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The Cisco Meraki Dashboard: Features Review

The Cisco Meraki Dashboard

Before I talk about this case study, I want to take a quick jump over to our Dashboard here. I’m going to log in. I’m in a Chrome window right here. I am entering my credentials. I’m going to log in to the Meraki corporate account and show you what Dashboard actually looks like. When I log in here, I’m taken to this integrated Google map view where I can see the different networks that I have deployed. Because this is our Meraki corporate view, I see networks we have deployed across the world; our San Francisco office here, which is a corporate location. We have teleworker units throughout the US. We have a London branch office, as well as our Sydney office over here.

If I clicked in to this particular network, it’s going to zoom in and show me the different networks that I have deployed in the San Francisco area. Again, we have our corporate office over here as well as a bunch of different teleworker units. I can expand this out. If we had multiple networks deployed within this organization, let’s say you have multiple schools and you have a network for every school, or a network for every library. I could see that full listing, here, of all those different networks. As well as the overall status, whether it’s online, offline or alerting. The overall usage and the number of clients connecting. The network type, whether it’s a wireless network or a security network or a switch network, as well as the overall network health.

The last thing we see on this page are the tags. You can tag your networks however you choose. Here at Meraki, we’ve tagged them based on the types of devices that we have deployed at each location. We have them tagged based on whether they are a teleworker device, they’re a lab device, or even locations. We have our London office tagged here, for instance. You can search on different aspects as well. I can search on London, and pull up the London networks we have. I can search on wireless, and now it’s going to pull up everything that has been tagged as wireless, as well as all the network types that are wireless. I can also search on a particular network name. If I want to search on Meraki Corp, for instance, it’s going to now pull up all the Meraki corporate networks.

I’m going to click in to our main network, here. What we see is actually a combined view. This is showing all of the switching, all of the wireless, and all of the security clients that we have on our network. You can see that we have over 1500 clients. Wired clients, as you can see with this icon. And if I scroll down, you’re also going to see wireless clients, here.

This graph is going to show you the overall network usage. This is, again, showing wired and wireless clients for the past day. I can choose the last 2 hours, week, or month. Then, we have a pie chart over here that actually breaks down the different applications that are on this network. You can see that we actually have a decent amount of iSCSI traffic over here that’s happening during the night, and is lighting up this graph overnight. That’s actually going to be attributed to our nightly switch backups.

Now I can change this and just look at the wireless clients that we have; our access point clients. You can see now that this is changed fairly drastically. The usage now is during the day. Our application pie chart has become much more broken up. If I expand this out, I can see a full listing of the applications, and even sort by usage to see which applications are at the top of this list. In an education environment, things like Facebook, or iTunes, or Spotify are probably not what you want to see as a top usage. You want to see education applications; maybe YouTube or different video streaming applications that you’re using to connect across the world to different experts or different international students. Or even just educational applications that you’re going to be using internally. Those are the ones that you want to see at the top of the list; not things like Facebook.

If I click into this particular application, I can see the different users that are contributing the most to this bandwidth usage. I can even click into one of them and find out more details about this particular client. Including, how long they’ve associated to the network, what access point they’re on, the signal strength, the fact that they’ve logged in using 802.1X authentication, the type of device. Down here, again we see this graph of the bandwidth usage, as well as this application pie chart. So, very familiar indicators of what’s going on. These types of indicators, the graphs, the pie charts, the information, it’s something that you will see remains the same across all of the different device pages that we’re going to see in Dashboard. When you’re clicking through the pages, you intuitively understand what you’re looking at and how to use the information presented to you.

Now, I clicked into this particular client because they were high on the list for Facebook usage. I can scroll down here to the device policy and change it from “normal” to “blocked,” and add a message that says, “Too much Facebook! See IT!” And now, before this user is able to access the network again, they’re going to have to come talk to me and explain why they have been abusing their Facebook privileges. Let’s say that you have permitted Facebook in your environment. But when a student is using too much of it, you might want to talk to them and have them explain their usage and their reasoning before you permit them back onto the network. Once they’ve come and talked to you, I can simply switch this back to “normal,” and they’re good to go again.

Now, I do want to draw your attention to a couple of other things on this page before we migrate to a different page. And that’s the fact that you can see their full network information including their MAC address, port forwarding and VLAN information. You can also send a ping packet across to this client.

Down here at the bottom, I mentioned Systems Manager, this is our mobile device management software. As I mentioned before, it’s completely independent of any Meraki hardware, so you don’t need to have Meraki wireless deployed. However, if you do have Meraki wireless deployed, you will start seeing the benefits of that integration here. While I’m on the client page, I can see their Systems Manager information; the different tags, whether their settings are up to date. I can also see the software that they have installed on their device and whether or not it needs to be updated. Or, whether or not we need to push out new applications that this particular student does not have.

Another great thing to draw your attention to is this integrated blueprint or floor plan. You can upload your blueprints and your floor plans into Dashboard so that you have visibility into where your access points are deployed. If you have three or more access points deployed in your network, you can actually triangulate a user’s location on that particular blueprint as well, which is highly helpful. If a particular client is having issues with the network, you can figure out where they’re located and which access point they’re accessing.

To learn 4 more benefits of the Cisco Meraki dashboard continue reading the Team One Solutions blog.

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