Cisco Meraki vs Ubiquiti: Products, Features, Cost
An organization is only as strong as its wireless capabilities. In other words, if the WiFi goes down, so does the business. Luckily, several wireless hardware vendors provide top-tier solutions. However, it is not always easy to discern which one is the fastest, cheapest, and/or most reliable.
This post will delve into some of the differences between two of the major wireless appliance players: Meraki and Ubiquiti. We'll go over the two — and which one will ultimately fit your needs.
What is Cisco Meraki?
Cisco Meraki was established in 2006 and focuses on wireless appliances. After operating independently for six years, they were purchased by Cisco in November of 2012.
Cisco Meraki offers three umbrellas of technology: Access, WAN (Wide Area Network), and IoT (Internet of Things). Their Access-centric appliances focus on leveraging the cloud to build more globally accessible solutions. For example, Meraki offers MDM (Mobile Device Management) solutions to help mobile phone user's access the applications they need. On the flip side, it blocks out unwanted guests from accessing or snooping on the VPN.
One of the best solutions Meraki provides are SD-WANs or software-defined WANs. SD-WANs are cloud integrated networks that reduce latency by communicating directly with the cloud instead of needing to go through a central server. Eliminating these unneeded traffic hops reduces latency and increases security. Because SD-WANs are cloud integrated, they can intelligently route traffic to adapt to changing network conditions, thereby ensuring VoIP or otherwise time-critical data is prioritized.
Lastly, Cisco Meraki offers numerous IoT devices to integrate into your organization. For instance, they provide a cloud-centric security camera to oversee the organization's physical perimeter. It comes standard with features such as license plate recognition and EVERYANGLE, which provides suspicious person detections. EVERYANGLE integrates machine learning into security cameras, and will send SMS, Slack Message or phone calls if it sees suspicious people. For instance, it will trigger an alarm if an individual is seen wearing a mask with a baseball bat. That may seem pretty suspicious in a bank!
What is Ubiquiti?
Ubiquiti was founded around the same time as Meraki in 2003. They provide numerous software solutions and hardware appliances to fit a small to medium-sized organization's networking needs. In a similar vein to Cisco Meraki, Ubiquiti divides their products into three general lines: IoT, Access, and Routing.
One of Ubiquiti's flagship products is the Dream Machine Pro. It's an enterprise-grade, scalable all-in-one networking device. It has handy features such as a built-in security gateway, WAN support, 8-Port Gigabyte switch and a video recorder. This is a convenient device that is not offered by many others at this price and level of simplicity.
The Dream Machine Pro, among other Ubiquity hardwares, also comes with a great piece of software: the UniFi OS. The UniFi OS is a modern and convenient UI that integrates seamlessly with all of your Ubiquiti appliances. For example, let's say you purchase a Dream Machine Pro, some security cameras, and some routers. All of these devices can be easily managed from one device with UniFi OS. It will provide all data needed to start, stop, configure, and troubleshoot these devices.
Now that we have a good understanding of what each vendor provides, let's discuss what to consider when choosing one over the other.
What to Consider When Choosing a Networking Solution
Ubiquiti and Cisco Meraki are both reputable, high quality vendors. However each one is tailored to certain business needs. It is ultimately up to you or your IT professional to decide which one is right for you.
Cisco Meraki requires a license to operate most of their appliances, such as their security gateway, cameras, and more. Meraki requires licenses based on the hardware you purchase and quantity. Keep in mind though, that this is not a hard fast rule. You could upgrade an MR18 Access Point to an MR33 and keep the same license.
The price of each device may vary — ranging from around $150 to $400 per year — but you get the idea that the licensing price will grow high rather quickly. With all that being said, if you can afford their annual price then Meraki is an excellent solution.
Ubiquiti, on the other hand, has zero licensing fees. So once you buy it, it's yours. This is an excellent solution for small to mid-size businesses looking for a cost-friendly solution. Also since Ubiquiti has no license fee, it is perfect for a work from home setup as well.
Cisco Meraki has top-notch customer support. When purchasing Meraki, it is advisable to opt into their Meraki Now — Advanced Hardware Replacement plan. The Cisco Meraki service plan has technicians on-call 24/7/365 to assist with any technical issues. Additionally, hardware can be replaced or troubleshot to satisfaction in a matter of days. Ut's in their SLA. Meraki Now is priced based on the value of the appliance itself. For example, a wireless appliance warranty is priced at 8.5% of the cost of the device itself. A security appliance, on the other hand, is 19.13% of the device.
If you opt out of Meraki Now all together, you will have only the standard 1-year warranty on some devices and a life-time warranty on others. Suffice it to say, many organizations come to regret opting out of Meraki Now.
Now let's talk a bit about Ubiquiti customer support. Ubiquiti has a standard warranty that does not appear to be as robust as Meraki Now. Then again, there is a good chance a small to midsize business will not need the level of support offered by Meraki. That sort of warranty is for businesses that could potentially lose millions of dollars from downtime. If you do not fall into that category, then Meraki Now is probably overkill anyways.
However just because their customer support is not on par with Cisco, does not mean Ubiquiti will leave you in the lurch. Ubiquiti has a vibrant community forum where questions can be fielded. Additionally, their support technicians are available on-call 24/7 to answer any questions that may arise.
More people work, shop, and bank online than ever before. As an online business, it is critical that your network infrastructure can support the varying loads to your systems. With that being said, Cisco Meraki will generally offer a more robust scaling environment. However, as mentioned earlier, you will certainly be paying for it.
One thing to remember however is that you can easily mix and match Ubiquiti devices with Cisco Meraki appliances. That way you can get the best of both worlds. Find out which piece of hardware is required for high availability and scalability. Use Meraki for that, and use Ubiquiti for your other networking needs.
Meraki vs Ubiquiti: Which Should You Use?
When thinking about the two options, it is important to understand your budget and overall network needs. Are millions of people, involving millions of dollars worth of transactions going to be passing through your network? If that is the case, then go with Meraki. Are you a small to midsize business looking for an easy, reliable infrastructure? Then Ubiquiti is certainly worth looking into.
Overall, Ubiquiti shines with their price model and ease of use. Meraki on the other hand is well suited for enterprise-level networking and top-tier customer support.