Goucher College is an innovative liberal arts college and graduate school preparing students for 21st-century careers, where every undergraduate student studies abroad. Under the leadership of its 11th President, José Antonio Bowen, the college was recognized as one of the top 10 most innovative colleges by U.S. News & World Report for two consecutive years. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, on a 287-acre campus, Goucher is home to more than 2,000 undergraduates and graduate students and nearly 500 faculty and staff members.
The leadership team of Bill Leimbach, Vice President of Technology and Planning, and Greg Howard, Director of Networking/Telecom, realized that Goucher’s innovative vision also needed to appear within the college’s internal structure by upgrading the network technology. In 2014, Leimbach and Howard began looking into networking solutions to fit the college’s requirements for a network refresh. Goucher’s legacy hardware was nearing end-of-life and only provided 1-gigabit uplink capabilities. More bandwidth was imperative to be able to support video teaching and higher level communication platforms, such as VoIP phones and AV systems, throughout the campus. Goucher needed a complete network upgrade to a more robust solution capable of 10G uplinks that could seamlessly integrate with their existing Cisco Nexus core.
The cloud-based management of the Meraki solution was a key selling point. As with many colleges with a two-person IT staff managing the network for the entire campus, they needed a solution that was easy to configure, manage, and troubleshoot remotely. After seeing the robust administration and visibility provided by the Meraki dashboard, Goucher made the decision to purchase and deploy more than 730 Meraki wireless access points (APs) and about 70 Meraki access switches.
My team is extremely lean, so the cloud based administration and deployment was a big seller.Greg Howard, Director of Networking and Telecom, Goucher College
After performing a wireless survey, Howard and his team deployed Meraki APs throughout all classrooms and common areas across campus while simultaneously installing the switches in their network closets throughout the campus. Unlike previous deployments, the zero-touch configuration capabilities meant the team could preconfigure hundreds of network devices from one dashboard before ever unboxing them. After providing each AP and switch with a power source and internet connection, each device received its configuration automatically from the cloud. This cut down the time Greg’s team spent deploying the new network. The cloud dashboard also gets rid of error-prone manual configuration and makes sure the network is secure.
The MR Access Points provide a reliable wireless connection for students, teachers, and guests alike. Goucher has five different SSIDs set up, including one for students and staff with 802.1X RADIUS authentication as well as an open guest network. Greg and his team take advantage of Layer 3 firewall rules on the APs to allow or deny specific network traffic. The Goucher IT team also uses the maps and floorplans section of the Meraki dashboard to upload blueprints of different campus buildings, which allows them to place APs directly on the map to keep track of their exact location. Meraki MS Switches can be found across Goucher’s campus and provide a solid, reliable 10-gig backbone to handle all of the network's most demanding applications. Centralized management of switches provides control over distributed ports, giving Greg and his team campus-wide visibility of the entire network and the ability to see specific devices and traffic running through each switch port. This provides a powerful new way to ensure the network is secure and performing as expected. Virtual stacking and port tagging capabilities allow specific switches to be grouped in the dashboard by type, location, device, and more. When Goucher’s IT team sees issues in the dashboard or receives a proactive network alert, integrated troubleshooting tools like cloud packet captures and cable tests can be done in seconds, and Meraki 24/7 support is always a quick phone call away.
All of the little things that I used to worry about are gone - now Meraki just does it.Greg Howard, Director of Networking and Telecom, Goucher College
Firmware upgrades are automatically downloaded from the cloud and can be scheduled at the team’s convenience. As Howard explains, “I don’t have to do anything! I just click this button, set it for 4 a.m., and it’s done! It’s crazy, it’s fantastic!”
Since their original fall 2014 deployment, Goucher has added about 40 additional APs and 30 new switches to support increased demand for wireless and more devices on the network. New campus buildings will be coming online in the next three years, with each building requiring an additional 40-70 access points and about 4 switches.
With the help of Meraki, this simple solution helped Goucher match its innovative vision with modern day technology.