550 mobile devices managed remotely with Meraki’s Systems Manager
Geofencing rules control students’ activities while on the school premises
A full-stack Meraki solution enables seamless troubleshooting across the network
Colegio Sagrada Familia Hijas de Jesús is a school in Valladolid, Spain for children aged 0 to 18 years old. With 1,100 students, the IT team’s challenge is to ensure that the networking environment is reliable and meets the students’ various needs.
The school is composed of two buildings and a sports centre, and the IT team had plans to set up a 1:1 environment for students of the secondary school. This brought challenges that required the networking environment to be refreshed, and the team chose a full-stack Cisco Meraki solution, with Meraki APs, switches, security appliances and mobility management.
Original networking challenges
The IT team is composed of only one member, Víctor Arenzana Hernández, who manages the networks in the school as a part-time job.
The hardware that was already in use was out-dated and deficient, and simply didn’t provide a sufficient Wi-Fi signal. Hernández therefore wanted to provide a stable, more reliable connection to offer students and staff a better work and study environment.
There were plans for a 1:1 deployment in the school, for around 550 students in secondary school, and for all 90 teachers.
Why Cisco Meraki
The centralised, browser-based Meraki dashboard is what made the difference for the team. Being able to manage the school’s networks and devices remotely was a revelation.
The fact that Meraki offers a full-stack solution was a clear advantage for the school’s team. With other vendors, they would have had to use different brands for various parts of the network, and then would have had to work out how to make them work together. With a full-stack Meraki deployment, it is easy to troubleshoot an issue from the client to the AP, the switch to the security appliance, in one single pane of glass.
The option to configure Meraki hardware even before it arrived on site was a crucial factor in the team’s decision. When the hardware was delivered and plugged in, the configurations were automatically downloaded and the network was up and running in a matter of minutes.
The team worked with a partner to physically deploy Meraki at the school, and to set up the initial network configuration. The MX100 security appliance was chosen for its capacity of supporting 500+ clients. Two MS220 and two MS320 switches were chosen to connect two of the school’s buildings with a 10GB fibre connection. Meraki MR32 802.11ac APs were chosen for deployment in the classrooms, where client density is likely to be high, and Meraki MR18 802.11n APs were selected for the sports centre.
The network was configured with 4 SSIDs: one for students, one for teachers, a third one for administrative staff, and a fourth for guests. Facebook WiFi, built in to the Meraki dashboard, was enabled for the guest SSID. Guests are prompted to check-in to the school’s Facebook page to gain access to the WiFi. This gives the school access to aggregate and anonymous demographic data that Facebook provides about check-ins — statistics like the age and gender of the people that are joining the network.
The team set up six VLANs on the MX security appliance (separating the traffic for teachers, students, staff, projectors, VoIP and servers), in a matter of a few simple clicks and without needing to know any complex command lines. Just as easily, the three SSIDs for students, teachers and staff were aligned to their respective VLANs using VLAN tagging in the dashboard.
The entire Meraki dashboard is entirely GUI-based, making it incredibly intuitive and completely removing the need for CLI.
Systems Manager, Cisco Meraki’s mobility management tool, allows the IT team to tag student and teacher devices. This means they can be grouped to assign configurations en masse, or deploy applications to hundreds of devices at once.
With geofencing rules, it is possible to limit students’ activities while they are at school and during school hours, to ensure they focus on their day’s classes. This is ideal for a BYOD environment for all operating systems, without worrying about what might be happening on the network. These restrictions on students’ activities are removed as soon as they leave the school site.
The IT team has set automatic reporting emails allowing them to stay aware of what’s happening on the network without actively monitoring the dashboard, and then easily update the network configurations according to users’ needs.
In the first month of the Meraki network being used, students were already passing 1.38TB worth of data, and the usage is expected to keep increasing as more students and more staff log on to the network. The difference in connectivity was noticed right away, with an overwhelmingly positive reaction.