Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN Review

Provides high-performance, next-generation deployment

What is our primary use case?

We use it for our IoT devices in the office. It is currently our wireless solution for all devices that require wireless connectivity, for example, our IoT devices and our user's laptops and phones.

Within our organization, there are roughly 400 to 500 users, using this solution. Mostly
developers, editors, finance — everybody uses it.

Soon, we're making the switch to Aruba wireless.

How has it helped my organization?

Because it's so easy for the common person to use, It has become less desirable for people who know the technology. The funny thing is that Meraki does have the ability to allow you to do that because you're talking about stuff that is controller-based. 

That is very good for small to medium-sized businesses with somebody who doesn't have that kind of skill-set to troubleshoot their environment; however, it's frustrating for somebody that wants to actually configure certain things. You can't do it because there's no way that you can get into that without asking them for permission.

What is most valuable?

The fact that it's cloud-based is valuable because you don't have to have an actual physical controller in your location. That cuts down on space that you need, the redundancy, the power that you consume, how much it takes to cool down your server room, etc.

Because it's user-friendly, you can hand off some of the easier troubleshooting tasks to people that are not necessarily wireless engineers. You can hand it off to a desktop team, so that's helpful.

With other solutions, you have to configure the right guardrails to keep people from messing things up, but Meraki already has those guardrails in place. This is very frustrating for a competent engineer because then he doesn't have the ability to customize it the way he wants — it's a double-edged sword.

What needs improvement?

The advanced configuration makes it so that any user can enable some of these features without having to ask them for help. It's designed like this because their business model targets people with mid-range expertise.

I think Meraki's doing fine, but I had to leave them because I came from using Cisco before they bought Meraki — which gives you so many options that you can expand upon that it's absolutely mind-numbing. 

As you learn, you miss some of those features when you switch to something else. I did enjoy using Meraki and I would use it again, but I wouldn't be using it for a large office because they don't have the kind of manpower to properly administrate it.

If there are advanced features that you can have enabled, they should allow users access to that in an easier manner. 

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for roughly four years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I don't remember any outages that were caused by a loss of connection to the Meraki cloud controller. They can operate independently, which is good — they were stable. It has not been a chore or a very hard thing to work through. I really don't have any problems with the stability of the product. It's a good product, it's just not great for everybody.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Because it is cloud-based, you don't have to worry about it. Once you deploy it, it's very easy. You could actually ship one to a remote office, have them plug it in and once it phones home, you register it, and then you can configure it. So in that regard, it's very easy to set up a remote office. It's very good that way.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their technical support is pretty good. Overall, I would give their support a rating of 8 out of ten.

They should expand their knowledge base online. I think a lot of problems could easily be solved if they had a better knowledge base.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We were using a WLC wireless LAN controller. We stopped using that solution because we had just been purchased by another company that was using Meraki, so we just sort of moved it over against my wishes. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was very straightforward. Our network engineer had it deployed in roughly one week.

What about the implementation team?

We deployed it ourselves. We read about it and then we implemented it. As I said, it's not very hard.

What other advice do I have?

Utilize the packet capture — I found that very helpful. Troubleshooting is one of the features that I found really helpful — day by day, trying to figure out what's going on. I think that people that are going to purchase it are looking for something really simple and something that works.

If I had to summarize Meraki, the biggest lesson that I learned while using it would be: simplicity has its costs.

Overall, on a scale from one to ten, I would give this solution a rating of eight.

It's a very good solution for small to medium-sized businesses that don't have the technical know-how to look for an enterprise-wide wireless solution. It's a great product for sub- enterprise solutions. It's also really good for hospitals and schools because of the easy deployment.

I use the product and I think that for what they're trying to achieve, there's nothing better.

Even though I'm moving to Aruba, I've seen and felt their wireless cloud-based controller system. I think that might be a little complicated for the average person. 

To take it to a rating of ten, there should be some more advanced features. I know that they have more stuff. You buy into the Meraki way, so to speak. You buy their switches, you buy their access points, everything starts to work a little bit better together; I never did that. I think that some of the stuff that I've even thought was making them better, they probably have already done. It's just that it wasn't for me. They should allow for some more granular configuration features that give people more control over their environment.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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