Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

Transforming Hotel Operations with Smart Technology

Think back to the last time you stayed overnight or attended a conference at a major hotel or hospitality provider. Chances are your hotel room had fresh linens, the shower had hot water, the on-site restaurant had good food, and in general, you felt safe during your stay. This is the typical experience that we’ve come to expect from a hospitality provider. 

Challenges with hotel operations

Providing a pleasant and comfortable stay, however, is no simple feat. The equipment used to do the laundry, heat the water, and air condition the building is generally pushed to its limits and operates in harsh environments. This creates an assortment of challenges that facility managers face on a daily basis to ensure a quality experience for guests. 

Let’s take a look at a day in the life of Jared, Director of Hotel Operations at a major hospitality provider, and some of the challenges he and his team face. 

A day riddled with problems

On his way to work, Jared learns that two of his team members are out sick, so it’s all hands on deck, including his, to support maintenance requests for the day. 

When he first arrives, Jared discovers guests have been complaining their rooms were too hot overnight. As it turns out, extreme humidity levels caused a refrigerant leak with one of the chillers. As Jared finishes fixing the leak, a coworker informs him that the laundry hopper is clogged.

In fear of running out of fresh linens, Jared hurries over to fix the clog. He then makes his way up to the hotel lobby, where a guest has reported that their luggage is missing. Jared heads to the security room and spends over an hour sifting through video footage to find a video clip to send to the police. 

There has to be a better way!

After what appears to be a never-ending day, Jared thinks to himself that there has to be a more efficient process to manage the operations of the hotel. The challenge is, he has limited visibility into hotel operations, so he often doesn’t know about issues until they become big problems.

He contacts his hotel service provider and learns that he can upgrade the facility to a smart hotel by installing smart cameras and sensors. This will enable him to be more proactive in addressing operational issues by providing real-time alerts and insights when things go wrong.

Transforming operations with smart technology

Excited about the benefits of smart spaces technology, Jared deploys sensors and smart cameras throughout the facility.

Temperature, humidity, and air quality sensors are integrated with the HVAC system to automatically adjust levels to protect equipment. Water leak sensors are placed under the chillers to send alerts anytime a leak is detected. Smart cameras are not only placed throughout the facility to help speed up security investigations, but also placed near laundry hoppers, where analytics can proactively detect improper loading and prevent jams. Lastly, smart automation buttons are placed around the hotel so staff members can generate service tickets any time additional issues arise.

Time to focus on improving the guest experience

After implementation, hotel operations have been running much more smoothly. Jared now has visibility into all of the facility environments and can proactively plan for required maintenance.

This approach is saving the hotel significant costs by reducing the amount of service calls, and has transitioned Jared and his team’s role from being firefighters into one in which they can focus their efforts on improving guest and hotel experiences.

Visit the Meraki hospitality industry page to learn more about solutions for your facility.

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The Future of the Meraki Dashboard

Doomsday averted

Remember the Mayan calendar? You know, the one that predicted the end of the world? Well, that was supposed to happen on December 21, 2012. As it turns out, Meraki was acquired by Cisco on the eve of the supposed apocalypse and ironically, it represents a rebirth.

In the nearly ten years since acquisition, much has changed with Meraki. 

  • The product stack has quadrupled in size 
  • Many other Cisco technologies have been integrated into the platform (shoutout to  Catalyst cloud management and ThousandEyes internet insights)
  • Our advanced hybrid cloud has scaled to enable over 11 million online Meraki devices

The quest to conquer complexity

What hasn’t changed since joining Cisco is our goal to help you navigate challenging technology scenarios. We’ve always prioritized the end user experience and put stock in how it feels to manage a Meraki network. The primary fruit of that labor is the Meraki dashboard, our unique cloud management interface that gives you control over your entire network stack, free of command line interface. Additionally, the dashboard enables:

  • Decentralized management of huge, distributed networks
  • Remote troubleshooting and issue resolution
  • That super-cool feeling as you oversee your global deployment and implement changes in real time

But if you’re an experienced Meraki operator, you already know this! Let’s talk about what’s next, and our vision for the dashboard of the future.

Dashboard has been workin’ out

We’re updating the look and feel of the Meraki dashboard, making the interface more consistent and accessible to all users. 

Along with that, modernized code and tooling will allow us to release and iterate more quickly. We’ll deliver more value to customers, faster. All of this will make it easier to integrate with other Cisco products.

Oh, and did we mention you can now monitor your Catalyst switches in the dashboard, too? 

The road ahead

This is the beginning of a journey to transform the dashboard into an even more powerful tool to manage your hybrid enterprise. We’re driving toward a future where every Meraki cloud-managed network has these features:

  • Intent-based information architecture
  • Surfaced and actionable alerts
  • Automation and mobile workflows
  • Streamlined integrations with even more Cisco technologies
  • And everyone’s most-asked-for feature: dark mode

We need YOU

The network management experience has always been our primary focus, and this is reflected in the way it feels to manage a Meraki network. We don’t want these changes to be arbitrary. Instead, we hope they transform the way you manage your Meraki networks.

  • Opt in! The Early Access page is available to admins in the navigation menu by going to Organization > Configure > Early Access 
  • Tell us what you think—provide feedback using the beta feedback tool, which can be found on the right side of the screen once you opt in

If you’re new to Meraki, check out the instant demo to get a feel for the new management experience

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Getting Started with Smart Building Sustainability

This article was contributed by PlaceOS, a Meraki technology partner.

There are numerous challenges that you need to overcome to meet sustainability targets in your building. This can include reducing the building’s carbon footprint, fixing underutilization, and improving technology efficiency. 

While these challenges can feel daunting, new technology approaches to sustainable building operations can make a big difference. Here are the steps you can take to better understand your building and implement smart spaces technology that will help you achieve sustainability targets while creating elevated experiences for people on-site.  

Assess challenges and make improvements

Organizations can start by figuring out where they currently stand. This could mean hiring an energy engineer or consultant to inspect buildings, go through boiler rooms, check records, and leverage analytics to gain data and insights on building operations. 

The next step is to implement changes to make improvements based on the challenges identified from inspections and analyses. This might include installing more energy-efficient technology, retrofitting the building with composite materials to reduce reliance on HVAC systems and better regulate temperature, or implementing technology solutions that can improve efficiency through integration and automation. 

Achieve more through technology 

While upgrading cladding and HVAC requires considerable investment, technology solutions can offer a lower barrier to entry for more sustainable buildings while also improving building experience. 

By performing an audit of existing technology and scoping out user experience and efficiency outcomes you can better see which data sources can be used to provide context-aware information. This can in turn be used to trigger automated actions during the user journey. 

Create elevated experiences

Once you’ve identified data sources that can be used for automation, the last step is to pair that data with smart spaces technology that can help you achieve sustainability targets while creating better experiences. 

For example, occupancy-driven room automation leverages smart cameras and/or sensors to detect occupancy and then automatically adjusts environmental conditions based on user experience goals or efficiency targets. Here’s how it works:

  • When a meeting room is booked, automatically turn on HVAC, lighting, and A/V five minutes prior to the meeting start time
  • If no one turns up to the meeting after ten minutes, turn HVAC, lighting, and A/V off 

By integrating information from disparate systems, occupancy-driven room automation offers an elevated user experience for people on-site while improving overall building efficiency. 
Visit the Meraki Marketplace to learn more about PlaceOS and request a demo.

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Build Smarter Experiences with Cloud-Managed Networking

Illustration -- light bulb thought bubble technology concept

Cloud-managed networking has emerged as a critical solution for IT leaders who need a network that offers scale, security, and intelligence while upleveling work experiences for employees both on or off-site. Cloud-managed networking offers a variety of tech solutions for unparalleled efficiency and scalability beyond just the ability to access and control your network from anywhere—your home office, on the road, or even poolside.

Read on to discover why enterprises seeking to capitalize on the latest tech advancements—from security to IoT—are migrating to a cloud-managed network model.  

What is cloud-managed networking and how does it work?

When your network is managed over the cloud it means that the management and provisioning of your network devices—as well as the storage and handling of much of your data—is done over third-party servers.   

Network administrators access these servers via a web-based application or dashboard where they can view and manage all of their network devices in one place. They can also access a suite of applications or even build bespoke applications to run on their cloud-managed networks. These applications enable a myriad of use cases—such as the ability to provide guest Wi-Fi, monitor usage, leverage IoT devices, and more.

How is a cloud-managed network structured?

Essentially, there are three layers of a cloud-managed network:

cloud managed network structure

Software layer—This is where applications that add value to your cloud-based network live. These can be third-party applications or ones your team develops themselves for various use cases.

Cloud layer—Devices and software meet in the middle on a unified cloud-based platform. Users access this platform via a dashboard application that enables them to manage their devices and use applications from the software layer.  

Device layer—These are the devices that make up your enterprise network across all locations globally. This includes remote worker devices accessing the cloud network over VPN.

What are the benefits of a cloud-managed network vs. a traditional network?

Easier to onboard, manage, and scale from day one 

One of the biggest benefits of managing your network through the cloud is the ability to connect your existing high-performing hardware to a more flexible, scalable platform with the visibility and control you need to manage sites remotely. 

Take as an example that you want to set up a field office in a remote location with limited IT support. Your IT team back at HQ can pre-provision network devices so when an office manager arrives on-site, all they need to do is plug the devices in and follow a few intuitive steps to get the network up and running. On top of that, the office manager would have access to the same software tools as their HQ counterparts via the web-based dashboard.

This ease of scalability and management enables your business to grow with fewer limitations due to location and personnel.       

Improved security

Security is a common concern for those considering a move to a cloud-managed network model. It may be intuitive to think that handing over network management and (gasp!) data over to a third party creates risk, but consider that there are inherent risks with traditional, on-premises networks. 

If you’re like most businesses, your network equipment is probably in just a few physical locations. This makes the network highly prone to physical threats—whether by natural disasters or break-ins—because there is no redundant data center standing by as a backup. 

Additionally, keeping network equipment and software constantly up-to-date is necessary to reduce the risk of cyber attacks, but that also requires continual investments in upgraded technology and personnel. 

Cloud networking vendors are better able to make investments in network infrastructure that may be cost prohibitive for your business. This includes setting up redundant data centers spread out across geographies and keeping hardware and software constantly updated to keep hackers at bay. 

Smarter automation

With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) there is now a plethora of devices that can be connected to your network to provide data on pretty much anything. Smart cameras can track how people move around your space and smart environmental sensors monitor temperature and humidity to help protect expensive equipment and help maintain employee comfort and well-being. These days, you can connect a button to your network and make it do anything—perhaps upgrade your sales gong. 

While those examples barely scratch the surface of the kind of data IoT can capture, it’s important to consider that data and intelligence are not the same. IoT devices and cloud-managed networking complement each other so you can maximize the intelligence you get from your smart devices.

Managing smart devices is made straightforward when all of them exist on a single dashboard. Also, apps from the software layer that are purpose-built to work with IoT data can turn troves of data into actionable insights. You can also build your own apps to work with your devices for custom use cases and insights.

Purpose-built for hybrid work

Back to managing your network poolside—cloud-managed networking is a perfect match for remote work. Devices can be set up and managed from anywhere with an internet connection. This means that network administrators no longer need to travel to multiple sites to set up new locations. Even when something goes wrong, troubleshooting can be done directly from the web-based dashboard.

Even beyond your IT team, a cloud-based network has benefits for hybrid work. Setting up VPN access for at-home workers is a snap thanks to dashboard tools and apps. You can even send workers home with their own secure gateway that—like all other cloud-based devices—can be set up with ease. 

Cost effectiveness 

Considering all of these benefits, it’s easy to see how a cloud-managed network can end up being much more cost-effective than a traditional on-premises network.

For one thing, a cloud-managed network provides competitive advantages in terms of scalability. Devices can be set up remotely by lean IT teams, reducing travel and labor costs. 

Cloud-managed networking also eliminates the need to make substantial up-front and rolling investments in infrastructure to keep it continuously secure and optimized. Vendors are able to leverage fees from all of their clients to make these capital investments—spreading out costs to spare you the invoice.

What to look for in a cloud-managed networking vendor

If a cloud-managed network sounds like just the solution you’ve been looking for, then the next step is to find a vendor. There are a lot to choose from, so make sure you consider the following while you shop around.

Security—We talked about the ability of cloud-networking vendors to make big investments in security, but do your due diligence and make sure they’re actually making those investments. Any vendor that’s up to scratch will have security information readily available.

Advanced hardware—Just like your laptop becomes a dinosaur after five years, networking hardware advances fast. Look for a vendor who keeps their hardware up-to-date with the most advanced offerings, from Wi-Fi 6E-capable access points to sensors and smart cameras. Also, don’t be fooled by vendors who claim to play nice with hardware from other brands—you’ll always get the most compatibility from devices purpose-built for their platform. 

Technology ecosystem—We discussed that one of the benefits of a cloud-managed network is the ability to leverage applications for a range of use cases. Be sure to check which applications your vendor provides out of the box. If you don’t see any that meet your needs, check to see if they support development of your own apps.

Conclusion 

Now that we’ve cleared the skies about cloud-managed networking, it’s easy to see how it can be a win for your team. No matter the size of your business, cloud networking offers unparalleled scale, security, and intelligence. So go ahead, hang out by the pool a little longer. We won’t tell. Besides, if your network needs attention, you can bring it with you.

Visit the Meraki cloud-networking platform page to learn more and start your journey toward transformative experiences.

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Making Business (and Networking) Work Better in the Cloud

Illustration of laptop and servers

Matthew Landry is VP Product Management, Networking and Security at Cisco Meraki

Networking teams are in a constant battle against complexity. New apps, services, sites, and security risks arise on a weekly basis. 

To meet these challenges head on, IT has rapidly scaled the capabilities and power of the network. But, as that scope and scale expands, the network itself is rapidly diversifying and fragmenting. And when your other priorities are resiliency, agility, and not going crazy, that’s a challenge. 

At Cisco Meraki, we believe that simplicity is at the core of scalability, and that the best way to deliver these powerful experiences is through a cloud-first platform.   

This morning at Cisco Live, we announced the next step in our customers’ journeys toward truly cloud-native networks. For the first time, it’s possible to monitor and manage Catalyst networks in the Meraki dashboard. With cloud management for Catalyst, we’re giving businesses around the world immediate access to: 

  • Simplified, efficient operations
  • Powerful automation and intelligence
  • More network and business agility than they thought possible

Meraki customers who are already well down the path to cloud-managed can now combine the power of Catalyst hardware with the simplicity of cloud management—with full visibility into Catalyst-based access networks. 

Cloud monitoring for Catalyst

The first and most important step in this journey is visibility. Cloud monitoring lets you connect to your access networks from anywhere, see the flow of traffic, and quickly diagnose where clients may be having issues. It’s an incredibly powerful way to scale your operations without adding complexity.

Meraki customers have leveraged this power for over a decade, and today we’re bringing the scale and agility of the dashboard to Catalyst customers. With cloud monitoring, you’ll be able to see your Catalyst 9500, 9300, and 9200 switches at the heart of your network live in the Meraki dashboard

It’s more than visibility, too. Cloud monitoring gives you insight into the topology of your network—every connected client and port-level configuration. You’ll also get detailed traffic inspection and simple troubleshooting tools. The upshot? You’ll be able to quickly identify, isolate, and resolve issues without the need for on-site staff. 

A full portfolio of Wi-Fi 6E access points

Joining the hugely successful MR57, we’re adding three new Wi-Fi 6E access points to the Meraki lineup. Not only will these devices open up more power, more performance, and more spectrum for your networks, they’re the first in a new line of wireless innovations from Cisco. 

Catalyst access points

The new Cisco Catalyst 9100 series access points (beginning with the Catalyst 9166,  9164, and 9162) fill out our 6E portfolio and can be directly managed by either the Meraki dashboard or a Cisco 9800 wireless controller and Cisco DNA center. 

This is a two-fold benefit for our customers. First, they’re getting the flexibility to transition their network management to the cloud on their terms. Second, this converged hardware platform combines the best of Catalyst and Meraki to accelerate wireless innovation.

Customers taking this step on the journey to cloud management will get access to the full Meraki feature set for these access points, truly merging the scale of the #1 cloud-management dashboard with the power and flexibility of Catalyst, the #1 network hardware platform.

A leaner, fresher, more powerful dashboard

Connecting all this innovation is the brand-new Meraki dashboard. Our team has taken everything our customers love about the dashboard and made it faster, more accessible, and more intuitive at every step. Starting with a new network landing page, we’ve dramatically improved every aspect of network management with a modernized layout, intuitive workflows, and directly actionable insights.

For organizations with Catalyst switches at the core of their network, making the move to the cloud has never been easier or more accessible. The Meraki dashboard is truly their bridge to the cloud.

Taking your next step

No organization’s journey to cloud management looks the same. Many are already there, managing 100% of their networks through the Meraki dashboard. But there are countless more organizations at different stages of this trek. Some have Meraki wireless and Catalyst at the core. Others are Catalyst end-to-end. 

Your journey may take a month, a year, or more, but we’ll be with you the entire way, whatever your business requires. You just need to choose that first step. 
To get started, check out our Quick Start Guide and move into the fast lane on your journey to cloud management for Catalyst.

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Get Secure Access for All Users—Everywhere

Woman working at computer

Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is an architecture that integrates networking and security. It builds on proven technologies like cloud-based security, SD-WAN, zero trust, and internet insights.

With rapid changes in the global environment, organizations need a solution that provides secure access to internet and as-a-service resources for remote workers, branch offices, and campus/headquarter locations for any application, on any device, and from any location.

How can you deliver a robust, consistent SASE experience to all users in today’s era of hybrid work? The answer is through a pre-integrated, as-a-service solution. 

A turnkey SASE solution

To this end, Cisco Meraki is pleased to announce Cisco+ Secure Connect Now, a unified, turnkey, SASE as-a-service solution that can be set up in hours. It can be maintained with minimal effort via a highly intuitive dashboard powered by the Meraki platform—the industry’s foremost cloud networking solution.

The Meraki dashboard makes it simple to set up the Meraki security and SD-WAN appliance, remote access, and cloud security, or security services edge (SSE), powered by Cisco Umbrella. 

Unparalleled user experience

Adding branch offices is a four-click configuration from the dashboard, and remote workers can either install and connect endpoint multi-factor authentication (MFA) software on their own, or access private applications via browser-based zero-trust network access (ZTNA).

Cisco provides the relevant certificates and domain name for the clientless ZTNA, which greatly reduces configuration overhead. 

Cisco+ Secure Connect Now ensures that users are correctly identified and authenticated, and that their posture has been validated before they connect to corporate applications.

Continuous optimization of application performance, combined with Cisco’s direct peering relationships with many leading SaaS providers, enables unparalleled user experience and increased productivity.

Access, security, and intelligence at scale

Cisco+ Secure Connect Now is secure, intelligent, and simple to set up. A single, all-inclusive subscription gives lean IT teams the ability to quickly scale access to applications and resources hosted anywhere—across multiple public or private clouds—from any location at any time, while providing protection across every point of service and delivering actionable insights.

Additionally, Cisco’s global reach with local support ensures dependable partnerships and successful outcomes. This is extremely attractive to customers with lean IT environments as they can quickly offer a complete, unified SASE solution as-a-service.

For more information, please visit the Meraki What is SASE? and Cisco+ Secure Connect Now pages. You can also see an in-person presentation at Cisco Live in Las Vegas on June 14, 2022.

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Graduate to Elevated Campus Experiences

Students studying around a table on laptops

As universities continue to embrace and support hybrid learning environments, school officials are looking to leverage IoT technology to enhance the on-campus experience and keep students safe while also improving operational efficiencies across spaces, buildings, and departmental workflows. 

IT, facilities, and campus safety departments all play a role in driving a safe, secure, and connected experience. Here are five ways smart IoT devices—such as cloud-managed cameras and sensors—can deliver on the promise of building a connected campus across multiple departmental needs.

Integrate IT management

Leadership teams need the ability to communicate critical operational information to all department stakeholders—and stakeholders need the ability to easily report the status of university facilities or other infrastructure. To better enable this, institutions are exploring how an integrated campus management system and integrated dashboards can improve their information sharing and reporting capabilities.

IT equipment and IoT devices managed on the same cloud-first dashboard as the rest of the IT network provides a streamlined and holistic approach toward management of all business systems. Additionally, all this information can be readily accessible via an API to integrate with a suite of applications, thus creating one comprehensive management system.

Deliver actionable insights

Actionable insights from a digitized physical environment have many benefits, such as decreasing student safety incidents and improving real estate utilization. However, many IT, facilities, and operations teams lack the data they need for that kind of visibility. 

New IoT technologies like cloud-managed cameras and sensors can drive greater efficiency and physical security through automation and provide data points to manage costs, maximize resources, and improve campus experiences.

Consolidating data from smart devices into one integrated platform provides actionable insights to enable faster decision-making. Centralized cloud management and open APIs enable IoT devices to be managed alongside other networked devices or integrated with any business system. 

Future-proof building operations and sustainability

Campus leaders will feel continued pressure to report on and contribute to global and institutional sustainability goals. Smart sensors can detect the occupancy, temperature, light, and even the air quality in each room. Sensor data can then be used to automate HVAC systems, lighting, or other building systems to reduce energy consumption and associated carbon emissions and also help to provide a more comfortable learning environment.

Align campus access with campus safety

It’s proven that students learn better when they feel safe in their learning environment. Smart cameras can detect unusual patterns in the movement of people, which can trigger analytics to determine if someone entering or leaving an area is authorized.

Additionally, campus safety teams can reduce incident response times with the ability to quickly search through hours of footage and easily share it with police. Student satisfaction can be improved by providing better access to facilities requests with options like self-service apps and smart button-enabled sensors designed to automate common tasks or trigger specific actions.

Plan for events and utilize campus space

Campus facilities teams are experiencing an increase in the number of events as well as a diversification in the type of events they manage, such as graduation ceremonies, sporting contests, and prominent speaker engagements.

Facilities teams that can accurately track space utilization can be more effective at reimagining and redesigning spaces to support a diverse range of events on campus. Camera and sensor data can help facilities teams plan space allocation more effectively by understanding where bottlenecks are forming and what spaces are not being sufficiently utilized. 

Investing in the right technology is the first step toward creating the connected campus of the future, along with internally aligning across IT, facilities, and campus safety to maximize your investment.  

Discover more about Meraki sensors.Learn more about Meraki smart cameras.

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A Smart Spaces Approach to Sustainability

Colleagues collaborating on tablet and mobile phone in conference room

Smart spaces unite networking and IoT sensors—plus AI-driven analytics and insights—to amp up security and automation, but did you know that they also boost sustainability?

Our recent TechValidate survey reveals some of our customers’ top must-haves over the next year. 65% are committed to improving cybersecurity, 50% will automate and streamline business and IT processes, while half of the organizations surveyed plan to dedicate at least 10% of infrastructure spend to sustainability over the next 12 months.

Sustainability is a priority 

At our recent event in Europe, Smart Spaces Powered by Cloud-Based Technologies, Marta Muñoz, Senior Research Director and Lead Technology & Sustainability Practice, IDC EMEA; and Christian Zachriat, Technical Solutions Architect, Cisco Meraki; discussed the role technology plays in achieving sustainability goals.

Muñoz noted that in a recent IDC survey of 700 European organizations, 75% consider sustainability more than a “nice-to-have.”

“Sustainability for them is a priority and a top corporate objective,” she said.

Muñoz added that challenges in moving to sustainability differ between large and small organizations, particularly in where they are in their journey and by regional differences within Europe due to regulatory requirements. 

The role of digital technologies

Muñoz said, according to IDC data:

  • 61% of European organizations see digital infrastructure as a top enabler of sustainability
  • 50% see improving the energy efficiency of their IT assets as a key to considering whether to move forward, as well as renewing hardware and infrastructure to be more energy efficient 
  • 40% of European organizations see a move to cloud-based models as one of the most relevant technologies to invest in to meet sustainability goals

Muñoz differentiated between “the greening of IT,” which includes how an IT department consumes technology in a more sustainable way, and “the greening by IT,” which is the use of IT applications, solutions, and services to transition to sustainability, such as smart sensors and cameras to improve energy efficiency in data centers.

The sustainability road map

Muñoz also described steps that organizations can take toward sustainability:

  1. Define a clear set of sustainability objectives and be sure the processes and people are put in place to meet them. 
  2. Consider specific use cases to implement across the journey.
  3. Dedicate budgets. Sustainability is an investment, not a cost; it has a financial return and may have other impacts like customer satisfaction, employee retention, or brand awareness.
  4. Consider circular vs. linear models in consuming and offering products and services. 
  5. Work with IT partners to enable sustainability throughout the entire journey.

Automated smart spaces are within reach for any organization. Whether you manage an office or a commercial, public, or restricted space, cloud technology helps bridge the gap between digital and physical environments.

Missed the event? Watch the on-demand recordings.

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“Everybody In” on Hybrid Work

Workers in office and on video conference collaborating

Ryan Ansley is Senior Director of Digital Workplace and Information Technology at Cisco Meraki

At Cisco Meraki, whenever we set out to do something our own way, we like to say we’re “Merakifying” it. To us, that means leaning into our values to inform our vision of a solution to a challenge we face. 

When we began shaping our return-to-office strategy, we realized we had an amazing opportunity to lean into our corporate value of “everybody in.” That’s why we built hybrid work experiences that center on our employees no matter where they are.

Enabling hybrid work is a priority for 78% of c-suite executives, according to an IDG Marketpulse Research report conducted for Meraki. The report also suggests that leaders want to enable greater collaboration (52%) while also maintaining or improving productivity (46%) and security (40%). 

Clearly, “everybody in” is a fitting call to action for everyone trying to manage the disruption of hybrid work. To that end, we’ve done our best to leverage technologies that bridge the digital divide and empower our employees to make an impact no matter where they sit. 

A pivot to experiences

After an almost overnight switch from corporate-based hubs of activity to home-based employees, the workplace is now wherever employees want to be. That means our teams within Meraki Digital Workspace and IT must empower productivity collaboration, security, and more anywhere and everywhere. 

Initially, we tried to replicate what we were doing in the co-located office for people working remotely. However, we quickly learned this missed the point of what we were trying to accomplish—create experiences that foster communication, teamwork, and career development. We rapidly shifted our approach and now focus on building solutions in support of those experiences.

Tools for collaboration

Ensuring everyone feels part of the same team is critical, especially when employees are dispersed over geographies and time zones. With some folks in the office and some working remotely, we cannot afford to make anyone feel left out, and that’s why collaboration tools are key to hybrid work success.

In fact, 46% of enterprises are prioritizing updates to collaboration tools to support hybrid work, the IDG study said. This is third only to application modernization (54%) and security improvement (49%). 

That’s why everybody at Meraki has access to Webex by Cisco so they can more easily collaborate from any device. We also set up video conference rooms with Webex devices for hybrid collaboration.

The combination of rock-solid video conferencing along with best-in-class hardware bridges the gap between on-site and off-site workers. Pairing that with team best practices to center meetings on the distributed employee’s experience allows us to be productive and collaborate with folks around the world.

Security matters

The world of protection has also changed. In fact, 48% of executives in the IDG survey cited an increase in cybersecurity threats as a “primary obstacle” to improving workforce experiences. 

Enabling hybrid work is becoming table stakes, and it’s incumbent on IT leaders to find secure, seamless ways to deliver it. Borderless access is the future of security—and that future is happening now.

We use a combination of different tools to address security at Meraki. Our laptop stack includes tools that enable secure access from anywhere. The Meraki VPN and Any Connect provide additional security layers where needed, And tools like Thousand Eyes help centralize visibility through cloud-based technology such as the Meraki dashboard. The combination of all these solutions provide maximum security and flexibility.

Supporting a Hybrid Workforce: Tech challenges and solutions - Read now

An eye on safety

Numerous businesses use the same network for physical and cybersecurity, leveraging smart cameras and sensors to give employees the knowledge they need to feel comfortable in their space. 

At Meraki, we use Cisco DNA Spaces to understand proximity and density, plus third-party applications for hot-desking. Coupled with MT sensors and data from MV cameras, these technologies empower folks to make a decision whether to remain on-site with others in the office based on their personal level of comfort.

DNA Spaces also allow employees to see where there’s the most density in the office, informing folks where “the action is happening” and letting them make a decision to join or avoid the situation.

Supporting tech teams

The IDG survey results also revealed ongoing challenges for IT teams. More than one-third (36%) cited skills gaps, while 31% claimed inadequate resources or budget. Additionally, 30% reported an inability to provide consistent IT support across the workforce. 

Ensuring your IT team also has a hybrid workspace can help ease staffing dilemmas and decrease issues around coverage hours for support. 

At Meraki, we leverage technology for mobile device management, network security, upgrades, and configuration changes. This enhances security by eliminating manual, error-prone tasks and improves employee experience by freeing up time for our IT professionals to work on more strategic and creative projects.  

Wrapping it up

Hybrid work would not happen without the cloud. The ability to securely work together across countries and time zones, access and share data or documents, and communicate visually and verbally are foundational. 

Organizations that are adopting hybrid work are embracing solutions that empower employees to work anywhere, adapt to our constantly adjusting world, and harness the power of transformation to benefit their employees, their business, and their ecosystem. That’s what we do at Meraki, and it’s what we do for our employees, customers, and partners, too. 

Join us in building this hybrid world. Everybody in.

Download the IDG MarketPulse research report on hybrid work to learn more.

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Navigating the Sea Change in Urban Technology

St. Petersburg, Florida

State and local agencies have achieved more than most could have expected over the past few years of flux—captaining turbulent waters toward a sea change in technology that’s enabling connected communities to deliver better services for residents and constituents alike. 

Building connected communities requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. By bringing together community stakeholders and passionate government employees, cities can leverage the right technology and chart a course to manage the Internet of Things (IoT), bridge the digital divide, prepare for the future of work, and maintain security.

Navigating changing seas

A recent national survey of state and local government leaders conducted by CDG found that 42% of respondents don’t have a road map for building the connections their constituents increasingly expect. According to CDG Senior Fellow Bob Bennettt, “Too many governments are living in a 21st-century whirlwind and [are] still dealing with 20th-century procedures.”

As governments take a more proactive approach to technological development, they should focus on combining smart (IoT) technology with intelligent networking capabilities. Such a strategy will better equip governments to deliver critical services as they work to achieve more connected communities. 

Smoother sailing for all

2020 validated the need for better connected communities when working and learning from home became mandatory for many and high-speed internet access became a necessity, not a luxury. 

To accommodate these new hybrid/remote work situations, governments made necessary network upgrades. Jibbing their sails, governments moved toward smoother waters by taking a more coordinated approach to technology—making sure investments put constituent experiences top of mind.

What are the top drivers of connected communities in your jurisdiction?

A focus on experiences

The CDG survey emphasizes a focus on experiences, with 43% of respondents identifying “improving constituent services” as the top driver for a connected community

One example of experience-focused technology is deploying Wi-Fi in public places, which is a key factor in connecting communities. During the pandemic, governments deployed wireless connectivity for residents in need of reliable internet access. 

Another example is the city of Opelika, which began installing smart streetlights that dim during periods of low activity—reducing burnout and cutting energy costs by 50% all while increasing public safety. 

Read the local government leader's guide to connected communities

Funding for the next adventure

Of course, making any technology investment requires funding. With the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), organizations have access to funding to support and scale up the integration of IoT devices. When done at scale, both utilizing federal funds and implementing IoT devices can lead to increased agency agility and resilience while also driving greater productivity and employee engagement—all factors that assist in creating better community experiences. 

A ship needs its crew

With direction and dollars secured, local governments need to refine their strategy and captain their agencies to a connected community. This requires having all hands on deck. 

IT leaders should consider the goals identified by elected officials and budget directors—communication across organizations is key. Then, think about how technology can be used to help achieve those goals and build a digital strategy that aligns to set priorities. Next,  forging strong private/public partnerships helps navigate the sea of funding dollars and orchestrates new opportunities. 

Together with trusted partnerships, IT teams, and employees, governments can remain at the center of communities and be at the helm of delivering transformational experiences. After all, a more connected community is a more agile one, better prepared for the future and even the choppiest of seas.

Download the Local Government Leader’s Guide to Connected Communities to understand best practices for bridging the digital divide, preparing for the future of work, and ensuring community connections remain safe and secure.

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