Managed Services for Meraki: Demystified

Wireless internet is vital to your organization.

Cloud applications drive your day-to-day operations. Digital data steers your strategic decisions. Your users expect to access their work apps and data from any device or location.

For these reasons, you depend on an advanced network infrastructure. But what happens when “advanced” becomes “too complex to handle”?

Over time, added layers of technology create silos. Distinct networking devices and software require more specialized skill sets. Each one adds to the cost of keeping the network up and running.

Cloud-hosted wireless networking from Cisco Meraki goes a long way to simplify things.

It offers a powerful, cloud-managed solution for companies with a high priority on the cloud or hybrid IT initiatives and limited time or resources to deploy them. Its wireless mesh technology is well-suited to teams managing networks across several distributed locations.

Nonetheless, network growth, increasing performance demands, and evolving security concerns keep networking teams stretched to the limit. Even with Meraki cloud solutions in place, many can’t spare the time or resources to get the most out of the technology.

That’s why we created Keystone Managed Services for Meraki. In the article below, we explore the top three things you stand to gain from a managed services approach to your Cisco Meraki deployment.

Put Time Back on the Clock

Is your team up-to-date on every aspect of your Meraki licensing? Are they implementing hardware support tickets as fast as they could be? Are they on top of your return materials authorization (RMA) requirements?

Even the best IT teams get overwhelmed. Given the pace of change in most environments, it’s often a challenge for seasoned network professionals to sustain smooth daily operations. It’s also the everyday management tasks that pile up when higher priorities arise.

Lack of time, along with resource shortages and poor visibility into the network, make it difficult to plan and implement long-term improvements to the network.

Imagine what you could accomplish if you had that time back.

A managed services approach automates the repetitive, time-consuming operational processes associated with maintaining your Meraki deployment. Outsourced experts from Softchoice oversee the day-to-day aspects of support, including subscription management, compliance and device licensing.

We keep your network running in the background, freeing your IT resources to deliver on core objectives and innovation projects. The result? Your in-house team spends less time keeping the lights on – and more time moving the business forward.

Do Better than “Break-Fix”

Maintaining a network takes a lot of work. Much of that effort is spent reacting to problems as they arise. Between sustaining daily operations and troubleshooting issues, there’s little time to keep on top of emerging trends and threats

In fact, 91% of IT executives surveyed by IDG believed the networking profession is only becoming more challenging. Meanwhile, 70% felt the cloud adds even more difficulty.

In many cases, in-house IT personnel – and some managed services providers (MSPs) – lack the skills to move past a reactive, “break-fix” model of network support. Meanwhile, productivity lost due to outages and downtime for repairs can put a significant fiscal strain on a business.

Under a Softchoice Managed Services engagement, we focus on providing proactive mentorship to help you avoid common problems and get the most from your Meraki deployment.

Our subject matter experts (SMEs) guide you through the complex waters of licensing selection and asset management. Then, through event-style coaching, we bring your in-house skill set up to speed while keeping you abreast of the latest threats. The offering also includes support from Cisco-certified experts, which makes up the majority of our engineering team, who are available 24/7.

Move Beyond “Plug-and-Play”

Poor visibility is the biggest impediment to efficient network performance. Cloud-managed networking from Meraki provides plenty of real-time data into what’s going on network-wide. That visibility is critical for managing and securing traffic on your network.

However, the default configurations for your Meraki tools may not be best-suited to the needs of your environment. At the same time, reconfiguring tools to meet evolving requirements take up time and resources your team doesn’t have.

Our Keystone Managed Services team conducts a deep-dive assessment of your current environment, including traffic and usage metrics. From here, we help you move past “plug-and-play” configurations toward implementations optimized for your environment.

We focus on mentoring your team in all aspects of Meraki, from configuration to best practices for moves, adds and changes (MACs). Throughout the engagement, we recommend performance improvements and configuration changes based on quarterly assessments of your network.

Making Hybrid IT a Reality in 2017

Making Hybrid IT a Reality in 2017

Traditional IT – while continuing to innovate and bring new technology to the business – is not able to keep up with the rapid pace of change and innovation happening within the business. As a result, organizations are searching beyond traditional IT for new ways to increase agility, improve time to market, and more flexible consumption models that reduce the risk associated with large capital investments.

According to a recent Softchoice study of 1500 end users, 1-in-3 users have downloaded a cloud application without letting their IT department know and the majority don’t understand the risks. [Read more…]

Keeping up with the cloud: Embracing a more dynamic data center

Keeping up with the cloud: Embracing a more dynamic data center

Increased adoption of virtualization over the past decade and a recent boost in cloud adoption is causing data centers to evolve at an unprecedented pace.

“The drive to the cloud or hybrid IT changes the dynamic of the data center,” says Chris Martin, Senior Systems Engineer at Softchoice. “Where application data resides and where applications are hosted are very different today than five years ago.”

“And that’s changing traffic in the data center and now you need to ask, ‘How do I support that as an IT organization?’”

This blog is second in a three-part Cisco ‘Ask an Expert’ series looking at how hybrid IT is influencing the technology topics of the network, data center, and unified communications. We asked Martin to outline the issues and trends that are reshaping the face of data centers and how organizations can better support them today.

What are the trends impacting data centers today?

There’s a lot of consolidation. Virtualization has driven a lot of it, from multiple dedicated computers for each application down to just a single server running them all. And now even that is being stretched between cloud, or multiple data centers or even just various nodes for storage. The architecture has changed so much over the past few years.

Technology trends like big data, analytics, the IoT (the Internet of Things) each have their own unique impact on the data center as well. As we connect more and more devices we create more and more data, and that leads to increased storage requirements. For companies with IoT or big data initiatives, how the data center is designed and deployed is changing.

How can IT better keep up with this changing face of the data center and support it?

One big change is around the expectation of availability created by the cloud, and how fast you can turn IT resources up and down. To be cost effective, organizations need to turn their data centers into a private cloud, where they can treat applications similarly whether on or off premise. The way that happens is through automation, whether it’s software-defined networking (SDN) or the orchestration of VMware applications.

Basically, it comes down to needing to do more with less. You need to automate, streamline, and bring in orchestration technologies to help manage that. You also need architectures, vendors, and equipment that are very open in order to support that process.

It’s a long migration roadmap, but even as you take small steps towards it, you want to keep the end goal in sight. This is where we help a lot of customers by identifying where they are today and how they can move their networks into the required architecture, such as SDN. We then assist with implementation, and have the ability, through Keystone Managed Services, to support that architecture.

How can organizations better ready their data centers to take advantage of things like IoT and big data?

Don’t overlook the importance of the network. It’s always a critical part of the data center, even if traffic stays within it. It’s not just performance that is crucial, but also security.

Make sure the network is designed to support the different architectures involved and aligns with the technology initiatives being launched.

It’s like a town. Think of the network as the roads. Every town is different and is going to have their own roadmaps and requirements based on size and throughput and requirements. Like a town, you’re going to have standardization and notable things true of all data centers, but where and how they happen are different for each.
What key things need to be asked when evaluating data center solutions?

One of the most important considerations you must ask yourself is, how do I manage this? What strain is this new piece of equipment going to put on my administrators?

Performance is always the number one thing to look at. The number two consideration is how easily it can be managed. Number three is understanding what support options exist. Number four is keeping in mind the business initiatives and what is needed to complete them. And, moving towards them.

Having a high degree of support from vendors and partners is important. With any solution, you need to consider how hard it is to replace an administrator when you lose them.
Remember the network is key. You could have the best data center technology in the world, but if you don’t have the right technology connecting it everyone is going to suffer. The network is the lifeblood of the data center.

Ask an Expert Webinar

Want to learn more about the role of the network on the changing face of the data center for the Cisco infrastructure? Join Chris Martin for 30 minutes on January 24th and register for our Ask an Expert Series focused on the data center.