Meraki Dashboard Review

Centralized dashboard management for all devices on your network that is easy-to-use

What is our primary use case?

The primary use is to have centralized control over all the Meraki devices and services on your network. Primarily I use it for security configuration and reporting.  

How has it helped my organization?

Very intuitive, complete overview of entire network including branch offices. Ability to drill down into events and alerts and lookup in the knowledge-base. Create tickets and track them.

What is most valuable?

I think that the most valuable part about the dashboard is the analytics. A firm that I was doing some IT consulting work for was hit with a ransomware attack and this thing was amazing. After we got things cleaned up, we found that the actors had some IP numbers somewhere on the West Coast. They started to try to get back into the network and Meraki was there to say, "You know what? This same malicious IP number is knocking at your door again." We were able to take care of that and block them off so they could not access the network and that problem was put to rest.

What needs improvement?

The biggest problem is the absence of a VPN client like AnyConnect with the device. The Meraki rep that I dealt with actually agreed. He said a lot of people are complaining about the fact that they had to work with a separate VPN.  

Here is the problem. Let's say you have got to deploy and install a VPN client on 50 workstations. You physically have to go to every one of the 50 workstations and do the VPN deployment manually. You can not just push it out through an email or a group policy. That means you have to touch every machine and configure it based on the type of network card it has and make a whole bunch of other settings.  

Manually deploying the VPN is about a 20-minute procedure and that is after you learn how to do it. By comparison, if I wanted to roll out 1000 VPN clients with a normal Cisco device, the Cisco AnyConnect software can be just pushed out with some easy instructions and away you go.  

I think the VPN client is really the only true issue I had with the product itself. The connection that I get from home is sometimes a little shaky when I have to use it remotely, but it is impossible to put the blame on that connection as due to Meraki.  

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this product for about a year.  

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We never had any issues at all with the stability of Meraki. It is self-healing. If the power goes out or whatever, it is very good at handling that kind of issue. It is easy to learn, easy to read the reports, and it is easy to use the dashboard.  

I had worked with Fortinet and some other firewalls — Linksys of course, going all the way back to the old WatchGuard. I think Meraki really kicked off the whole cloud-based managed device movement and everyone else is just hopping on to do the same kind of thing. SonicWall and Fortinet and all the other newer competitors just followed along when they figured it was something valuable. If Meraki could get their VPN sorted out, I think they would have themselves a flagship product that was really the leader of the pack.  

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I have not really had the opportunity to test the scalability first-hand. We were are a small office, so I never really got a chance to try and add hundreds of users. If that had been the case, Meraki probably would have suggested that we go to the next model up because we needed a more robust system.

The configuration of the VPN between branche offices was wonderful. You just click on the address and it basically does everything itself. For a non-engineer type person, pretty much anybody in IT can configure these things once you do the webinar. It is easy and intuitive and as far as I have been able to work with the scalability, I think a lot of the product.  

How are customer service and technical support?

When I did get to engage the technical support people at Meraki, I would give them a 10-out-of-10. The technical support was great.  

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

I have been working with firewalls for a long time. I worked with the Cisco 5500 series. I worked with a lot of their older stuff back in the day. Mostly my job for the previous 10 years was not to be the supplier and was not the implementer. Rather I was more of a consultant, so I never really had the opportunity to get the hands-on experience I have now.  


How was the initial setup?

The setup had a few different stages to take care of. The first step was to create a VPN, a branch office connection, and then a better sister location. I bought another MX to act as a backup, so we had that configured as a hot spot or a failover. Then I configured the VPN so that users would be able to work from home. That VPN configuration is probably the one thing that I did not much like about the product. It almost makes no sense that it does not have its own VPN client. You have to use the Microsoft VPN client, which is a bit of a pain. If it has to be that way there surely has to be a better way to integrate it.  

With the main Cisco stuff, you just download the VPN client and it has got your anti-virus component and your VPN client. That is just not the case with Meraki. I know they have been talking about trying to work that out and get that installed. Right now it is a sorta major glitching point.  

What about the implementation team?

I did not configure the product originally. Somebody else did it and they did not configure it very well. For example, there is a feature to protect against ransomware and that feature was not even turned on in the device. After I realized it was not working optimally, I got together with the Meraki folks and they got in there and reconfigured it. It became a true AI device at that point. There were really a lot of things wrong with the initial configuration, but that ransomware piece was a pretty major feature to miss.  

After Meraki helped me reconfigure everything, I felt much more comfortable after that. It was done by one of their resellers and I guess I should have gone that way out of the gate.  

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

For a small MX 64, it is maybe $300 to $400 a year. It is nothing really outrageous. I was originally put off that you had to pay for a subscription, but I am a veteran thinking back 10 years ago when there was no such thing as subscriptions. Now just about everything seems to be going that route.  

I could see a firewall device and that is sort of comforting. I do not agree with the solution being like a switch and virtually invisible. Like you could have a switch-up in the ceiling somewhere that nobody knows is there. Then all of a sudden it gets tripped and just stops working. You don't see a device go down. But again, it is not just Meraki that is going with the subscription scheme. It is also other companies like SonicWall. They are all going to subscription-based licensing.  

What other advice do I have?

For small businesses, I would recommend Meraki over pretty much anything else on the market.  

On a scale from one to ten where one is worst and ten is the best, I would rate Meraki Dashboard as an eight-out-of-ten.  

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

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