’s good news. Let’s explore a couple of areas of the report with relevance to Cisco Meraki customers.

As the IT world steadily moves beyond the command line, there’s no question that the management experience has moved front and center, and rightly so. Once equipment is installed, either behind closed doors or up on a wall, it’s through the management interface that we experience the technology we’ve chosen. It determines the workflow, which is why it’s been a huge focus for us at Cisco Meraki. Without question, the Meraki dashboard, and its simple, intuitive experience, has been fundamental to our appeal over the past decade.

While many of our customers use the full complement of Meraki tech exclusively, the majority are operating what we call a ‘hybrid’ network, containing both Meraki and other equipment from Cisco, or another vendor altogether. Our adoption of common network standards makes this a breeze for those who choose to go in that direction.

For whatever reason a hybrid network exists, the one undeniable downside is having to deal with disparate management tools.

At Cisco, we want to minimize the proliferation of these tools as far as possible, and in the case of wired and wireless infrastructure there is now an increasingly polished solution in the form of DNA Center. This powerful new platform provides a thoughtfully designed front end to well-known Cisco product lines like Catalyst switches and Aironet Access Points, both dominant in the market. Through the use of Meraki APIs, DNA Center can also now be used for many of the most common tasks associated with provisioning and managing Meraki switches and APs.

At Cisco Meraki we recognize the reality of a hybrid IT world. Whether by design, through acquisition, or simply for maximizing flexibility, the challenges of a hybrid wired and wireless infrastructure are increasingly a focus for us all at Cisco. To learn more about this year’s Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure, click here.

 

Gartner Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure,Bill Menezes, Christian Canales, Tim Zimmerman, Mike Toussaint, 11 July 2018. This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Cisco.Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product, or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warrantees, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warrantees of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

 

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Privacy Goes Global, Meraki-Style

According to Mary Meeker’s 2018 Internet Trends report, over half of the world’s population is now online, making digital services an essential part of billions of people’s lives. Along with the myriad ways that these services have enhanced our lives, legitimate concerns have arisen over the amount of personal data collected and stored by companies with which we choose to transact.

While the vast majority of this data collection is benign, done by companies so that they can provide consenting users with useful tools and services at little to no cost, everyone deserves to know what information about them is being collected, how it’s being stored and safeguarded, and for what purpose it’s being used.

In light of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recently passed in the European Union, Meraki introduced a series of tools and updates to the Meraki dashboard that give administrators and users greater visibility and control over the data we collect and use to provide Meraki products.

Today, we’re pleased to announce that these tools and updates have been rolled out worldwide to all Meraki customers.

What does this mean for our customers and their network users? There are six main privacy-focused features we’ve introduced that we encourage you to check out:

  1. Data access and portability: Meraki customers can utilize new features in the dashboard to export personal data.
  2. The “right to be forgotten”: Customers can delete personal data stored in the dashboard, both for their own organization and in response to requests from users of their networks.
  3. Restriction of data processing: In the Meraki dashboard, personal data can be identified, hidden, and removed upon a verified request from a network user to restrict processing.
  4. Tracking privacy-related requests: The dashboard event log now includes functionality for tracking and verifying the status of privacy requests described above.
  5. Consent tools: Enhanced splash page functionality allows Meraki customers to provide notice to, and obtain any necessary consents from, users of their networks for the collection, processing, and storage of personal data.
  6. Data hosting visibility: When creating a new account, Meraki customers have the option to select the region where their data will be stored. For verification, the dashboard now displays the hosting region on every page.

We believe deeply in the importance of data privacy and want all of our customers to be as informed as possible about these product updates. To that end, we’ve set up a webpage detailing the solutions and tools we offer and containing additional information regarding our philosophy to privacy.

For administrators, we also have a new Data Privacy page on our documentation site that explains how administrators can configure privacy settings within the dashboard. Additionally, take a look at our Postman documentation and the API Documentation available directly in the dashboard (Help > API Documentation) for more details about our APIs.

As always, please feel free to visit the Meraki Community to chat about all things Meraki, privacy-related or otherwise.

Meraki SD-WAN, Explained (It’s Kind of a Big Deal)

Introduction

If you work in the network sector of technology, you will have probably heard the term SD-WAN at least six times in the last 12 months. Unless, of course, you’ve fallen into the pit of loss in the above graphic. In this post, we will build on some of the concepts we introduced in the last blog post to help show why SD-WAN could be kind of a big deal for your business.

The problem is that SD-WAN means different things to different vendors, and sometimes even different things to the same vendor — not to mention all the dedicated hardware, software and licensing needed to run these solutions. The aim of SD-WAN is typically to enable organizations to both save money and service their connectivity requirements more quickly. The cost savings and serviceability are enabled by having  business logic instilled into their WAN.

At Cisco Meraki, we have an SD-WAN solution that is included with the base license (enterprise license) on all Meraki MX SD-WAN and security appliances and requires no extra servers or hardware.  Just plug it in, configure it in the Meraki dashboard, and start saving money, adding value and getting back to the things you’re passionate about.

SD-What now?

SD-WAN is an acronym for Software-Defined Wide Area Network and is a technology that forms the Software-Defined Network (SDN) family of technologies, with another example being Software-Defined Access.  

The wide area bit just means that the sites/networks you are looking to connect aren’t next to or local with one another.  

The software-defined bit means that decisions about how traffic can route between all the sites in the WAN is defined by policy, and its behavior adapts to the condition of the WAN as opposed to having a fixed configuration.  

SD-WAN solutions achieve this through a number features, such as resilience, security, quality of service, application optimization and many more. The Meraki SD-WAN solution uses a unique combination of these technologies to create a solution that is easy to configure, deploy and manage.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Whilst this is usually very good advice, the innovator’s dilemma also teaches us that if you don’t introduce disruptive technology to an established space, like the WAN, then someone else will! MPLS has seen a lot of innovation, but it would be fair to say that that innovation is for the most part for the service providers running and offering WAN services over the top of MPLS networks.

The simplicity of Meraki SD-WAN means that the power and flexibility is directly in the hands of the customer or service provider. Meaning that without the need for additional devices, services or upgrades, customers can build or benefit from a more cost effective, more available network connectivity that responds to the performance of the underlying links.  

Whilst this sort of preferential routing is available in traditional MPLS networks, it is usually only available at a premium, in a limited class set and to predefined networks or applications. Whereas Meraki SD-WAN combines the layer 7-based application detection that comes as standard across the entire Meraki stack to achieve this in a more succinct fashion.

Why Meraki then?

We often joke that SD-WAN is just policy-based magic sprinkles built on top of Cisco Meraki Auto VPN. However, it uses open, standards-based technology that you have likely already used.  What we are specifically referring to here is a technology originally created within Google, but later open-sourced, that is built into most of their products (e.g. Gmail, Google Drive).  

The MX SD-WAN & security appliances use this technology to infer the latency, jitter and packet loss of virtual paths between 2 MXs, as shown below. These three things together give us the ability to calculate a Mean Opinion Score (MOS), that can be used to score the acceptability of a WAN path for voice traffic.  

This means that one of the policies that comes pre-configured is the ability to choose the virtual path that is best for voice traffic — a quick win for everyone. In the event that the best virtual path for voice changes, the MX will automatically move the flows to the next most appropriate path.

To track applications with different characteristics to voice, you can simply add in a custom performance class that allows you to set a compliant threshold for latency, jitter, packet loss or any combination of the three. This can then be referenced as the criteria for virtual path selection in a single UI policy, as shown below:

Finally, and completely built in to the solution, is the ability to view both how flows are traversing the virtual paths of your network in near real-time and more powerfully historically:

Conclusion

Meraki has been simplifying complex technology for over a decade and SD-WAN is just another example where we’ve sprinkled the Meraki magic to allow organizations to focus on their mission. It’s also worth noting that Meraki has been offering SD-WAN since 2016, making it one of the most established and stable technology platforms in this space.

Thousands of customers globally have already chosen Meraki SD-WAN and thousands more are signing up at a rate of over 3x YoY. Watch our on-demand webinar to see it for yourself.

Act Now! Meraki MV Eligible for School Violence Prevention Program

Recently, the US Department of Justice announced The School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP). The first of its kind, SVPP provides funding to states, local governments, and Indian Tribes to improve security on K-12 school campuses. There is up to $25M available through the SVPP that can be used for funding up to 75% of school safety projects. Eligible projects include school violence prevention training; deterrent measures such as metal detectors, locks, and security cameras; and technology to notify law enforcement during an emergency.

At Meraki, we are dedicated to helping schools create safer campus environments. Meraki MV security cameras greatly reduce the complexities that come with traditional security camera solutions, so you can focus on other school safety projects and trainings, not on managing complex systems. Plus, with better video quality and easier video search functionalities, schools can find incidents faster, see anomalies in video, and quickly share footage with law enforcement. Better yet, MV security cameras are eligible for purchase through the SVPP.

The deadline to apply for SVPP is July 30th (just two weeks away). If you already have a security project in motion, then act quickly and take advantage of this great program. If you have been thinking about evaluating security projects, but are not quite ready to apply, that’s OK! Funding has been set aside for similar programs in the future.

Here are two things you can start doing today to make sure you are prepared for the next SVPP funding round:

1. Align with your state and local governments: Under the SVPP, school districts cannot apply for the funding themselves; state or local governments must apply on their behalf. This is intentionally done to break down silos and encourage collaboration between school districts and their local governments and law enforcement. Start working with your government counterparts to devise a plan to create safer campus environments. Whether that means giving law enforcement access to live video feeds or having practice drills to rehearse an emergency plan, government agencies and school districts should work closely together to align on their school safety measures.

2. Start evaluating products now: Planning for a security incident is no easy task. It takes time to identify the right systems, coordinate their installation, and train staff on proper usage. If you’re evaluating a new security camera solution, identify the best locations to place cameras for optimal coverage, who in your staff needs access to the cameras, and how you want to share footage with local government agencies. Once you map out your security camera design, deploying the cameras can be very easy. With Meraki MV, you just plug them in and they are ready to go!

Even if it’s too late to apply for funding this year, it’s never too late to start planning for the next cycle! To get started, attend our live webinar this Thursday, Smarter Cameras for Safer Schools with Meraki MV. We will discuss how MV security cameras are helping schools keep students safer with better video quality, easier search functionality, and advanced analytics. Register here.

5 Reasons Why Cloud-Managed IT is the Wave of the Future

If the challenges involved in managing your employees’ bandwidth, security, and mobility needs are keeping you awake at night, we’ve got some tough news: the rapid pace at which technology changes means those challenges won’t go away anytime soon. Implementing a modern IT infrastructure that’s able to support always-connected mobile devices, data-hogging applications, and “bring your own device” (BYOD) practices is no longer a “nice-to-have”—it’s a necessity.

Phone Light Blur-2

The way forward lies in adopting a scalable solution that can grow as the demands and pressures on a network increase. The best way to achieve this goal is to migrate your IT infrastructure and manage it entirely through the cloud. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Manage and troubleshoot from anywhere

Traditionally, managing networks or troubleshooting a network issue requires someone to be physically present. When dealing with multi-site deployments or other situations in which it isn’t always possible for IT to be on-site, this form of management and troubleshooting cannot scale and quickly proves untenable.

With cloud-managed IT, managing and troubleshooting issues from anywhere is finally a reality. An IT administrator can quickly get alerted about a network issue, diagnose the problem, and devise a solution from any computer with internet access. For example, with cloud-managed IT, an IT admin can quickly run a cable test on a cable running between a switch and an access point to determine whether the cable or the AP is at fault. Cloud-managed IT doesn’t just help save time and resources; it unlocks entirely new capabilities that simply aren’t possible with legacy IT solutions.

2. Easy to set up, configure, and manage

For most IT admins, the thought of installing and maintaining network infrastructure doesn’t exactly inspire joy—even less so when it comes to multi-site deployments. The hassles involved are frustrating, to say the least.

Managing IT infrastructure through the cloud dramatically simplifies ordinarily challenging tasks and cuts down on time and cost. With zero-touch provisioning, devices such as access points, security appliances, and VoIP phones can be pre-configured before they even arrive on-site. Configurations download automatically once the device is connected to the network for a true plug-and-play experience. Furthermore, “virtual stacking” allows IT admins to bulk-configure ports on internet-connected switches, whether these switches are physically located in Berlin or Baltimore. Managing IT infrastructure through the cloud thus requires less investment in on-site setup, significantly reducing staff costs.

3. Superior security

In order to maintain a secure stack that ensures high levels of productivity and uptime, IT needs constant visibility into network traffic, security threats, and device activity. Keeping security definitions and device firmware up-to-date is also crucial. Cloud-managed IT makes it simple for IT admins to get a real-time understanding of what’s going on network-wide and to ensure that security threats are kept at bay.

With a fully cloud-managed infrastructure, IT admins can look at application usage on a per-client basis and enforce security policies at the firewall or access point level, all from one dashboard. Additionally, when threats arise, admins can rest assured knowing that the latest security updates have already been pushed to firewall devices, silently and automatically, over the Internet. This kind of visibility and automation significantly reduces the burden on IT while ensuring complete network security.

4. Interconnected management unlocks new possibilities

Traditional IT management is a piecemeal affair. Because there are different vendors for different parts of the stack—wireless, switching, security, mobile device management, and more—configuring more than one category of device at a time to accomplish a certain network-wide goal is usually not possible. Even worse, IT admins have to learn how to navigate many different interfaces and deal with multiple support lines if they run into any issues.

The beauty of cloud-managed IT is that every part of the stack can be controlled from a single management interface. This enables different elements of your IT infrastructure to work together in new ways. For instance, with every device communicating with one another and with the cloud, IT admins can view a complete network topology, updated live, and instantly troubleshoot issues with any device. As the demand on the network grows and new IT infrastructure is added, every new piece of gear can be managed from the same interface. This easy scalability makes cloud-managed IT ideal for growing organizations with ever-increasing numbers of users, devices, and sites.

5. Lower TCO (total cost of ownership)

Of course, one of the most important considerations when it comes to choosing which IT stack to implement is overall cost. And while the cost of the initial hardware is certainly important, too many companies focus only on the hardware cost and ignore ongoing support and maintenance costs. The beauty of cloud-managed IT is that the flexibility and ease-of-use inherent in the cloud management model means much lower costs over time, resulting in a lower TCO over the span of a few years.

As mentioned earlier, a cloud-managed stack provides your IT team with extensive visibility into network performance, not to mention actionable alerts whenever there’s a hiccup. You’ll be able to proactively diagnose issues and manage problems before they impact your business; as the saying goes, “a stitch in time saves nine.” Additionally, with the cloud-managed model, multi-site management is simple and straightforward. All of this means that the TCO of a cloud-managed IT stack is much lower than that of traditional IT infrastructure — often by thousands of dollars.

Conclusion

Once upon a time, on-site network controllers, command line interfaces, and manual firewall configuration were enough to keep a network afloat. But a creaky old IT infrastructure can no longer keep up with the needs of modern organizations. Embracing cloud-managed IT presents significant advantages for admins who want to implement a forward-thinking IT infrastructure built to last.

Enter Cisco Meraki, a leader in cloud-managed IT. Meraki offers a full stack of cloud-managed IT solutions—wireless access points, switches, security appliances, endpoint management, network insight, and security cameras—all managed through the Meraki dashboard. With Meraki, enterprises and SMBs alike have discovered the benefits of adopting a cloud-managed stack. Contact us to learn more or attend one of our webinars here.

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