Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN Review

Knowledgeable and helpful support, and it scales and load-balances to fit our needs


What is our primary use case?

Our basic feature here is that we're in the education field.

I used to be a Cisco controller-based program, and 

How has it helped my organization?

This product has absolutely improved the way our organization functions.

It's much faster and it's more balanced. It gives me the ability to balance the network a little bit better from a 2.4 interface, as far as channelization is concerned. Then, with AC coming out with the five gigahertz, getting much more stable, it's allowed a lot of us to switch over to that. However, it is important that you still have the support for 2.4 because it's out there.

What is most valuable?

What I like best about Meraki is that I can change it from anywhere. I'm really the only person here that understands the concepts, which means that if I'm not on campus, resolving the problem is something that I can do online.

We also have a resident program here as well. So, if something's not right with the resident or they have an issue with their internet over there, I can flip to make it go over to a different internet circuit pretty quickly without ever coming onto campus.

What needs improvement?

Initially, I liked some of the filtering features, but that's one of the components that we ran into problems with. We don't use it as much anymore. This is one of the things that I'm trying to find out if Aruba does better.

For example, I like all of my iOS devices to go on one network so that if they try to do iOS updates, we have an Apple server online so that they can just pull the iOS updates from it instead of having them on other parts of the network. Also, we're a one-to-one school where we give laptops out, and I'd like to be able to block the old laptops from being able to access the network. That means that the students are forced to use their new laptop, as opposed to an older one.

It would be really helpful if there were a way that the access point could determine whether the client has an AC radio and if so, force it to try and connect to there first. As it is now, it lets the client determine how it wants to connect. This is the case with wireless in general, but it would be nice to have this option.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Cisco Meraki Wireless LAN for approximately six years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The only time we've had any issue at all is when the firmware upgrades don't automatically apply. You can set them to automatically apply, but you have to be really careful in a school setting, because you can't just say, "Oh yeah, I want to reboot this building." It would mean that the entire building will go down. This means that you have to schedule those a little bit differently. I always do it manually instead of automatically.

I wish it would let us do one access point at a time because then I could literally do a building. It doesn't let you do one at a time. It does let you schedule them as a network but doesn't let you pick a specific access point for a specific time.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

This is a product that scales pretty easily. We have about 1,200 people using it.

We have students and teachers and parents, and then, of course, we have staff members in general, and lots of different devices. One of the big things that I will challenge people at, and I don't think a lot of people realize this, but the challenge of some school networks is, especially for us, I'll use a final time, for example, is all of a sudden you have to have 850 to 900 people on the network at one time.

The exam starts now and all 850 students have to get on the network now. You don't see that any other school at that point in time. Kids come on, they join whenever, they've already got it on. You don't see that, but in those classes when they have to start exams, everybody has to hit that network and load a page now. Your network has to be able to be designed to handle that.

This is one of the reasons we've had to balance the wireless to make sure that we've been able to get good successful connections throughout the entire campus inside of every classroom. That way, no access points overloaded or the bandwidth is not overloaded. If you lose one in the middle, it's enough that it can withstand the fail over of another classroom in the middle of that type of exam.

It is this concept and design that has allowed us to sustain this system for more than five years without a problem.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is pretty good the team is very knowledgeable. Normally it takes once or twice to get through to them or get to the right level, but other than that, it's really good. I would rate them an eight out of ten.

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

We originally had Cisco and it was really costly. They eventually grew out of our price range in terms of the price of their equipment.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is pretty straightforward.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Aruba but at the time, I didn't feel that they were quite there. They had just introduced some of the web-related products, and Meraki was already seasoned.

We are currently looking at other products, including those from Aruba and Cisco. This is because our licensing is about to expire and it's time to upgrade the access points in some of our buildings. 

What other advice do I have?

My advice for anybody who is considering this product is that you have to evaluate what your overall goal is. If you have a team that's going to monitor your network, that's not going to be there, especially if they're offsite, then you're going to have to do a web-based solution because that's the easiest way that they can help maintain it, versus an on-premise solution.

That narrows you down to a couple of different entities. Then, you just have to look at your features and what you like, from security measures to applications to structure. You have to find what fits the best.

I would definitely do an evaluation with any of them to make sure that they all fit within your confines.

In summary, this is a good product but there is always room for improvement.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

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