Meraki Dashboard Review

Has an integrated firewall and an integrated wireless LAN controller in the dashboard

What is our primary use case?

Cisco Meraki offers unified management of devices on a network from a centralized dashboard.

What is most valuable?

The feature that seems most valuable in Meraki is that it covers SD-WAN and also the SD-LAN. In the dashboard, it has an integrated firewall and an integrated wireless LAN controller. Those are the features that are generally most useful for the customer. But, to be honest this is a solution for only small and medium-sized business customers.

What needs improvement?

I don't think that Cisco needs or wants to improve Meraki. Meraki was acquired by Cisco, and Cisco knows exactly what they wanted from the product. This product is only fitting for small to medium business. In order to work with large corporate enterprises, they have acquired another company that will help them provide an enterprise solution. That's why they are not going to improve Meraki. If they were going to try to scale the application of Meraki to enterprise solutions it would not be a good fit.

Both of the Cisco products don't yet support layer 2 MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching). The only vendor I know of today that is supporting MPLS is Nokia. None of Cisco products supporting that protocol, so I think this is a gap in Cisco products.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using the Meraki solution for only about a year.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

As far as scalability, the product is not very scalable. The product will only be fit to cover small to medium businesses and Cisco is not likely to improve on that scalability as they have other products in line for the larger market. If a customer has other hardware that they use which supports a large enterprise, I don't think that Meraki fits as a solution.

How are customer service and technical support?

To be honest about the technical support, in Kuwait we deal with a Cisco distributor and not Cisco directly. If we have any issues, we contact the Cisco distributor and not Cisco directly. So the technical support is not genuine Cisco support, which has an excellent reputation. 

We made the purchase through a vendor named Nordicom, and they would be the company that provides technical support. At this point, we have not had any problems that required contacting the vendor to get a solution. While I am sure that they will be competent as a Cisco vendor because it requires certification, I do not know for a fact about how good their technical support actually is.

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

I have worked with other products like Nuage from Nokia and I think the Meraki dashboard has a more beautiful and useful dashboard compared to other vendors. The other dashboards are more difficult than Meraki, which makes them harder to use. The Meraki dashboard is really very good. It has built-in security which is a feature that not all of the other vendors have. Because of this, other vendors have to integrate with other security vendors or products to provide a security option. Because Meraki is part of Cisco, it is integrated with some Cisco security solutions already. I feel Meraki is one of the best at what it does even if it is not fitting to large enterprises.

How was the initial setup?

The setup for the product is not complex. I think it's very good.

What about the implementation team?

I was working for an ISP and the ISP mentality is to manage the dashboard and installations. We don't let the customer manage the dashboard unless they have requested to do that specifically, and we do the installations.

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

I don't have much experience with the pricing because the financial team is responsible for that. So in terms of comparing the prices between Meraki and other solutions, I do not have direct experience and the information to do that. But I heard that Meraki is not cheap. To be fair this is only what I heard from a good source. It's not the cheapest solution, but it is a good one. I just don't know where it falls exactly in the range of competitors.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Before this, we did not evaluate other solutions because it's a new feature and functionality. Maybe we will test other products now because there are many other players in the market. Each vendor is focused on a specific category of clientele, so not all of the solutions will be appropriate for our needs. We are actually evaluating more than one vendors right now, including Meraki and Datadog.

What other advice do I have?

If a customer who is considering the use of this product is not a very large business and only has few branches, Meraki is a very good solution. For large businesses, it is not a fitting product.

Overall, I rate the product as an eight out of ten. It's a very good solution. The rating is not higher than that because I think eight is the best it can attain at this point. If they make enhancements to make it work more smoothly and add additional useful features, I would rate it higher. I'm leaving the other two points for any future improvements.

The price should be improved — lowered — as well. If it is very expensive compared to other solutions, this will be a challenge for the adoption of the product. Meraki is making a very good solution, but when comparing products, the price will matter to many potential clients. The dashboard is good, but the competing products can improve their own dashboards or make a better, more simple dashboard than the one Meraki has. It's not that big a deal to improve that feature. So if the competition has better prices, a nice dashboard, or better technologies, they will compete and maybe take market share.

As an aside, I had an interesting discussion last week with Cisco while we were evaluating their product. I told them about something that I thought should be improved about the product. They told me: "We are Cisco," meaning that they did not have to worry about improving that aspect of their product because of their popularity and brand name. They have the right to claim they are the best and they have worked to gain that reputation. Most customers know this, and they know Cisco's reputation and their name.

In the end, not all of the customers will go by the name only. Some customers will go with Cisco directly, regardless of how the product develops. But there are other products that compete and customers will discover those when doing comparisons and possibly switch if Cisco does not pay attention to the needs of the clients. For example, Fortinet has its own SD-WAN solution now. Many other players like VMware and Nokia also have their own new or emerging solutions — and they are big, well-known names, like Cisco. If, in the end, they have better solutions, the customer will use their solution instead. It is not enough just to have the name Cisco. 

I am one of the people who is an advocate for Cisco solutions, but the mentality of the company being superior just because they have a name needs to change or the product development will fall behind. Because of this attitude, there is really more reason to consider other products and people will.

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