Cloud-based network management eased burden on IT staff at multi-site law firm
Built-in firewall provides secure employee and guest access
Expanded coverage with plug and play ease; deployment took just six hours
Lucas Clara knows the importance of wireless networks. As IT Director at Foster Pepper PLLC, a Seattle-based law firm with 260 employees, Clara has had wireless deployed across his organization for years.
But constant problems with the existing wireless network were negatively impacting his team’s ability to juggle many different IT responsibilities, including wireless. On any given day, there was the constant stream of reliability and connectivity complaints from wireless users. Employees at the firm could not stay connected, and visitors at the firm could not log in. In addition, any configuration changes always seemed harder than they needed to be. For example, it was difficult to integrate the wireless network with the organization’s RADIUS server, and installing or replacing APs always took longer than expected. “Any little change took a week,” said Clara.
Finally, the pain the wireless network was inflicting reached a breaking point. Clara decided that a replacement was in order. The criteria for selecting a replacement were clear. At a high level, Clara wanted to ensure that the new system would provide reliable coverage and would be simple to deploy and manage, even by multiple administrators responsible for multiple remote offices. The solution also had to be cost-effective, with low up-front costs as well as low ongoing costs for maintenance and support.
From a feature perspective, the solution needed to offer investment protection, so Clara wanted 802.11n access points with Gigabit Ethernet ports for the latest-and-greatest wireless performance available. Given the importance of security in a legal practice, the solution needed to support 802.1X for robust authentication and encryption. To enable guest wireless users to access the Internet while remaining isolated from sensitive internal data, multiple SSIDs with VLAN tagging support was desired. This capability would enable administrators to build different wireless networks for different departments or applications.
After evaluating several systems, Clara concluded that Meraki was the clear choice. Clara deployed 20 Meraki access points in Foster Pepper’s main office in Seattle, WA, and in a remote office in Spokane, WA. The entire deployment, including mounting the hardware and configuring the networks, took only 6 hours. In addition, no changes to client machines were required, which saved a significant amount of time and effort for Clara and his staff.
Using Meraki’s support for multiple virtual isolated networks, Clara configured separate employee and guest networks that shared a single set of wireless access points and a single connection to the Internet. The employee network authenticated users via 802.1X, and provided secure connectivity to the Internet as well as to LAN resources such as printers and file shares. In contrast, the guest network was configured with a splash page, which required visitors to sign in on a web page before gaining Internet-only access. The guest network also blocked adult content using a content filtering feature that is integrated in the Meraki wireless solution. Traffic on the guest network was isolated from the secure employee network so that guests could neither access employee resources, nor infect employee’s computers with viruses.
Since the initial deployment, Foster Pepper has taken advantage of the ease of network expansion that Meraki’s unique web-based central management provides. To deploy wireless in Foster Pepper’s Spokane office, Clara simply sent out an access point to that office and asked someone there to plug it in. The access point automatically established a secure connection to the Meraki cloud, downloaded its configuration, and applied the appropriate settings – all without requiring any manual configuration or on-site IT.
In another instance, Clara needed to provide temporary network access in an ad-hoc space that was to be used for arbitration. Clara plugged in a Meraki access point, and in minutes, 15 firm employees and clients were online.
We have had an excellent experience with Meraki, from the sales process through the implementation, administration, and the end user experience
Clara declared the Meraki deployment a success in easing the burden on his IT administration. “It was plug and play, and there were no new complex systems to learn,” he said. “The other administrators have also been very happy with the reporting, alerting, and LACK of management overhead.”
Enthusiasm was not limited to Clara and his staff. “Our wireless users have been extremely happy”, he noted. With access points deployed in conference rooms, reception areas, and shared spaces, employees now regularly use wireless during meetings and when working away from their desks. On a typical day, a dozen visitors use the guest network to access the Internet and VPN back to their own offices.
“We have had an excellent experience with Meraki,” Clara concludes, “from the sales process through the implementation, administration, and the end user experience.”
We have had an excellent experience with Meraki, from the sales process through the implementation, administration, and the end user experience.