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Eurobodalla Shire Council

Eurobodalla Shire Council

Highlights

  • NSW council supports local community with Meraki MR, MS, MV, and EMM
  • Dashboard template cloning features allowed for easy deployment
  • Pinpointing isolated events with motion search feature on MV Security Cameras

Local governments maintain the common utilities citizens need every day, yet in the background, there are hundreds of staff and an IT team making everything work, including critical water and sewage systems.

Eurobodalla Shire Council, on the southeast coast of New South Wales, is a 550-person strong local government representing the community and managing services including roads, rubbish, gardens, tourism, water, sewer, community service, and drainage. “You name it, local government does it,” added Craig Sykes, the Technology and Information Manager at Eurobodalla Shire Council 

Sykes’ team serves as the backbone of the council as all staff members in both the government building and the field rely on emails, online calendars, and apps to monitor and manage the welfare of the community, while also responding to the many ticket requests that come in. With a team of 11 IT staff located in Moruya, they look after everything related to IT with the help from their trusted web-based Cisco Meraki dashboard.

The consistent challenge Sykes faces is how to keep up with the latest in IT infrastructure and technology as high-level communication speeds in rural areas such as Eurobodalla are simply not that fast. Sykes and his team wanted to migrate to a cloud-based network infrastructure, but initially wasn’t sure if they would have the right services and speeds to maintain it or use it to the fullest extent. However, shortly thereafter, the right opportunity came up when the team needed to update the network to accommodate a new Cisco unified communications solution. They needed something easy to use and easy to deploy. Along came Meraki, a cloud managed solution that integrated flawlessly with their new unified communications solution.

Prior to Meraki, the IT team managed a complex network supported by a Meraki competitor in which all configurations were manual. In addition, during power outages, a number of issues would occur with the switches as they would lose the VLANs and reset to default settings. Each time, someone on the IT team had to manually reconfigure switches with the current VLANs so that the network would function properly. This dated infrastructure needed to go, and that’s when Meraki stepped in.

Today, Sykes’ IT team has 10 wireless MR Access Points, 60 MS Switches, 400 Systems Manager licenses, and a few of the new Meraki MV Security Cameras deployed across the head office. The team is also exploring how to best use Meraki in its 40 remote sites to get comprehensive monitoring and metrics.

Of Sykes’ IT team of 11 staff, only 2 members look after the network, yet the overall deployment was still a breeze. Sykes commented, “The time in deploying was very minimal apart from the physical work of swapping out the switches. The configuration component was very easy to manage, especially with the VLANs. It was like plug and play.” Maintaining the network while pushing rapid changes without dramatically affecting staff so they can continue on with activities with minimal disruption was key. Utilising Meraki capitalised on this as the IT team was able to save time to focus on other community-driven projects.  

The deployed MS Switches all have the same configurations, which was made possible through the Meraki configuration templatization and cloning features. The VLANs and uplink ports were automatically detected once the switch was turned on and if a new Meraki switch was added downstream, it would make the uplink a trunk port and easily connect to the central network, taking much of the weight off of the IT team. This allowed Skyes’ team to remove all of the old switches and add in the new Meraki switches all at once. “This was one of the best things we’ve ever done with Meraki,” commented Sykes.

Day to day, Sykes loves looking at the network topology and the main switch view to see the overall status of the network. From anywhere in the world, via the Meraki mobile app, he can see all of the green bars on the dashboard, putting his mind at ease that everything is running as it should. On the Meraki APs, the IT team has four SSIDs enabled for different groups ranging from staff to the public to council representatives. The wireless capabilities are critical, as the nature of the business includes managing ever so important day-to-day utilities such as water and sewer functions. Staff in the office must be able to respond quickly to customer requests and issues from the public, so not only is the staff depending on Meraki, but the customer base is too.

Of the 400 Systems Manager licenses on tablets and mobile phones, about 80% are utilised in the field, making device cataloging and tracking of the highest importance. Prior to Meraki Systems Manager, the team used a competitive solution to simply catalog the devices as few features and settings were available. This all changed with Systems Manager, because the team had the ability to deploy apps or take advantage of features such as remote monitoring or remote wiping if a device got stolen, none of which were available on their previous solution. This immense control over employee devices was only made better as the management capabilities were in the same web-based portal as the Meraki APs and switches.

In addition to the APs, switches, and Systems Manager, Eurobodalla Shire Council is also one of the first customers to purchase Meraki MV Security Cameras. With just one camera installed to start, the team is assessing its functionalities including the 128GB edge storage, motion search, and video wall. Ultimately, the team is looking to replace all existing cameras in the IT division. Sykes was sold on the ease of use and deployment, like all other Meraki products. Being able to use a single dashboard was also critical to this purchasing decision. When Sykes saw the intelligent motion search feature for the first time, he was blown away. With the ability to pinpoint isolated events or moments with minimal effort rather than watching hours of footage, he was sold. If a new computer sitting on a desk ready for deployment goes missing overnight, Sykes can now detect the relevant footage in just a couple of minutes.

With a large Meraki deployment and a small team, Sykes can always rest assured with the Meraki IT gear that’s in place. From his iPad in his home, he receives alerts when there’s an issue and can quickly log in to the dashboard to resolve it before staff are affected. In the office, his team is always aware of the performance of the network, as a large TV in the IT department displays the Meraki dashboard 24/7. A quick walk-by can give them all of the assurance they need, allowing them more time to support the larger Eurobodalla community.