Meraki's Enterprise Cloud Controller could potentially offset costs associated with remote access management and wireless network hardware for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but will a cloud-based model present challenges a larger enterprise should avoid? This product spotlight article explains.
What is Meraki's Enterprise Cloud Controller?
Meraki combines its business-grade 802.11n access points with a cloud-hosted controller solution, offering small and midsized businesses an enterprise-class wireless LAN (WLAN) solution without much upfront wireless network hardware and setup cost. The Meraki Enterprise Cloud Controller provides a centralized console for all of an enterprise's wireless networks and enables remote network and security configuration and monitoring of connected access points from anywhere on the Web. The 802.11n access points, available in single, double and triple radio models, basically configure themselves by automatically connecting to the Cloud Controller. Prices start at $599 for a single radio access point and $150 per access point annual subscription rate for the Cloud Controller service.
Which companies is Meraki's Enterprise Cloud Controller best suited for?
Targeted at networks with between 50 and 5,000 users, the Meraki Enterprise Cloud Controller is going after small to medium-sized enterprises. These are organizations with a small or nonexistent IT staff that want a streamlined WLAN solution without installing a lot of hardware. This is also the lower end of the enterprise market that may opt for consumer-grade products, such as standalone access points, based on cost. The Cloud Controller solution brings a relatively low entry point to the features and functionality of higher-end enterprise solutions to address this section of the market. The Meraki solution might also be a good fit for smaller companies that have a number of disparate remote workers or sites, such as convenience stores or retail kiosks. The cloud-based controller would enable centralized configuration and control of those remote wireless networks without having to build dedicated WAN or VPN links to each of the remote locations. While it is possible to scale Meraki's solution up to larger enterprises, companies of that size are more likely to have dedicated networking staff who would probably opt for more traditional WLAN solutions that offer greater scale and localized control.
Are there drawbacks to Meraki's cloud-based WLAN management?
The biggest consideration is ultimately what level of control the organization is willing to relinquish when moving solutions into the cloud. In the case of Meraki's WLAN solution, the vendor handles all of the software updates for both the cloud controller and the access points. While this is likely to be a boon for smaller enterprises with little to no IT staff to perform these updates, many medium-sized customers may take a more conservative approach, opting out of the latest and greatest software code in order to avoid any bugs or issues typically associated with new software releases. Finally, a leap of faith is required to adopt Meraki's cloud-based products. Users of more traditional, hardware controller-based WLAN solutions could keep on running their installed networks if their vendor were to be acquired or otherwise leave the market. With a controller in the cloud, Meraki customers could be left with orphaned hardware if something were to happen to the company. While the health of its vendors should always be a consideration for an enterprise, the situation is more acute when relying on that vendor to provide services from the cloud, rather than on-premise products.