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Understanding Meraki Access Points: Enhancing Network Efficiency & Security

User Story: June 12, 2023

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In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, businesses need innovative solutions that optimize their network performance and provide robust security. A reliable and powerful wireless networking infrastructure is essential for providing seamless and efficient connectivity to users. Cisco Meraki Access Points offer high performance combined with advanced features, simplified management, and top-notch security. Here, we dive deep into the world of Meraki Access Points to understand how they benefit various businesses.

What are Meraki Access Points?

Meraki Access Points (APs) are professional-grade wireless networking devices that provide Wi-Fi access to users in a network. Designed and managed by Cisco, a leading networking technology provider, Meraki APs are specifically engineered to deliver enterprise-level wireless performance while being easy to configure, scale and manage. These devices are part of the Meraki ecosystem, a comprehensive suite of IT solutions that revolutionize the way businesses manage their networks.

Key Features of Meraki Access Points

Cisco’s Meraki Access Points deliver high-speed wireless connectivity with powerful features designed to benefit businesses of all sizes. Some of the most notable features include:

  1. Ease of Deployment and Management: Meraki APs can be quickly deployed and are easy to configure using the Meraki Dashboard, an intuitive web-based interface that provides remote management of the network. The dashboard also streamlines monitoring, troubleshooting, and automatic firmware updates, significantly reducing IT workload.
  2. Scalability: Meraki Access Points are designed for seamless, scalable growth. As a business expands or the number of users and devices in its network grows, Meraki APs can be added to provide additional coverage and capacity. Plug-and-play functionality ensures minimal downtime in upgrading or expanding your network.
  3. High Performance: Meraki APs are engineered to deliver fast, reliable Wi-Fi connections across a broad range of scenarios, from small offices to large, high-density environments. With advanced technologies like 802.11ac Wave 2 and optimized radio frequency (RF) design, these devices offer consistent, high-performance coverage for users.
  4. Advanced Network Security: Integrated security features like Air Marshal wireless intrusion prevention, client isolation, and rogue AP detection ensure that your network stays secure. Additionally, they support the latest encryption technologies like WPA3 for secure and encrypted communication between devices. Finally, thanks to their cloud-based nature, their security is continuously monitored and updated.
  5. Integrated Networking Solutions: Meraki Access Points can be easily integrated with other Meraki products such as switches, firewalls and routers, licenses, and cellular gateways for an end-to-end networking solution. This creates a complete IT ecosystem that’s easy to manage and monitor from the Meraki Dashboard.

Selecting the Right Meraki Access Point for Your Business

When it comes to choosing a Meraki Access Point for your business, several factors need to be considered. The size of the coverage area, the number of users, and specific networking requirements should all be evaluated to make an informed choice. Here’s a quick guide to help you choose the right Meraki AP for your organization:

1. Indoor vs. Outdoor Access Points

Meraki offers both indoor and outdoor APs, each designed for specific environments. If you need Wi-Fi coverage inside buildings, indoor access points are an ideal choice. They are optimized for office spaces, conference rooms, retail stores, and educational institutions.

To provide Wi-Fi connectivity in outdoor areas like parks, parking lots, and patios, Meraki outdoor access points are designed to withstand harsh weather conditions with a ruggedized casing, while maintaining high-performance wireless connectivity.

2. Performance and Capacity

Different Meraki AP models have varying levels of performance and capacity. If your organization requires high-density deployments that can handle a large number of connected users and devices, consider APs with faster processors, more memory, and support for advanced features like 802.11ac Wave 2.

In cases where fewer users or devices are connected, and high-performance features aren’t strictly necessary, more affordable models with essential Wi-Fi capabilities will suffice.

3. Compatibility with Existing Network Infrastructure

Meraki APs can be smoothly integrated into most existing network infrastructures. However, when making your decision, it’s essential to ensure compatibility with your current switches, firewalls and routers, and other network devices. This will help you efficiently optimize the performance and management of your network.

4. Budget Considerations

Your budget also plays a crucial role in determining the appropriate Meraki Access Point for your organization. Balance the features, performance, and deployment costs to find an AP that meets your needs without exceeding your designated IT expenditures.

5. Licensing and Support

Cisco Meraki offers various licensing options to suit your organization’s requirements. Licensing not only covers the use of the hardware device but also provides access to the Meraki Dashboard, software, latest firmware updates, and 24/7 customer support. Review the available license options to determine the best fit for your business.

How to Deploy and Manage Meraki Access Points in Your Network

Once you’ve selected the right Meraki Access Point(s) for your business, the next step is deploying and managing them effectively. Cisco Meraki has made the deployment and management process incredibly straightforward and user-friendly, even for those with limited technical expertise. Here’s a step-by-step guide on deploying and managing your Meraki APs using the Meraki Dashboard:

Step 1: Preparing your network environment

Before installing your Meraki APs, it’s essential to ensure that your network environment is ready. This includes tasks such as:

  • Checking that your switches and firewalls are properly configured and compatible with Meraki APs.
  • Ensuring adequate power supply for the APs. Most Meraki devices are powered through Power over Ethernet (PoE), so you will need to have PoE-capable switches or PoE injectors.
  • Planning the AP placement to maximize coverage and avoid interference. Meraki provides a handy wireless network planning tool to help you determine optimal access point locations.

Step 2: Setting up your Meraki Dashboard account

The Meraki Dashboard is a centralized management platform that allows you to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot your Meraki Access Points and other Meraki devices remotely. To create a Dashboard account, visit the Meraki Dashboard login page and follow the prompts to sign up for an account.

Step 3: Adding your Meraki Access Points to the Dashboard

Next, add your new Meraki APs to your Dashboard account. To do this, you need to claim the devices using their serial numbers or order numbers. Simply log in to your Dashboard account, navigate to the “Inventory” section, click on “Add devices,” and follow the on-screen instructions.

Step 4: Creating and configuring your Meraki network

Once your devices are added to the inventory, you can create a new network and assign your APs to it. The Dashboard allows you to configure multiple networks and customize their settings to suit your organization’s needs. Some primary settings to configure include:

  • Wireless SSIDs: Define unique and secure Wi-Fi network names for your users.
  • Security and authentication: Choose appropriate security measures, including encryption and authentication methods, to protect your network.
  • VLAN and IP settings: Configure VLANs and IP addressing schemes to optimize network segmentation and traffic flow.

Step 5: Installing and powering up your Meraki Access Points

Now that your network is set up in the Meraki Dashboard, you can physically install your APs in their predetermined locations. Connect your devices to the appropriate PoE-capable switches or PoE injectors and power them on. The Meraki APs will automatically connect to the Dashboard, download their configuration settings, and start broadcasting your Wi-Fi networks.

Step 6: Monitoring and managing your Meraki network

The Meraki Dashboard offers a wealth of information and valuable insights into your network’s performance. Key features like real-time monitoring, historical data, and built-in network analytics allow you to keep a close eye on your infrastructure’s health. Additionally, the Dashboard provides continual updates, ensuring your devices stay up-to-date and secure.

Expanding Your Network with Meraki Accessory Devices

As your organization grows, it may be necessary to adapt and expand your network infrastructure to accommodate increasing user demands and achieve greater efficiency. Cisco Meraki Access Points are designed to work seamlessly with other Meraki products and accessories, allowing businesses to create a complete, end-to-end networking solution. In this section, we will explore various Meraki accessory devices that can help enhance your network’s functionality and performance.

1. Meraki Switches

Meraki switches are cloud-managed network switches that simplify network management and provide seamless connectivity between devices. They come in various capacities and form factors, catering to businesses of all sizes. Meraki switches are compatible with Meraki Access Points, ensuring a high-performance and secure connection between the devices. Key features of Meraki switches include:

  • Centralized management via Meraki Dashboard
  • Layer 2 and Layer 3 switching capabilities
  • Power over Ethernet (PoE) support for powering APs and other devices
  • Advanced security features for protecting network traffic

2. Meraki Security Cameras

To enhance your organization’s security, consider integrating Meraki security cameras into your network. These cloud-managed cameras provide high-quality video surveillance and analytics, helping to monitor and secure your premises 24/7. Meraki security cameras are easily managed via the Meraki Dashboard and can be accessed remotely from any device. Key features include:

  • High-definition video resolution
  • Advanced motion-based analytics
  • Secure video storage on the camera or in the cloud
  • Integration with access points and switches for seamless connectivity

3. Meraki Firewalls and Routers

Protecting your network from external threats is crucial for ensuring its integrity and security. Meraki firewalls and routers are designed to provide advanced security features and high-performance connectivity. These devices integrate seamlessly with your Meraki Access Points, offering end-to-end network protection. Some notable features of Meraki firewalls include:

  • Stateful firewall capabilities
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Secure VPN connections for remote users
  • Centralized management through the Meraki Dashboard

4. Meraki Cellular Gateway

For organizations seeking a reliable, high-speed cellular-based backup solution, consider deploying the Meraki Cellular Gateway. This device connects directly to your existing Meraki network infrastructure and provides failover connectivity through 3G/4G or LTE cellular networks, ensuring uninterrupted network service in case of primary connection failures. Key features include:

  • Auto VPN failover for seamless network continuity
  • High performance and low latency with Gigabit Ethernet connectivity
  • Simple, real-time cellular connectivity monitoring via the Meraki Dashboard

Final Thoughts

By leveraging these Meraki accessory devices alongside your Meraki Access Points, your organization can build a comprehensive, efficient, and secure network infrastructure. These accessories not only enhance your network’s performance but also simplify its management through the centralized Meraki Dashboard.

At A5 IT, we are committed to helping businesses discover and deploy the perfect IT and networking solutions. If you’re ready to expand your network with Meraki accessory devices, browse our selection in the online shop or contact us for personalized assistance. Don’t forget to explore our blog and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for more insights and valuable information on IT and networking solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is an access point Meraki?

A Meraki Access Point is a wireless device from Cisco Meraki that provides Wi-Fi connectivity to users in a network. It’s managed through the cloud, allowing for easy setup and centralized control.

What are the benefits of a Meraki access point?

The benefits of a Meraki Access Point include easy installation and management, robust security features, scalability, and the ability to monitor and control the network remotely through a cloud-based dashboard.

How do I use Meraki access point?

To use a Meraki Access Point, you need to connect it to your network, configure it via the Meraki dashboard, and then connect your devices to the Wi-Fi network it provides.

What is the range of the Cisco Meraki access point?

The range of a Cisco Meraki Access Point varies depending on the model and environment, but generally, it can cover an area of up to 100-300 feet indoors. Outdoor models can cover larger areas.

Can Meraki work without internet?

Meraki devices require an internet connection for initial setup, updates, and management via the cloud dashboard. However, local network operations can continue without an internet connection.

Is Meraki a firewall?

Meraki is not a firewall, but it does offer firewall features. It’s a suite of network devices, including access points, switches, and security appliances, some of which have built-in firewall capabilities.

What are the uses of Meraki?

Meraki is used for creating and managing networks. Its uses include providing Wi-Fi connectivity, securing the network, managing traffic, and providing insights into network usage.

What is the main purpose of access point?

The main purpose of an access point is to extend the range of a wired network by creating a wireless network that devices can connect to, thus providing internet access in a specific area.

What is the main function of access point?

The main function of an access point is to broadcast a Wi-Fi signal that devices can connect to. It acts as a bridge between the wired network and wireless devices, allowing them to communicate with each other.

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