Archive for October, 2020

How Healthcare IT is Innovating for a Resilient Future

Healthcare ITOver the past several months, we’ve seen healthcare providers leverage technology to quickly innovate and respond to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic. But what is the role of technology in healthcare as providers prepare for future investments? 

Here are three things to consider as we look to the future of healthcare IT. 

Staying connected through telehealth

The global pandemic has forced clinics and hospitals to transition nonclinical staff to remote working to ensure the safety of staff and patients. This has led to a more dispersed workforce of clinicians, administrators, and nonmedical staff, requiring the adoption of telehealth as a practical alternative for routine and critical patient consultation. 

While telehealth can be a considerable investment for providers, fortunately, the recent CARES Act included $200M dedicated for the Telehealth Program. 539 applications from 47 states were approved by the Federal Communications Commission. While funding has been exhausted for the initial program, the FCC has other ongoing programs and resources to support telehealth. 

Besides telehealth, there are other cost-effective ways to leverage technology to enable remote working for clinicians and administrative staff.

Network scalability and security 

At a time when hospitals and clinics are focused on taking care of patients and employees alike, network dependability and security should be the least of your worries. Network downtime and security breaches lead to poorer patient care and lost revenue—particularly in a time when noncritical procedures are being pushed out. 

Additionally, a dependable and secure network makes it easier to manage and mitigate risks that could impact network scalability, which is critical if you need to rapidly deploy temporary clinics or pop-up testing sites. 

But even with regular day-to-day operations, keeping your network running like clockwork is nonnegotiable. Even the smallest unexpected downtime can impact staff support, which in turn reduces the quality of patient care. 

Fortunately, there are many innovative solutions to help healthcare providers rapidly scale their network while shoring up security. For example, cloud-managed IT solutions enable you to view and manage your entire network infrastructure from a single computer. You can also gain network visibility across dispersed locations, as well as monitor thousands of devices connected to it. One provider, Hospital Sisters Health System, which operates a network of 15 hospitals and clinics in the Midwest, upgraded to a cloud-managed IT system and saw significant improvements in the dependability and security of their network. 

“ In the healthcare space, IT shutdowns can cost you money—and your reputation. – Hospital Sisters Health System

Digital transformation improves safety 

Digital transformation in healthcare has never been more relevant than it is right now. At a time when safety is top of mind, healthcare providers are looking to technology for ways to ensure staff and patients alike are far from harm’s way. 

For example, one health provider has come up with a solution using cameras to monitor PPE (personal protective equipment) use from a safe distance. This deployment allows providers to deliver the best patient care possible while reducing risks from physical contact and optimizing the monitoring of multiple patients from one location. 

During these challenging times, it’s important to be resilient and think outside of your comfort zone. The good news is, Cisco Meraki is here to help you do just that. 

Resources: 

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Simplifying Sensors with Cisco Meraki

mt sensors

 

Data has always been an important tool for businesses, and the ways in which data is gathered, analyzed, and used is rapidly transforming in an increasingly remote environment. Businesses are being challenged to adapt quickly due to the ongoing pandemic and are turning to data to help improve efficiency across the organization. As more workforces are becoming distributed and remote, having the ability to automate data collection is essential. 

Businesses rely on their networks to power critical functions and keep operations running smoothly. Poor environmental conditions, such as extreme temperatures or humidity, can lead to premature equipment failure and network outages, and result in severe business disruptions and costly downtime. The use of sensors can provide insight into current environmental conditions, helping to ensure critical infrastructure continues to function, without someone having to be physically on-site. 

Today, we’re excited to announce the newest Meraki product line, Meraki MT. Meraki MT is a family of environmental sensors that provide remote visibility and monitoring to help protect assets and facilities 24/7. 

MT sensors
Meraki MT sensors monitor temperature and humidity data, leaks, and intrusion (open/close status of doors, cabinets, and more) in real time, so you can keep tabs on critical infrastructure or sensitive inventory at all times. 

 

Cutting out the complexity with Meraki MT

IoT sensors exist in the market today, but they are complex and require dedicated gateways and on-premise servers for management, leading to long deployment times. The typical IoT sensor does not easily integrate into your network and doesn’t scale well. Meraki MT sensors cut the complexity of traditional sensor systems by eliminating the need for a separate gateway and management software. 

Meraki Dashboard

Meraki MT sensors use a network’s existing Meraki MR access points or MV smart cameras as gateways, automatically connecting and speeding up deployment timeframes. Powered by the Meraki platform, the MT sensors are fully cloud-managed. Real-time visibility through the Meraki cloud dashboard and mobile app, along with flexible alerting options, keep you up-to-date wherever you are.

 

Improving efficiency and safety, reducing costs and downtime

The ability to have constant visibility into your site and network has a positive impact on your  overall bottom line. 86% of businesses say that the cost of network downtime is more than $300,000 per hour; and nearly 35% say it is more than $1 million per hour.1

Organizations can also use Meraki MT sensors to:

  • Improve employee safety and efficiencies by preventing unnecessary site visits and reducing employee movement throughout facilities. 
  • Reduce OpEx through automating data collection and lower CapEx by avoiding premature equipment failure. 
  • Improve customer satisfaction by reducing unplanned network outages and operational downtime. 

Cisco’s IoT offerings 

Meraki MT provides customers with a simple, data-powered solution to monitor indoor environments and IT network closets. OT environments have similar challenges and concerns when it comes to operational expenses and site management. Cisco IoT’s new Industrial Asset Vision provides a solution for addressing these requirements in outdoor and indoor industrial environments. 

If the past several months have demonstrated one thing, it’s that businesses need to remain agile, become safer, and find ways to be more resilient. We at Cisco are committed to creating work environments that can be remotely monitored to increase efficiencies and improve employee safety. To learn more about both the Meraki MT and Cisco IoT Industrial Asset Vision solutions, please plan to attend our special customer event on October 20. 

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The Networking “X” Factor

I enjoyed cohosting the second “Behind the Network” webisode on September 9th with Ryan Ansley, who leads information technology at Cisco Meraki. What I loved most about the latest installment was the focus on solving real-world customer challenges, as seen through the eyes of three Meraki customers and my cohost. Here’s a recap of our conversation, along with a few of my additional thoughts. Without further ado—let’s jump right in!

Customer perspectives matter

Ryan’s story is interesting. He used Meraki solutions throughout his career and came to appreciate its cloud-native, simple deployment and ease-of-management capabilities. It made a lasting impression and drove his desire to join the Meraki team. Today, he uses Meraki platforms to manage over 5,000 employees’ connectivity needs, and can do so with a relatively small team.

Australia Post, Regions Bank, and Tandem Health shared similar anecdotes on the webcast as we discussed how each company adapted to the pandemic, managed remote work, implemented security, and re-architected future digital transformation plans. High on many of these organization’s consideration lists was the deployment of SD-WAN. No surprise to me, given the highly distributed nature of work during the pandemic.

Another common theme was a renewed commitment to investing in networking infrastructure that helps digitize business processes. From my perspective, one epiphany brought on by the pandemic is the need for networking scalability and agility. Many mid-sized companies were ill-prepared with business continuity and secure solutions to facilitate remote work.

Three trends to watch for

What is next for networking in a post-pandemic world? I expect to see three trends:

Adoption of SD-WAN: Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) may be a newly minted term, but the concept is not. I believe there will be continued rapid adoption of SD-WAN that weaves the agility of cloud and SaaS with integrated security. Integration of each element is critical in my mind, in that it reduces both the complexity and the operational expense of managing disparate tools.

Private cellular networking: I also believe that there will be increased consideration in private cellular networking given that licensed spectrum is opening up to enterprises through emerging models, such as CBRS/OnGo, in the U.S. Cellular connectivity can serve not only as redundancy to wired and wireless enterprise networking, but also to those deployments that have unique challenges with propagation and machine-to-machine communication.

Network automation: Finally, I expect enterprises to embrace higher levels of network automation to deliver greater degrees of uptime and application availability. A bonus lies in providing network operators with improved agility and time to engage in more value-added support for business lines.   

Final thoughts

I love the concept of the “X” factor. It defines a variable in a given situation that could significantly impact an outcome. In many ways, the pandemic could serve as a significant catalyst for the future of networking, given some of my previous insights into what I believe is next. Indeed, enterprises and service providers should be better prepared to support employees’ and subscribers’ future connectivity needs.

 

Will Townsend is Senior Analyst responsible for networking infrastructure and carrier services at Moor Insights & Strategy. He has been featured on NPR, CNBC, in the Wall Street Journal, and frequently contributes to Forbes.com, providing insights into enterprise networking and 5G. Mr. Townsend is also ranked consistently as one of the world’s top networking analysts, as measured by ARInsights. 

Moor Insights & Strategy provides industry research and analysis to the high-tech industry. This blog was commissioned by Cisco Meraki. Moor Insights & Strategy disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of such information, and shall have no liability for errors, omissions, or inadequacies in such information. This document consists of the opinions of Moor Insights & Strategy and should not be construed as statements of fact. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.

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5 Ways IT Can Help Your Business Survive and Thrive

At this year’s Spiceworld virtual event, our Cisco session centered on how small businesses can escape the IT jungle and go beyond just surviving to thriving. 

We know you’re facing business uncertainty and disruption to your daily operations right now, so it’s all the more important that any investments you make will bring short-term and long-term success. 

Here are our top five solutions for your business to grow, adapt, and stay resilient.

1. Accelerate your business with the Meraki platform & APIs

When it comes to building innovative solutions, investing in a platform with open APIs will provide the building blocks you’ll need to thrive in your industry.

The Meraki platform is an engine that powers everything behind the scenes of your network. It provides the underlying cloud infrastructure of our product portfolio and uses machine learning to give you rich analytics and extensible APIs to optimize your network. 

Take Sally, for example, an IT director at a health care clinic. She’s looking to invest in a reliable and flexible network that will save time. With the Meraki platform, Sally can save countless team hours in troubleshooting, easily and remotely identifying issues in real time, down to the device, user, and application. No more time wasted going on-site. 

To top off their cost savings, Sally is able to supercharge their business using Meraki APIs. Her clinic’s developers can use new apps in the Meraki Marketplace for key COVID-19 needs, such as Skyfii’s OccupancyNow web dashboard, which integrates with their Meraki Wireless Access Points. They’ll be armed with the ability to quickly integrate new technologies to both track occupancy in real time and comply with social distancing. 

Getting started: Access the Meraki platform through our dashboard & mobile app, and/or through our APIs. Get a free demo here

2. Enable safe operations 

With many businesses having to redesign physical environments for safety, we’ve made it easy to track occupancy levels while keeping you securely connected. 

Imagine Jim is an IT director at a beverage equipment manufacturer. He needs to find a way to see what’s happening in the warehouse while complying with new health guidelines. Meraki MV smart cameras are the perfect extension to their small IT team. It enables them to move away from their outdated network video recorders (NVR) to a scalable cloud-based solution. 

More importantly, deploying MV smart cameras both indoors and outdoors enables Jim’s team to save time by remotely monitoring activity in and around their plant. They’re also able to maintain safe occupancy through advanced analytics like object detection and tracking. 

3. Unearth new business opportunities 

Discovering new ways to work is critical to unlocking new revenue streams. Our wireless products provide advanced features beyond reliable Wi-Fi, making it easy for you to find new opportunities. 

Let’s say Danny is IT manager for an electronics retailer. Danny needs to quickly launch curbside pickup with outdoor Wi-Fi to keep their point-of-sale devices securely connected to their network. He also wants to enhance customers’ experiences by providing free Wi-Fi as they wait in line. As always, he needs to ensure any new IT investments provide a positive return. 

Meraki MR Wireless Access Points offer a simple plug-and-play solution. They let Danny create outdoor Wi-Fi coverage for curbside pickup in less than 20 minutes. He can also happily report an increase in revenue from the built-in location analytics. By monitoring foot traffic and dwell time at multiple locations, the retailer can move staff from less busy hours to peak visitor times.    

4. Prevent cyber attacks 

Your company and customers are relying on online connectivity to function. A cyber attack can leave devastating effects on your business. This is why security is at the forefront of all our IT solutions.

Back at Danny’s electronics store, upgrading to advanced security devices to protect their retail sites from malicious threats is a top priority. After seeing how easy and cost-effective MR wireless deployments are, they’re able to remotely set up Meraki MX Security & SD-WAN appliances in minutes. 

They’re now equipped with world-leading enterprise-grade security backed by Cisco Talos  threat intelligence, which is automatically refreshed every 24 hours. Auto VPN keeps their data encrypted and allows them to build VPN tunnels that securely connect their three locations in just two clicks, without tedious manual VPN configuration. 

5. Secure remote workers

As more small businesses migrate to fully remote or hybrid models, our technology has enabled teleworkers to be quickly and securely deployed. 

Back at Sally’s health care clinic, they evolve to a hybrid remote workforce for their nursing staff. Sally’s IT team deploys the Meraki Z3 teleworker gateway for nurses working from home, for fast, reliable, and secure online connectivity. On top of stateful firewalls, VLAN support keeps their clinic’s data secure by isolating their business network from their employees’ home network. 

With time savings as a key driver for Sally, her team also embraces Meraki Insight. It lets them monitor the performance of business apps used by their remote nurses to easily troubleshoot and advise teleworkers of any issues with their home internet connection. 

Building for tomorrow

Whether you’re Sally, Jim, or Danny, we know times are tough today. New challenges seem to continually emerge and test the resiliency and fabric of the business you built from the ground up. 

We designed our IT solutions for small businesses to be simple, secure, and smart. Ultimately, our goal is to help you rapidly adapt and overcome any disruption. 

In the words of Bidwells, one of our Meraki customers: 

“We needed streamlined productivity and future-proofing. Meraki was easy to configure, included built-in centralized management, and worked easily with our firewalls. It saved us 60% vs. traditional solutions, and enabled a new ‘work anywhere’ culture.” 

 

Want to see our Meraki solutions live? Sign up for a free demo. Learn more about our Meraki products, or visit our developer Marketplace for our Meraki platform & APIs.

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Announcing the Cisco Meraki Solutions Specialist Certification

With 508K+ customers and 2.5M+ active networks across 190+ countries, Cisco Meraki is sweeping the world as a complete networking solution for environments ranging from small office deployments to very large enterprises. As the complexity of these deployments grow, organizations need people they can count on to run a well-operating, secure, and safe network. 

This is why we are excited to announce the Cisco Meraki Solutions Specialist certification, the first Cisco certification that recognizes your expertise in Meraki solutions. This certification covers the full suite of Meraki technologies—wireless LAN, switching, security and SD-WAN, wireless WAN, Meraki Insight, smart cameras, and mobile device management—ensuring a well-developed skill set across the entire Meraki portfolio. The certification prepares you to adequately manage and grow your Meraki deployments as the needs of your network grow, and the confidence to ensure the solution is performing securely and as expected.

CMSS Benefits

To earn your Cisco Meraki Solutions Specialist certification, you need to pass one 90-minute exam: 500-220 Engineering Cisco Meraki Solutions (ECMS). Two Cisco courses are available to help you prepare for the exam: 

  • Engineering Cisco Meraki Solutions Part 1 (ECMS1) is a one-day introduction to Meraki fundamentals
  • Engineering Cisco Meraki Solutions Part 2 (ECMS2) is a three-day deep-dive into advanced Meraki technologies 

Visit the Meraki Learning Hub for details and Cisco Learning Locator to find course availability and listings. For more information on the Cisco Meraki Solutions Specialist certification and how to register for the ECMS exam, visit cisco.com/go/merakicert.