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Westmont College jumps to Gigabit Wi-Fi for three reasons: "Speed, speed and speed"

CIO calls Meraki network 'one of the best purchasing decisions I've made in my career'

By Julie Sartain, Network World
February 05, 2014 06:28 AM ET

Network World - Westmont College was the first school in the country to deploy an all-802.11n network when, four years ago, it rolled out 290 Meraki access points to bring nearly complete coverage to dorms, classrooms and campus buildings.

So, it’s no surprise that CIO Reed Sheard is moving quickly to keep Westmont College, a small liberal arts school in Santa Barbara, Calif., on the cutting edge by upgrading to 802.11ac. And the fact that Cisco bought Meraki in 2012 is a plus, Sheard says, because the college’s wired infrastructure just happens to be 100% Cisco.

"We have no traditional Cisco wireless equipment in our network and, thus, no on-premise controllers or software management tools," says Sheard. "The real benefit of the purchase of Meraki by Cisco is that it makes for a more predictable future between our wired and wireless partners working together as a single organization."

According to Sheard, the college has bolstered its existing 802.11n network with 100 Meraki/Cisco MR34 802.11ac access points, and is currently rolling out another 100. All of the wireless traffic links back to the Cisco wired network.

I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but Meraki Cisco was one of the best purchasing decisions I’ve made in my career as a CIO. The stuff just works; it’s easy to extend and manage.

Sheard says one of the best features of the Meraki network is its cloud-based management system, which allows a broad range of system administrators to manage the network. He adds, "Our hope is that Cisco will be influenced by Meraki to move more management tools for the network infrastructure to a cloud-based model."

+ ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: Santa Clara University graduates to Gigabit Wi-Fi | Macbook Pro delivers blazing speed in Gigabit Wi-Fi test +

Need for speed

“The answer to why upgrade is simple: speed, speed, and speed; plus, I might add, pervasive and stable,” says Sheard. “I don’t want to sound like a commercial, but Meraki Cisco was one of the best purchasing decisions I’ve made in my career as a CIO. The stuff just works; it’s easy to extend and manage. I just want to take that stability, and the fact that we’ve got it over our entire campus, and boast about how it’s bringing cutting edge speed to our network. And, I think the apps and the innovation that can happen when you have pervasiveness, stability, and speed is really going to open some doors for us as an institution.”

The ultimate benefit for the school is not speed for its own sake, but the applications that can run on top of the Wi-Fi network. "The Meraki model simply works, which allows my team to focus on more complex projects and/or new strategic initiatives,” says Sheard.

“Performance is, obviously, amazing and the benefits are limitless! By having a screaming, fast, wireless backbone; we can get rich content out there and not have to worry about the user experience, which kills it if we don’t get it right the first time. Students won’t come back and use the apps we’ve worked so hard to create, if these projects initially fail,” says Sheard.

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