What Is Meraki Cloud?
| certifications | security - Christian Scott

What Is Meraki Cloud?

The word Meraki means to put something of yourself into whatever you are doing. It is a Greek word that means to do your work with soul or heart. Cisco Meraki has taken this meaning to a whole new level, with a global platform for simplified infrastructure management that is helping businesses grow and become more efficient. Cisco Meraki is a cloud-managed software-defined networking platform for small, medium, and enterprise businesses.

The Meraki platform combines the best of Cisco networking best practices and protocols with a super user-friendly administration experience, right from any web browser. A well-designed web management platform and quality-engineered network devices deliver high-performance network results and reduce operational overhead for IT teams. The Meraki platform helps small network teams make a big mark on their organization’s effectiveness by boosting incident response efficiency, simplifying deployment, and improving security. Let’s dive into the basics of Meraki cloud networking, and how you can get started with Meraki at your company.

Software Defined Networking for Everyone

Software-defined networking is a trend that started in the converged data center, serving the dynamic needs of massive public cloud providers and private infrastructure services. The dynamic nature of software-defined network configuration allows wide-area orchestration of network resources, security policies, and traffic flow rules.

Software-defined networking has been an operating standard for large-scale network infrastructure for some time. This operating model was not commercially available to smaller businesses or companies running internal-only networks until Meraki came about in 2006. Meraki started with a mission to make the internet widely available for free using mesh networking. They quickly pivoted to serving businesses that needed a simple method of deploying corporate networks predictably and reliably.

Legos for IT Admins

In many ways, Cisco Meraki is like the Legos of corporate networks. You can buy standardized parts, and there are well-defined architecture references for how the parts work together. Meraki brings software-defined networking to everyone by allowing administrators to build networking config with a user interface in the cloud. From there, the devices are plugged into an internet connection and automatically apply the configuration, with no requirement to set the device up ahead of time. Throughout the lifetime of the network, admins can make changes to the config and know that the devices will follow shortly behind them, adhering to their every command.

Cloud-Native Devices

Cisco Meraki provides a wide variety of business networking products that are meant for building out any type of infrastructure for businesses, including data centers, small office home offices (SOHO), large campuses, and retail spaces. The devices Meraki currently offers include:

  • Meraki MR Wireless
  • Meraki MS Switches
  • Meraki MX Security Appliances (Routers)
  • Meraki SM Enterprise Mobility Management
  • Meraki MV Security Cameras
  • Meraki Sensors
  • Meraki MG Wireless WAN

These devices cover any point of need for enterprise networking and can be used to build core routing and switching, data center, campus distribution, indoor and outdoor wireless, and both wired and wireless WAN Failover networks. Let’s take a look at how the Meraki system is organized and configured.

Organizations and Networks

When you first create a Cisco Meraki account at dashboard.meraki.com, you will be prompted to create two types of constructs:

  1. Organizations, which represent businesses.
  2. Networks, which represent sites or branches.

Most companies will have one organization, while MSPs or large enterprises may have many organizations. Inside an organization, you can create multiple networks, which may represent different branch offices or buildings. In each network, you can add devices, such as security appliances, switches, and access points.

Security appliances are used as gateways to the internet and connect to Internet Service providers (ISPs). Switches usually connect to the security appliances and distribute internet and other traffic to end-user devices or additional infrastructure. Access points facilitate wireless connectivity to the corporate network. All of these components work together to create a cohesive network platform that is managed from one pane of glass, right in your browser.

Creating Networks and Adding Devices

Once you have an organization set up and a network created, you’re ready to add devices and configure your custom settings! When you order a Cisco Meraki device from Cisco, you will receive an order confirmation with an Order number and Serial number. You can use either of these pieces of information to claim devices in your network under Network-wide, Configure, and Add devices. Once you have added your devices to your network, all of the device-specific tabs, such as “Security & SD-WAN”, “Switch”, and “Wireless” will appear.

From here, you can access all of the settings for your new devices in your branch or office network. This makes it easy to pre-configure things like VPN connections, wireless networks, QoS policies, and subnets before your devices even arrive on location. I have accomplished several Meraki deployments without even traveling to the physical location the devices will be used.

All you need is to set up your configuration ahead of time, claim your devices, and work with someone on-site to plug in the devices to the internet and each other. This makes it easy for companies to scale to new locations and regions with ease while providing great network support and management for localities around the world.

The Power of Cloud Native Networking

The power that Meraki delivers to IT teams is the ability to pivot when problems happen and grow without limits. The Meraki Dashboard is not only a place to apply widespread configuration; it also allows IT teams to monitor their network deployments with live color-coded views of network statuses. Notification options such as email, SMS, and webhooks alert operations teams of network outages, allowing them to respond to failures quickly. If a security appliance loses an internet connection, and cannot failover to another connection, for example, it will send a notification.

From here, IT personnel can notify people and work to resolve the problem. If there is a routing or traffic issue on the local network, IT admins can often use the Meraki dashboard event log and client list to find the source of the issue and correct it. Even better, if you’re stumped on a network issue, you can just call Cisco Meraki support, read off your network support ID, and have a knowledgeable technician figure the issue out with you.

Growth Without Limits

The Meraki platform enables easy business growth and scale; simply place an order for devices, claim them in the Meraki dashboard under an existing network, and the devices become a part of the network seamlessly, inheriting security policies, wireless network names, subnets, and more. Building out new office spaces is easy by adding new networks based on templates and joining devices from anywhere there is an internet connection. Wireless and multi-WAN failover keep users connected to cloud services and dynamic DNS hostnames updated by security appliances allow admins to forward traffic to internal services with ease, over any available connection.

Final Thoughts

Cisco Meraki has changed the way businesses of all shapes and sizes build information networks. From small manufacturing shops and boutique firms to large-scale enterprises growing by acquisition, Cisco Meraki closes a unique gap in the market for businesses that want to remain lean and provide incredible value to their customers. Meraki partners with customers by providing incredible value at a competitive price point, with features like worldwide management, a diverse ecosystem of devices with scale for any application, and world-class support with proactive hardware monitoring.

The easy-to-learn deployment patterns and platform reliability make Meraki the networking platform of champions. Soon, you will be providing great infrastructure results by learning and deploying Meraki, and you too can put all of your heart and soul into great solutions for your company.

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