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Auckland Grammar School

Auckland Grammar School

Highlights

  • Oldest all-boys school in Auckland with 2,500 students and 160 staff
  • 3 IT staff look after Meraki network consisting of Meraki MS, MX, and EMM
  • Web-based dashboard allows for easy network changes without running complex CLI

As the oldest all-boys school in Auckland, founded in 1869, Auckland Grammar is one of New Zealand’s leading secondary schools, with a reputation for all-around excellence in academics, sports, and cultural studies. With 2,500 students and 160 teaching staff, Auckland Grammar is the largest same-sex school in the country and its lean team of six IT staff help the school maintain operational excellence and support digital learning within the classrooms.

Cameron Watt, the Director of IT at Auckland Grammar, was a student himself at the school before he returned to lead the IT team, along with several other former students. While the school’s network has remained the same in some areas, it’s also undergone many transformations, particularly when it comes to the tools used in the learning environment. 

When iPads were first introduced to the languages, economics, and special needs departments, each device was configured manually, taking up an immense amount of IT’s time and resources. The configurator wasn’t flexible and not easy to deploy at scale. That’s when Watt’s team decided to try Cisco Meraki Systems Manager to effectively manage the iPads and other client devices. The team also requested a hardware trial and received two APs and one switch. While trialing the hardware and becoming more familiar with the Meraki dashboard, Meraki launched the MS225 Switches, which fit Auckland Grammar’s needs even more due to the backhaul uplinks and increased flexibility, so an initial switch order was placed. The team set up the gear over school holidays, and it was a breeze.

We deployed all of the Meraki switches by ourselves and we completed it over a school holiday. It's been really amazing to be able to do that.Cameron Watt, Director of IT

Today, out of the team of six, only three are involved in managing the Meraki network. While Watt is highly technical and very familiar with command line, the other two network team members aren’t, so a graphical interface like the Meraki dashboard became an even greater priority during the switch network upgrade. Watt thought about future-proofing, a concept Meraki is intimately familiar with, and realized that if he ever left the school, the team needed to be able to continue making network changes without having to know how to run command lines.

On Meraki MS Switches, the team is using virtual stacking, allowing them to make changes to multiple switch ports simultaneously, along with physical stacking. Additionally, the IT team’s lives were made easier as they were setting up the switches because of the voice VLAN to support the existing VoIP phone systems. In some parts of the buildings, getting cabling in has been an issue and often, there is only one data port in each room. Being able to use the voice VLAN has helped make the setup completely painless.

Watt and his team first discovered Meraki through its search for a device management solution and to date, it remains a key solution within the organisation. Previously, the team often ran into issues with pin codes. Under a non-managed system, students could input pin codes into devices and IT would not be able to access them. However, if IT set the codes, staff and students had to get the appropriate code and input the code each time they were prompted. With the Meraki dashboard, no codes need to be used because the team is always able to track enrolled devices in real-time. Additionally, the team loves that Systems Manager allows them to easily create and apply standardized backgrounds and layouts so all devices have the same look and feel.

Though it doesn’t happen too often, from time to time, someone will try to remove iPads from campus. Being able to make the device inoperable has been a major benefit to the team, plus it only takes one or two clicks in the dashboard to make this happen. Students are able to take the iPads to outdoor spaces on campus and now IT has the ability to see where these devices are located and what the traffic trends may be.

Whether Auckland Grammar continues to use its iPads to aid students in doing stock market research, learn languages, or test for dyslexia, Meraki looks forward to the partnership and helping support Watt’s team with accomplishing the digital learning initiatives in place.