11 premier service stations distributed across Germany
Meraki dashboard simplifies management of network supporting 4200 clients weekly
Facebook login for guest WiFi increases brand recognition through check-ins
It’s 2am, and you’ve been driving for 3 hours on a German autobahn, longing for the comforts of home. MAXI Autohöfe, the largest private operator of autobahn service stations in Germany, aims to provide just that. 24 hours a day. 365 days a year.
Headquartered in the German town of Nordhorn, the KMS Group is comprised of multiple companies, including MAXI Autohöfe, KMS Fast Food (a franchisee of Burger King), KMS Gaming, and Qualitel Hotels.
In an attempt to redefine conventional service stations, MAXI Autohöfe stations are thoughtfully planned spaces where eateries elicit the charm of a traditional kitchen, hotels ensure a night of serenity on long drives, and the service team exudes the congeniality of familiar friends. In addition to offering a home away from home to weary motorists, MAXI Autohöfe provides their visitors with reliable wireless connectivity in remote and sometimes desolate areas.
When Daniel Schwienheer, Network Administrator of KMS Group, was searching for a networking solution, he wanted an alternative to temperamental WiFi hotspots. What Schwienheer needed, in addition to reliability, was control over his network. Excessive use of video applications by hotel guests had resulted in bandwidth saturation, slowing network performance and spurring Schwienheer and his colleagues to search for an easily configurable management platform. The intuitive traffic shaping functionality built into the Cisco Meraki solution sparked the preliminary deployment of Cisco Meraki to two Qualitel hotel locations, and the KMS IT team quickly realized that Cisco Meraki could provide the WiFi and manageability they needed across all geographically distributed locations.
Originally, consumer-grade access points provided limited wireless coverage at the MAXI service stations. “Reliable WiFi has become an expectation by consumers. We weren’t able to provide professional and reliable guest WiFi across our multiple locations in an easy to manage way,” said Schwienheer. “A lot of our customers at the MAXI service stations are business people, so they want wireless connectivity in order to continue doing business on the move.”
Over time, 11 MAXI Autohöfe stations were equipped with Cisco Meraki networks, providing an easily configured and scalable network infrastructure. “I was impressed with the coverage from a single AP,” said Schwienheer, “and even more impressed that I didn’t have to configure each one individually.” Plug and play hardware eliminated the time-intensive installation associated with conventional networking infrastructures, and the ability to clone network configurations, in a couple of mouse clicks, enabled seamless onboarding of each service station to the network.
With the deployment of Cisco Meraki to locations across the KMS Groups’s locations in Germany, the company was able to provide the reliable free WiFi their customers needed, as well as a billing option to pay for higher speeds. A cloud-based solution revolutionized distributed branch networking, enabling multi-site management through a single centralized dashboard. As Schwienheer noted, “for a very lean IT team, being able to manage our entire network remotely via the Cisco Meraki dashboard without having to drive for hours to each site meant a lot.” Cisco Meraki self-provisioning hardware, automatic firmware updates, and automatic network optimization simplified a highly dispersed network.
For a very lean IT team, being able to manage our entire network remotely via the Cisco Meraki dashboard without having to drive for hours to each site meant a lot.
Network Administrator,KMS Group
While ease of deployment and remote management capabilities were priorities for the KMS Group, security was equally important. In connecting gaming machines to Cisco Meraki cloud managed switches, KMS was able to seamlessly bring security down to the port level. Maintaining a PCI compliant network and implementing strong access control measures were easy. “With automated PCI reports for auditing, we never have to worry about verifying our PCI compliance,” said Schwienheer. Furthermore, virtual stacking—stacking not requiring a physical connection between switches—centralized the management of KMS Group’s geographically dispersed switch network. It permitted unprecedented visibility and allowed hundreds of switches and thousands of switch ports to be managed easily regardless of location, using the Cisco Meraki Dashboard.
Unlike traditional networking architectures, Cisco Meraki cloud managed networking devices significantly reduced the need for on-site troubleshooting. “We used to have to be on-site to get packet captures for troubleshooting, or to check for broken cables, driving for hours to get to the source of the problem,” said Schwienheer. “Now, we have continuous testing for cable failures and WAN connectivity among other things, and web-based diagnostics to troubleshoot the network if we need to.” Alerts inform Schwienheer if a switch goes offline, long before issues can affect customers.
Providing wireless to customers has resulted in increased brand recognition for MAXI Autohöfe. The Cisco Meraki dashboard is integrated with a Facebook authentication feature, allowing customers to connect to the WiFi via a company Facebook page with their Facebook credentials. As MAXI Autohöfe found, the check-in also results in a higher frequency of meaningful customer interactions with the business’s Facebook page. The ability to log into Wi-Fi with Facebook credentials enabled a ‘social’ user experience to service station patrons, permitting individuals to share their location and tag friends.
With a network supporting over 4,200 clients a week, Facebook authentication increased the visibility of MAXI Autohöfe stations by promoting check-ins and consequently increasing the number of stories generated about the brand in Facebook News Feeds. In just over a year, MAXI Autohöfe garnered nearly 27,000 check-ins and over 18,000 likes. “This has been a huge benefit for us,” Schwienheer said, “well beyond the benefit of giving free WiFi.”