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Last week, I attended a webinar (I don’t like that word) presented by Meraki on the subject of BYOD solutions in a K-12 environment.  The presentation was interesting, certainly, but perhaps the best part was that, as a technology professional and as someone who makes purchasing recommendations for an organization with a budget for technology, I qualified for getting a free access point from Meraki.  Specifically, they sent me an MR12 access point and gave me a free several-year license for their cloud controller to go with it.

In case you don’t know Meraki’s deal, they make a full range of network hardware–APs, switches, and security appliances–which can be managed through the cloud from anywhere.  They also claim that, once you have your cloud controller set up, you can configure a new AP in as little as 15 minutes.  These are things that I like.  I also like getting free things to try out, so I was happy to get an opportunity to evaluate their hardware.

Simple packaging makes me happy.

Nothing superfluous here.

First of all, simple packaging makes me happy.  The box was just big enough for the AP, some mounting hardware, and a bit of padding to keep the thing safe.  No excess packaging.  There was barely any paper literature included in the box, either–just a single piece of paper listing the contents of the box and explaining, in short, that in this digital age, it’s stupid to print out documents that most people are going to throw away or lose anyway.  The access point itself seems to stick to this philosophy as well with a very spare aesthetic that I imagine would be next to invisible when deployed.

(Note, you don’t hear me talking in this unboxing video because I hate hearing my recorded voice and because narrating unboxing videos just seems awkward to me.)

So what happens after you get the thing out of the box?  Well, in my case, a lot of frustration to begin with.  My initial attempts to configure the AP as if it were any other of our APs, putting it on our control network with a static IP, putting it in bridge mode so that clients connected through it are on the LAN, and setting it up to authenticate against our RADIUS server, then making sure that the switch port it’s getting plugged into is associated with the right VLANs.

Then I plug it in and nothing works.  Sure, the power came on and I could see the AP on the cloud controller page, but the controller was reporting that the AP had never connected to the cloud controller, and the lights were flashing in a way that told me that it was getting a bad gateway.  That ain’t no good.

Well, I read through a lot of documentation, tried some things, and basically frustrated myself more working on it while during the afternoon when I kept on running off to attend to more urgent matters.

Wawa travel mug for scale (and because it was there first, and I'm not kicking it out of its home for some upstart AP).

Wawa travel mug for scale (and because it was there first, and I’m not kicking it out of its home for some upstart AP).

Today, after some more fiddling with the firewall and quiet swearing, I decided, what the hell, I’ll just plug it in to a regular network port, not trying to put the thing in Bridge mode, and just hoping that it would work as simply as I’d been promised.  Wouldn’t you know?  It worked.  It came on no problem.  The lights all went green (well, the power light started flashing orange after a bit, but that’s because it was updating the firmware for the first time, but after a reboot, it came back on no problem).  So now it’s sitting on my desk, plugged into the only network cable I had on hand, which is going through the switch in the back of my desk phone.  Maybe it’s not ideal, but I can finally start messing around with the cloud controller some more and really get an idea of what I’m working with and if I’m going to make the recommendation that we invest in Meraki hardware as we expand and upgrade our wireless.

Expect to see more about this hardware and probably some competing wireless solutions on here in the coming weeks.

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