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Essex Property Trust

Essex Property Trust

Highlights

  • Cloud managed WiFi streamlines property management company's multi-site network
  • Meraki MX Security Appliances enable secure site-to-site VPN
  • Network sees more than 2 TB of traffic transferred weekly

Founded in 1971, Essex Property Trust (NYSE:ESS) is a $6 billion real estate investment trust that acquires, develops, and manages apartment communities in select West Coast communities. With headquarters in Palo Alto, California and four branch offices in California and Washington, Essex now manages over 160 apartment buildings.

In addition to the corporate offices, each of Essex’s apartment buildings includes a leasing office with a few employees. Matt Clark, Director of IT for Essex, heads up the IT team that manages the servers, networking needs, and helpdesk support across all of these locations. Seeking better centralized management and security, Clark investigated firewall solutions from Watchguard and Sonicwall, as well as Meraki’s MX Security Appliances.

“Meraki’s management interface won us over quickly,” Clark said. “None of the other solutions offered such easy setup and management. With Meraki, the centralized management, security, and site-to-site VPN worked right out of the box.”

Clark deployed 180 Meraki MXs—one per office, as well as 170 Meraki MR wireless APs, thus providing corporate-sanctioned wireless across all sites. Essex also placed Meraki MS switches in the corporate offices. “Deployment was very quick and easy,” Clark said. He added the serial numbers and network addresses to the web-based Meraki dashboard in advance. “Then we just had someone unplug the Netgear and plug in the MX and the AP, and that was pretty much it!”

With a few clicks in the dashboard, Clark created a guest wireless network using Meraki DHCP—completely segregated from the Essex Corporate wireless network, which is secured with Active Directory authentication. Meraki’s stateful firewall securely directs guest traffic to the Internet while preventing guests from accessing the LAN. “We also get warnings now if someone plugs in a rogue AP,” Clark said.

Previously, offices relied on Citrix for remote access of centralized data. Now, Essex’s remote sites access resources from headquarters with a seamless, zero-configuration site-to-site VPN. “Meraki deals with all VPN tunnels and encryption keys seamlessly—no one else can do that,” Clark said. “It looked like it would be easy to set up, and then it actually was. Just adding a site to the VPN by changing a setting to ‘on’ and having it work is kind of amazing.” Clark also plans to use site to site VPN to roll out VoIP to all remote sites later this year.

None of the other solutions offered such easy setup and management. With Meraki, the centralized management, security, and site-to-site VPN worked right out of the box.Matt Clark, Director of IT

Now Clark can see his entire network—wireless, switches, and security appliances—on the dashboard. “Some of what I do with the dashboard is proactive, looking at response time and throughput, and making sure sites have a stable Internet connection,” he said.

Meanwhile, Clark uses Meraki’s integrated Application Traffic Shaping to prioritize mission-critical traffic, such as Yardi Voyager, a web-based application for property management. Meraki’s built-in WAN optimization has also cut bandwidth consumption between branches and accelerated application performance. “The WAN optimization definitely helps.”

Currently, Essex manages around 36,000 apartment units and continues to acquire and develop more properties into the portfolio—and is expanding its wireless coverage to cover more community areas and lobbies of its apartment buildings. The Meraki suite of products will assist Essex in its plans to deploy tablets to maintenance employees to improve customers’ response times.

Clark says he is “extremely satisfied” with his Meraki network. “Supporting a growing number devices and applications without growing the IT staff is always a challenge,” he said. “With Meraki, we know the network is reliable, and we know it’s secure. That’s a huge help.”