Archive for the ‘Company Blog’ Category

Clint Newell Auto Group

Clint Newell Auto Group in Roseburg, Oregon is truly a one-stop shop for the community’s automotive needs. The group offers competitive pricing on a large inventory of Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC, and Buick cars, while also hosting a service center, collision center, loans and lease department, parts department, and rental services on-site.


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With company devices, visiting contractors, customers, and others coming in and out of the auto group, Clint Newell depends on the Cisco Meraki cloud-managed solution to support their robust networking needs. The 3-person IT team is led by Ryan Parker, who will be hosting a live webinar with Meraki next Thursday, May 28th at 11:00 AM PT to divulge more details about their Meraki experience.

A sneak peek into their deployment shows a fleet of Meraki MR34 802.11ac Access Points, MS320 and 220 Switches, MX400 Security Appliances, and Systems Manager mobile device management. Ryan and the IT team went with the Meraki full stack, as they believe that “with Meraki, you’re going to get the visibility, you’re going to get the reliability, you’re going to get a solid product” (Ryan Parker, Clint Newell IT Manager).

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The Clint Newell Auto Group in Roseburg, Oregon

The team benefits from Meraki features such as bandwidth throttling for guest WiFi, auto VPN to securely connect their 3 buildings, topology to automatically create intelligent network maps, easy cable testing and troubleshooting, device location tracking, and more. IT is able to remotely configure and push settings to devices, monitor all traffic passing through the network, and proactively identify and solve any issues.

With a reliable network, the sales team can roam the property with their iPads and easily guide customers through virtual showrooms and technical specs for new and used vehicles. Employees and contractors can securely access internal resources from any building within the auto group, and “the devices we have become the devices we need” with regular firmware and feature updates built into the Meraki cloud model.

Register for next week’s webinar to hear the full story and see how Meraki has made network management simple for Clint Newell. A recording of the presentation will also be available on our webinars page after the webinar. Hope to see you there!

Systems Manager – Your new teaching assistant

Here at Meraki we have been working on Systems Manager to further ease the burden on educators trying to integrate technology into the learning process. With a wealth of powerful features, mobile devices, such as tablets, can significantly enhance the learning process, but this wealth can also come at a cost. Distractions caused by features not relevant to education, can hinder student learning. Teachers skilled in running a classroom must play the role of digital cowboy or cowgirl, corralling errant students and devices.

We’re listening to your concerns and are announcing the release of some new Systems Manager features. These will compliment existing features, and create a comprehensive suite of controls for your classroom; in essence, a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) for your devices!

Pay attention now

 
Single App Mode forces Apple iOS devices, such as iPads, to display just a single app. When in this special mode, the specified app is the only thing the user of the device can interact with, even the settings menu of the device is unavailable.

With role-based administration, network admins can provide teachers with access to their classroom’s devices, making Single App Mode easy to integrate into the classroom. A teacher can use the intuitive Meraki dashboard to find a device, view its details, and then lock it to the desired application. Whatever the student is doing at the time will be replaced with the app chosen by the teacher, focusing classroom activity on one task and preventing distractions.

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Teachers can easily select an app of their choice from a drop down menu listing the available apps on that device. A great way to stop the class from using the devices, and command attention to ‘bring eyes up front’, is to lock the devices to the Meraki MDM app, preventing it’s further use. When free use of the device is allowed, the device can be easily released by clicking the ‘Disable Lock’ button.

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All together now

 
Having this level of control per iOS device is great, but what about a whole classroom? Systems Manager has this covered with the ability to command devices in bulk. A teacher can easily select the iPad, or other iOS devices they want to lock to an app by using the instant search box. For example, it only takes a couple of clicks to select all 3rd Graders iPads and lock them on to a single app.

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With the power of instant search, any teacher can precisely choose the devices they want to control; however in large deployments, selecting the wrong set of devices is a possibility. This is where the new Limited Access Roles in the Systems Manager dashboard come into play. School IT staff can prevent mistakes and simplify the educator’s experience by defining roles relevant to their needs.

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At a high level, a teacher is unlikely to manage Apple MDM certificates in the Meraki Dashboard. They are more likely to want to control the specific classes of iPads, leaving the advanced options to administrators. Using Meraki’s tagging concept, teaching staff can be assigned the groups of devices they will work with.

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Tags can be updated dynamically, for example by time. This allows for teachers to be given control of different sets of devices depending on their schedule. Time is only one of the many dynamic tags available in Systems Manager, with others such as location, or the owner also being available. Further information is available here

Show and tell

 
AirPlay is great for allowing teachers to easily display their screens to the whole class, but what about students? This ease of use can become a problem without control. How do you prevent students from taking control of unsecured AppleTV devices? Securing them with a password provides access control but has other problems. How do you allow students to use AirPlay when you want, but prevent access when you don’t?

AirPlay settings can be pre-provisioned in Systems Manager so that student iOS devices have all the settings ready to use, including password.

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This prevents students being given the password, while making the teacher’s life easier as all the settings are ready to use on the class devices, not just their own. They can select the student’s device they wish display, choose their classroom from the drop down, and click AirPlay.

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Combining this functionality with app lock allows a teacher to have the whole class focused on their fellow student’s screen, not distracted by their own.

You will need this

 
Some of us here in the Meraki office remember carrying heavy bags laden with books. Worse, we remember getting in trouble for having left one behind! Fortunately students today are looked after by Systems Manager with the Backpack feature.

Backpack can automatically download files and content to devices, storing it for use. Not only does digital content delivery take the strain off young shoulders, but it ensures that nothing gets left behind and only the most up-to-date material is available for learning.

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Along with documents, lesson plans, and test results delivered via Backpack; the Meraki MDM app provides students access to a library of managed apps. Students can have core apps automatically pushed to their device, but collections of extra curricula content can be offered. Again, managed through powerful tags, individual students, classes, or sets of devices, can be given  the exact content they need.

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A TA for every classroom

 
Putting educators first, while not limiting the powerful creative potential of technology, is an essential goal of making our schools ready for the future. With Systems Manager’s new features, you have a new Teacher’s Assistant helping you manage the digital classroom.
 

Be a champion, take the Meraki Challenge

The time has come – when the skies crackle with the foretelling boom of a new era, when the waves rise to meet the heavens in a cacophony of the grandest scale, when mere mortals become gods. The time has come to take the Meraki Challenge.

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Bring honor to your person in this timed endeavor, as you navigate the luminous pages of the fabled Meraki dashboard and, with the nimblest of keystrokes, compete for the swiftest completion of this momentous journey. Daringly unveil paralyzing bandwidth hogs, bring the murkiest of network traffic to light, put network abusers in their rightful place – become the networking hero you were meant to be.

 

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Each fortnight, fortuitous victors will receive an intelligent wrist-dongle of their choosing (Apple Watch or Android Watch). One supreme hero will be granted a journey to the mythical isles of their dreams (tropical vacation for two).

Customers          |          Partners          |          Cisco

The time is now, heed the steady call of fate and fortune and rise to the challenge!

 

How much did you save?

Soon after the introduction of our cloud managed switches we provided the opportunity to create a port schedule on Meraki switches. The ability to turn ports off when not required serves as both a security feature and a means to save energy. In terms of security, it may be desirable to prevent access to the network outside regular office hours, or to restrict phone access to specific areas of a building.

Switching off ports connecting to PoE devices also has the beneficial side effect of reducing overall power consumption. Some of these devices – VDI terminals, for example – can consume as much as 30 Watts each, so power savings can quickly add up if applied to many such power–hungry devices. But how does the network engineer see, and better yet report, how much power has been saved?

Problem solved. The switch summary reporting tool now includes details about the aggregated power consumption across all switches and there’s also a sorted list, showing which of those switches are reporting the highest consumption. As always with our summary reports, a specific time period or tagged subset of switches can be selected, enabling easy comparison between floors, building, departments, sites, etc.

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Top switches by power usage are also included in the email version of the report, which can be sent on–demand, or scheduled for automatic, regularly emailed reports.

Savings like these may be modest, but with the addition of reporting they can be used to demonstrate the owners’ commitment to reducing both operational expenditure and environmental impact where possible. Free savings of both – who would say no to that?

Like so many Meraki features before, switch power reporting was added based on customer feedback. Never forget that every Meraki customer has the ability to shape the future of our products. Just head down to the lower right corner of every Dashboard page and make a wish to have your say.

 

A different perspective

In March we saw a tweet that caught our attention from the team at Inveneo. Inveneo is a non-profit social enterprise that delivers sustainable computing and broadband to those who need it most in the developing world. They believe that improved access to technology can transform lives and opportunities, even in some of the poorest and most technology-challenged communities.

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The tweet had a picture of a Cisco Meraki MR62 outdoor access point (AP) that was being used as part of the Ebola Response Connectivity Initiative (ERCI) project.With the Inveneo office just a 10 minute drive from the Meraki office in San Francisco, we went over to find out more about how they are using Meraki technology.

The ERCI project uses a combination of technologies to offer connectivity to relief agencies fighting Ebola in local communities. Rugged Meraki APs are used at the edge of the deployment to provide end device connectivity, with backhaul provided by long range wireless backhaul to cellular towers. Although not yet live at the time of our visit, it was fascinating to hear what features were most important to them, in comparison to our typical expectations of customers needs. A typical enterprise may be interested in performance and security as primary features, but when your APs have to be powered by the sun using solar panels, energy consumption is of highest importance.

Although not the instigator of the meeting, the conversation switched to Meraki Systems Manager, Meraki’s MDM platform. Inveneo exclusively uses Android tablets due to the ability to find low cost, locally sourced, or locally manufactured devices where Apple products are not available. Again it was interesting to hear the differences in the importance of pieces of functionality when compared to the typical uses we see for Systems Manager.

The use of MDM is focused on enabling and supporting the user of the device rather than securing and restricting. One of the important features provided by Systems Manager for Inveneo is a report on the battery level of the device. With disaster relief workers and community health workers often in locations with poor to no infrastructure, knowing if a user was able to charge the device is important in understanding if they are able to use it.

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Another useful reporting feature is to find out what apps users download. This led to the team finding out that one of the most heavily used types of apps was for a flashlight. Now knowing this, they can pre-load a flashlight app, and other apps they know are likely to be useful, to save on scarce local bandwidth.

We hope to catchup with the Inveneo team in the future to find out how the ERCI project progresses, and we would love to hear from anyone else who has innovative community uses for Meraki technology. Tweet us @meraki.

 

Mission Impossible 3: Save Daisy!

A little under 2 years ago Meraki did what no one else dared. In a world’s first we set up a working, enterprise grade WiFi network in under an hour during a live webinar. No safety net was used, no magic tricks, only what a real network engineer would experience using Meraki WiFi.

The unprecedented popularity of this event spawned a sequel even more daring than the first. On that occasion we set up a BYOD–ready network with Active Directory integration and connected phones and laptops to the newly created network.

Now, for the third instalment the stakes have been raised, and it just got personal…

The Mission Impossible team is forced back into action for their toughest challenge yet, as an evil network genius has abducted the beloved Meraki dog – Daisy. Hell–bent on causing maximum mayhem and not motivated by money, the kidnapper is demanding the successful configuration of a seemingly impossible network, within an hour. To make matters worse, the captor has also stipulated that the configuration of the network must be decided by the audience. During the webinar you will be able to vote for the scenario you would like to see completed. The scenario with the most votes will be attempted…live!

JOIN US AND HELP SAVE DAISY

Spaces for the premiere are limited so please sign up now to avoid disappointment.

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Follow us @meraki or search #savedaisy to be first to hear about the scenario options and to win exclusive Meraki merchandise.

This blog post will self-destruct in…10…9…8…

Best regards,
The Cisco Meraki Team

Smart Switches

You have smartphones, smart thermostats, smart cities – why not smart switches? While you may think a switch, is a switch, is a switch, think again. Have you ever needed to run cable tests remotely, or see what’s happening on a specific switch port? How about customizing access settings on a per-port basis, for any location?

A normal switch will remain shrouded in secrecy on these matters, but a Meraki MS switch, now that’s another story.

Centralized management

Meraki switches are managed through the same cloud dashboard as all other Meraki products, enabling easy plug-and-play deployment and centralized control over distributed locations. With cloud management, all of your switch ports can be configured and monitored with built-in virtual stacking. This allows tens, hundreds, or even thousands of switches to be managed as one logical entity, no matter how physically dispersed they may be.

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What does it mean to “manage” a switch port? You can configure ports for specific access devices (such as printers or desktop devices), assign voice VLANs, control PoE, apply tags to help with filtering and pushing settings, and more. Importantly, the Meraki dashboard gives you up-to-date and real time information as to the current state of the network, negating the need for often outdated documentation referenced when making configuration changes.

Deep network visibility

As the industry’s only switches with integrated Layer 7 application and client fingerprinting, Meraki MS switches provide intelligent network insight and analysis as to the types of traffic traversing your network. Black box no more! Now you can identify, classify, and report hundreds of applications, and by whom they are being used.

In addition to analyzing traffic, switches also unlock the network topology feature (shown below), which automatically maps the equipment in your entire network. Instantly gain a hierarchical overview of how your network physically interconnects and the health status of each device. Again, continuously up-to-date and dynamically adjusted depending on changes to the topology, manual network diagrams are a thing of the past.

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The troubleshooting tools available for switches make it easy to manage any location. Run a  remote Ethernet cable test, conduct a packet capture, ping a device, and more – the time and effort to resolution just became a lot faster. As with all Meraki gear, you can also set up automatic email alerts to notify you of any potential network issues, so you can practice proactive network management.

Scalability and failover

MS Layer 3 Switches support Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) dynamic routing, offering greater design flexibility, better routing resilience, and improved traffic flow. OSPF’s routing algorithm automatically factors link costs (such as link bandwidth and availability) to calculate optimal pathways for routing packets from point A to point B. This efficiency translates into improved network performance, since delays across slow links are minimized.

Additionally, IPv4 Access control lists (ACLs) secure subnet boundaries while limiting broadcast and undesirable protocol traffic, reducing congestion.

Redundancy is also a key component of the Meraki MS layer 3 implementation. First, OSPF’s native routing resilience automatically adapts to identified link failures – preventing vital resources from becoming unreachable if alternative pathways to it exist. Second, built-in warm spare redundancy ensures that downtime and disruption are minimized in the event of physical switch failure. Finally, integrated DHCP services can be enabled on layer 3 Meraki switches, if an MS switch hosting DHCP service fails over to a warm spare, DHCP service will seamlessly transition to the backup switch and retain state.

Convinced? Join us for a switching webinar or sign up for a free switch trial to switch on the lights and see what’s really going on in the heart of your network.

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Customer Spotlight: Rovio Entertainment

Although Rovio Entertainment, an entertainment media company, is based in Espoo, Finland, their 700 employees are scattered around the world. “The company is producing mobile entertainment products and all devices, including employees’ devices, are heavily dependent on wireless network performance in their daily work,” explained Kalle Alppi, IT Director for Rovio Entertainment. With such a heavy reliance on WiFi, having a reliable and robust network is crucial to their business; however, the IT team consists of just five people to manage the network and provide on-going support for this growing team.

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However, the previous network was pieced together using systems from various wireless providers, each with their own management style and each lacking visibility. A cloud-based solution would provide the IT team with added flexibility in handling a distributed, world-wide deployment without having to be on-site to diagnose issues or perform basic maintenance.

Alppi deployed both 802.11n and 802.11ac models in a test environment to assess their coverage and user experience. With 3x faster wireless speeds using enhanced modulation, double the channel bandwidth, and radios dedicated to 2.4 GHz clients, 5 GHz, and dual-band security radio, the Meraki MR34 802.11ac access points were an easy choice.

“With Meraki we got a unified view of all our wireless networks, improved security, performance, and analysis tools to support our business.” - Kalle Alppi, IT Director

Alppi and his team deployed the Meraki wireless solution in 4 countries and the equivalent of 17 office floors. For the main office, it took the team two days to configure and install the devices and just a single day at each of the other office locations. “The physical installation was quick and straightforward,” Alppi explained. “The devices are deployed to the main floor switches with several VLANs configured through single 1GB connections.”

The benefit of this being a cloud-based solution is that at any point during the physical on-site deployment of the devices, the team could configure the network settings in their Meraki dashboard. To optimize network performance and create a secure environment, guest traffic flows through an isolated VLAN on a segmented SSID, while corporate traffic has been divided between SSIDs based on user and device type.

Each of the SSIDs can additionally be customized with per-client bandwidth limits, Layer 3 firewall rules, Layer 7 application firewall and traffic shaping settings, as well as a variety of other optimization settings. The granular settings enable the Rovio team to throttle down non-critical applications and prioritize those applications which are crucial to business operation. By monitoring network statistics and device usage, the team was able to fine-tune configurations in the weeks following the deployment, ensuring optimal performance and happy users.

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Rovio has grown significantly over the years through acquisitions and new projects like Angry Birds Playground, which is focused on bringing fun to education.

Rovio is also taking advantage of Meraki’s mobile device management platform, Systems Manager, on the company’s Windows and Mac OS X laptops. Systems Manager permits the IT team to keep an inventory of issued devices, remotely push applications, set device-based restrictions, and enforce security policies – all from the same dashboard used for managing the wireless network.

Because each location is visible in the unified dashboard, Alppi and his team are able to remotely ensure that each site has the proper settings, while also gaining deep visibility into how bandwidth is being used by application, user, or device type and making adjustments as needed with just a few mouse clicks.

You can read the full post and find other customer stories here!

Keep an eye out for Meraki at Interop Las Vegas

Next week, members of the Cisco Meraki team will be heading to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in Interop 2015. Designed to connect the IT community, Interop is an annual technology conference held in Las Vegas, London, and Tokyo. With a variety of speakers, workshops, and networking events, Meraki is very excited to participate.

If you happen to be at the event, come say hello! We will be at booth #1327 next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, April 28th-30th.

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Hope to meet you soon! We’d be happy to give you a demo of our cloud managed network portfolio.

A day in the life of a Cisco Meraki wish

The Cisco Meraki dashboard has a little magic happening: on every dashboard page, there’s a small box where customers can make a wish for additional features or functionality on that page. We’ve covered wishes before in other blog posts, but want to highlight here how these wishes are turned into real dashboard tools.

 

What actually happens

When customers make wishes, those wishes are sent directly to our entire development team. Sometimes, an engineer sees a wish that intrigues her but she needs more context to understand what the submitter wants; other times, she may decide she loves the wish idea and want to develop it. In the former case, the engineer will reach out to the wish submitter for some additional insight or a conversation about the wish; in the latter case, the engineer may conceivably start working on the wish immediately—or schedule time to develop it.

Building a wish feature will often take at least a day or two. Then, the feature will have to undergo a code review by a team of engineers—and this can take as little as 3 days, depending on complexity. But several wishes are granted within a week or two of an engineer seeing the request.

Additionally, wishes get sent to our product team, who notice when specific wishes are requested several times. The product team will often use wishes to guide roadmap development, and so may reach out to engineers if there’s a critical mass of interest in a given feature.

 

Wishes do come true

As an example, here are three wishes that became real features of the Meraki dashboard.

1. Color-blind mode for the dashboard. Enabling a color-blind assist mode for viewing dashboard reports is a great example of the power of wishes. This feature, while important, is one that would likely not have been built based on sales traction alone. But after a wish, it became a reality. In fact, a few Meraki employees who are color-blind themselves make heavy use of this feature—so we’ve benefitted directly from the wish system ourselves!

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What typical Meraki dashboard alerting looks like to those with normal vision.

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What Meraki dashboard alerting looks like to those who are color-blind and who use the assist mode.

2. DHCP lease usage by VLAN. This is a slick feature in the MX Security Appliance’s local health and status page (Monitor > Appliance status). If you’re using the MX as a DHCP server, you can now gain visibility into IP address pool exhaustion on a per-VLAN basis.

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3. Device configuration status. All Meraki gear receives seamless updates throughout the year for firmware and feature enhancements. Network administrators have always been able to schedule dates and times for these updates, and one wish that’s now in production is the ability to manually deploy updates directly from the local status page of any Meraki device.

Device config status

 

Wishes matter!

So Meraki wishes really do come true, and they are an important part of our product development cycle! Wishes help us ensure we’re spending time building out features that matter to you, our customers, and they are a way for us to get critical feedback. So if you have a wish, make a wish—we’re listening!