How large as well as smaller Wi-Fi infrastructures can be brought right up to date and made easier to use with a modern Cloud-based management solution.

The Digital Transformation is also having a major impact on universities in Germany and its neighbouring countries. However, advancing digitalisation requires high-performance networks that have no problem in connecting thousands of students and lecturers with one another and with the Internet by means of both wired and wireless systems. Cisco Meraki is one manufacturer that has especially stood out in this field in the last few years. The firm was founded in San Francisco in 2006 and specialises in network products that be managed centrally via the Web. Since 2012 it has belonged to Cisco Systems, the world’s largest supplier of network equipment.

Experience from the USA has shown that wireless products from Cisco Meraki are capable of reliably supplying Wi-Fi to campus networks with, for example, 7000 subscribers spread throughout several dozen buildings. The University of North Carolina has over 700 Cisco Meraki MR access points in lecture theatres and classrooms, libraries, student residences and outside, which can now be managed centrally via the Internet by a team consisting of a just a few members.

Karte eines Universitätscampus mit APs von Cisco Meraki

Seamless wireless connections throughout the campus

Cisco Meraki MR30H access points were installed in some of the buildings. These were designed for modern Wi-Fi provisioning in hotel rooms, university halls of residence and other wide-area environments. The devices support dual band, 802.11ac Wave 2, 2×2:2 MU-MIMO as well as a quad-radio architecture and are also equipped with a 4-port gigabit Ethernet switch that also provides Power-over-Ethernet (PoE). Meraki MR53 high-density wireless access points were installed in an older apartment complex and supplemented by MR84 outdoor access points.

The Cisco Identity Services Engine (ISE) is used for authentication with the network. This robust security solution offers central, uniform management of network policies, thus ensuring consistent security across the whole infrastructure. As a result, the University of North Carolina no longer obliges its students to install antivirus solutions. Thanks to the ISE, the university now always knows who has loaded the latest patches for their devices and who has not. If a threat to the network is detected, the device concerned can be blocked, as can unwanted applications used for crypto-mining, for example.

No more gaps in provision

Three Wi-Fi networks were set-up across the campus. These can be used seamlessly and with automatic routing. The main network was designed for students and university staff only. There is also open Wi-Fi for guests and an Eduroam network. Thanks to this initiative, students and staff of other universities on the campus of the University of North Carolina now have fast, straightforward access to the Internet – using their existing user names and passwords.

One of the greatest challenges is the constant growth in the required bandwidth. The university network now has a 10-gigabit connection to the wide area networks. The backup line was also upgraded from 1 to 10 gigabits. Installation of the Meraki products saw no dips in performance. The administrators report that they benefited immediately from the simplified management and high level of flexibility provided by the various products offered by the network manufacturer.

Meraki Dashboard

Significant reduction in support tickets

The help desk also registered a dramatic reduction in incoming tickets and issues reported by students since deployment of the Wi-Fi. This is quite an achievement considering that in student residences the network is used intensively for streaming films, chatting with friends, playing video games and, of course, for studying.

Before the previously used old hardware was replaced with Cisco Meraki products, the University of North Carolina’s IT team was spending a great deal of time on day-to-day issues, that is to say maintaining network operation and troubleshooting. The amount of time spent on such work has been reduced considerably since switching to the Cisco Meraki Cloud solution. Staff now have more time to implement new services, for example. Thanks to the Cloud service model, the team can now focus more on new functions rolled out by the vendor, one example being the Layer-3 routing subsequently launched by Cisco Meraki.

Upgrade plans and outlook

The university is planning a step-by-step upgrade of its network and services. For example, they are considering using Bluetooth beacons to enable tracking within buildings. The aim here is to gain a better overview of student activities so that the network can continue to be adapted to their actual needs.

If you yourself are contemplating upgrading your wireless infrastructure, be it in an enterprise or university network, get in touch with us. HCD Consulting will use its extensive experience of projects and technology to support you in any kind of situation. What is more, you can also arrange your hardware purchases through us. Just get in touch. We will be happy to advise you on a wide range of topics.