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Posted 9 months ago

Optimising network performance is critical to operational success, regardless of the size of your business. You need a secure network that offers unmatched visibility to provide the most enhanced user experience possible. But, because time is money, just like an increasing number of SMEs, you also want to reduce the burden of network deployment, monitoring, and management.

With a wealth of information out there, knowing where to start can be tricky. Luckily, at Genisys, we’ve done the research for you.

Jump straight to section:

  1. How to manage networks and security from the Cloud
  2. How to use cloud networks and security across your SME
  3. What are the common barriers to cloud network implementation?
  4. The best practices for cloud security and networking
  5. Is Cisco Meraki the right choice for your cloud network?
  6. Cisco Meraki success story: SME setup
  7. Getting set up with Cisco Meraki

 

Believing it to be the best solution available, we’ve partnered with Cisco Meraki to bring you a fully managed cloud networking solution for wireless, switching, communications, EMM, and security. In this handy guide, we tell you everything you need to know about getting up-and-running with Cisco Meraki; looking at how this powerful business tool can provide the high-performance, next-generation network management you need. At a price you can afford.

How to manage networks and security from the cloud

 

The growth of cloud computing has had an enormous effect on the accessibility and affordability of this technology; and network management is no different. Rather than taking multiple servers to fulfil your needs, all running in a separate computer (with a temperature controlled room to host them in), today, all the software you need can be delivered over the internet.

Forbes estimates that worldwide public cloud services will grow by almost 20% to total $141 billion by 2019, up from $70 billion in 2015.

What this means is that setting up a computer network has never been quicker or more cost-effective. As well as being easier to install, cloud networks require less on-going support; so the cost burden on SMEs is significantly reduced. It’s no wonder, therefore, that more and more SMEs are looking to set up (or upgrade to) a cloud network, to help them get the most out of their IT.

So what do you need to consider when moving to the cloud? We’ve listed some of the benefits of a managed cloud network.

Key benefits of a managed cloud network:

  • Easy to get up and running quickly
  • Managed by a third-party with all the expertise you need (removing the burden on your business)
  • Reduction in costs with no controller hardware or management software to install and maintain
  • Reduction in support costs (provided by vendor)
  • Isolate and fix issues in minutes with remote troubleshooting tools
  • Allows for massive scalability, giving you access to virtually unlimited resources and on-demand expansion
  • Designed with mobile-working and modern devices in mind
  • Benefit from regular firmware and security updates
  • Resources such as servers and applications can be scaled up or down on demand.

How can you decide if cloud networks aren’t right for you? Disadvantages of a managed solution:

  • Out of the box solution that might not immediately meet your precise needs
  • You rely on third-party to keep you operational and secure (although reputable vendors have strict standards and SLAs in place).

Still unsure? Read our blog on migrating your IT infrastructure to the cloud.

 

Introducing Cisco Meraki for SMEs
Leading the way when it comes to simplifying and getting the most out of your cloud network is Cisco Meraki. With over 230,000 customers and three million network devices (and counting) across the globe, Cisco Meraki delivers out-of-the-box security, scalability, and management designed for the cloud and targeted at SMEs.

  • Wireless LAN: Industry-leading indoor and outdoor 802.11ac wireless access points with built-in location analytics
  • Security/SD-WAN: Unified Threat Management (UTM) devices with Software Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN) capability included at no extra cost
  • Switching: Branch and campus access and aggregation switches with remote packet capture and cable testing
  • Communications: Sleek cloud-managed VoIP telephone removing the need for a conventional PBX
  • Mobility Management: Complete Enterprise Mobility Management solution including device, application, content, and identity management.

How to use cloud networks and security across your SME

Businesses must enhance performance, connectivity, and mobility if they are to succeed. At the same time, security and compliance have never been more critical. However, with a traditional setup, achieving all this can be a challenge. A new generation of network, Cisco Meraki provides the answer.

Support your IT team
Cloud networks are easy to set-up and configure; removing the pressure on your business. With zero-touch provisioning, devices can be pre-configured before they even arrive on-site. Once connected to the network, configurations download automatically for a genuinely plug-and-play experience.

It’s the burden of IT management that can really slow down business growth.

With Cisco Meraki, the hassle of managing your network is removed. So your IT staff are free to focus on those all-important tasks that make you money.

Access improved visibility and analytics
Your network can be controlled from a single management interface. So each element of your IT infrastructure works together. This provides a complete view of your network topology, in real-time with such interconnected management unlocking new insights and possibilities.

Become agile
The easy scalability of a cloud managed network ensures that technology is supporting your business growth, rather than holding it back.

Make network management easier
Historically, managing networks or fixing network issues required someone to be physically present. However, because it is cloud-based, the Cisco Meraki dashboard is accessible from any internet-enabled device. This provides at-a-glance performance information in real time. With the ability to monitor bandwidth usage by device, by port, and even by a specific application, it’s easy to adjust the capabilities of your network as required.

Make troubleshooting easier
Alerts will instantly let you know if there are any issues with your network, with instant access to troubleshooting tools so you can fix the problem from any computer, anywhere. So problems can be resolved quickly and easily.

Boost security
To maintain security while delivering high levels of productivity and uptime, it’s crucial to be aware of device activity and threats. Regular firmware and software updates are also necessary. Cloud-managed networks make it much easier to see what’s going on with a network and keep any security threats at bay. Updates can be made automatically, and security policies can be enforced from one easy-to-use dashboard.

Keep control of your bottom line
One of the essential considerations any SME should make when investing in IT is the total cost of ownership (TCO). All too often, businesses are swayed by the upfront hardware and installation costs. But, while these are important;

It’s the ongoing support and maintenance costs that really make a difference to your bottom line.

With a managed cloud network, you’ll benefit from much lower costs over time, resulting in reduced TCO in just a few years.

Read our complete guide on fortifying your security with the cloud

 

What are the common barriers to cloud network implementation?

The adoption of cloud-based technologies is increasing rapidly, but many companies are still unsure if it is right for their business. Common barriers to cloud adoption include:

Security
SMEs are very concerned about security. The more things move to the cloud, the more people worry about cybercrime. But the truth is, today’s cloud-based solutions are often more secure than existing on-premise ones. In fact, in almost all cases, where a breach or hack has happened, this has been down to a poorly designed and maintained system, not the cloud. In many instances, substantial investment would be required to make a traditional solution meet the security and reliability of the cloud.

Reluctance to change
One of the most significant barriers to cloud adoption is fear over what this might do to your day-to-day operations. Your current network does what it’s supposed to, so why bother switching? Well, in today’s competitive business world, just getting the job done isn’t enough. Instead, your technology should provide higher efficiency and savings. You don’t have to dive straight in, but take a look at Cisco Meraki and see how it compares to your traditional network (or what it can do for you if you don’t have one).

Costs
When it comes to investing in new technology, price is always going to be an issue. But while with an on-premise IT environment, spend is usually a capital expenditure, with managed cloud architecture the operational costs of your IT are ongoing and fixed; regardless of usage. So while you will pay a regular monthly cost, a cloud managed network will work out much lower than a traditional setup.

Lack of resources
Balancing IT changes with the staff needed to manage it is always a challenge.

Quite often, businesses can be slow to adopt new technology because they just don’t have the necessary resource to implement and maintain it.

However, with a managed cloud partner, the burden is removed from your shoulders. They look after your network while you focus on growing and running your business.

Getting management on board
Even where you have accepted the need to change and found the best cloud network solution, you still can’t progress without support from your management team. So, what can you do to encourage your business to take a more strategic view of technology investment?

  • Conduct an audit. There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to technology. Before you make a case for investment, figure out what you already have, how it works and what you are going to need. Find out more about how to conduct a network management audit later in this guide
  • Communicate better. Most CEOs don’t want to be burdened with the details, they just want a solution that works. Find out how to give them this and enhance communication and agreement between IT and management teams
  • Establish any security risks. If you are to convince your business to move to the cloud, an increased focus on security is to be expected. Be sure you are aware of each concern and find a way to address them
  • Tackle data silos. Most businesses have a plethora of different information, stored in different places. But, a silo mentality is a huge barrier to business success and where individuals, departments and offices don’t share information with others, efficiency and productivity are both reduced. Look at how a new cloud-managed network could consolidate all this valuable data, and share it across your business
  • Consider how to consolidate your IT architecture. As your business grows, managing disparate technology becomes increasingly complex and time-consuming. Rather than trying to patch this all together, spell out how a cloud-managed network could reduce your reliance on different systems, hardware, software, vendors, manufacturers, and storage platforms and deliver a more integrated approach
  • Establish the TCO. As we have established, when it comes to investing in new technology, cost is always going to be an issue; and this is especially true for management teams. So when making your business case, set out the TCO.

Read six tips for Communicating network and security threats to the CEO

 

Cloud management: best practices for security and networking

As an increasing number of businesses migrate their infrastructure to the cloud, the amount of cloud managed service providers is also on the rise. However, before you dive in, make sure they provide best practices for security and networking.

  1. Provide complete visibility
    A recent survey of more than 1,070 IT managers and professionals indicated that 42% have more than a quarter of their infrastructure in cloud environments today. That’s up from 33% a year ago. However, less than a third have the correct visibility and control they need to keep their cloud infrastructure in check. Make sure that any solution you choose provides a clear overview of the health of your network, at all times.
  2. Audit regularly
    To maximise ROI, it’s essential that regular auditing takes place, so you only use what you need. One of the key benefits of the cloud is its flexibility. Make sure your chosen network can be scaled up when the load demands it and scaled down when it doesn’t.
  3. Don’t do what you have always done
    The traditional methods of IT management involved extensive buffering for costs and time. For example, the over-provisioning of hardware to ensure there were no failures. But when moving to the cloud, it’s important that you don’t take your old IT practices and behaviours with you.
  4. The key to managing your cloud infrastructure isn’t just about deploying the right technology; it is also about having the vision to do things differently.
    Look at WHY you have moved to the cloud, and design an infrastructure based on this new way of working.
  5. Streamline your vendors
    In a bid to reduce risk, businesses often adopt a multi-cloud vendor strategy. But this can create complications for SMEs. Your IT strategy needs to be fully integrated to deliver maximum results, and this isn’t always easy when different providers are looking after various bits of your infrastructure.

Looking to learn more? Read our guide to managing the growth of cloud chaos.

Is Cisco Meraki right for you?

A managed cloud network, done correctly, drives holistic and strategic change across all ends of your business. But is it right for your SME? To figure this out, conduct an audit to establish what you have, how it’s being used and what you need to make it better.

Consider things like:

  • Do you have offices in different locations? And/or do you support mobile working practices (or should you)? A cloud network will allow your staff to connect to your computer network when they’re out and about, so they always have access to the files and applications they need
  • Do you need to share files with colleagues? Once you have set up your computer network, everyone’s work will be saved and regularly backed up in a central and secure location
  • Does your business share computers and other devices? For example, with a network, several computers can share the same printer
  • Do your employees need access to the same software? Programs used by several people at once work best via a computer network
  • Do you need to establish permission control? Networking lets you restrict access to certain files, folders or software
  • Are you being realistic? Establish what you want your new cloud network to do and then be honest about whether your goals are achievable. And what you need to do to make them happen
  • What resources will you need? Having a good understanding of the resources you need to complete any technology project is vital. You should also work out how much management time your network will need, who is going to do this, and what impact this will have on your day-to-day operations
  • Work out your budget in full. The TOC of any cloud-managed network will depend on a wide range of factors, including what solution you choose, and the customisations necessary. Maintenance and running costs should also be taken into the equation
  • Have you planned for the future? As with any business investment, future proofing is a must. Cisco Meraki will adapt and grow with your business long term.

Is it time for managed cloud? Find out with an IT audit.

Spotlight on Cisco Meraki

The company

A UK-based recruitment firm, with seven international offices and 250+ employees generated a massive amount of activity every day. This included over 5,000 calls and communications across ten countries.

The challenge

The existing on-premise solution provided limited visibility into how the network was being used and made it difficult to identify and resolve potential issues. Likewise, when changes needed to be made, IT staff had to go to the relevant site; a time-consuming and costly task. A smarter networking solution was needed.

The solution

Cisco Meraki was chosen to provide a complete view of the network. Centralised visibility and control allowed the business to efficiently and remotely manage its various locations, devices, access levels, and systems in one simplified web-based dashboard. The subscription model was also in line with the firm’s operational expenditure model of procuring technology services.

The initial deployment was rapid. User and device groups were created with permissions established to give customisable access to corporate resources and bandwidth usage. Measures were also developed to prevent bandwidth hogging, and security procedures built so that the IT team no longer had to worry about who was connecting or what they were doing.

The results

With a complete Cisco Meraki infrastructure in place, and across each office, the result was more simplified and centralised network management. The flexibility of Cisco Meraki also allowed the IT team to deploy quickly across various offices, without having to go on-site; as well the easy migration of devices between locations when needed.

The tools available in the Meraki dashboard cut deployment times drastically, resulting in savings in both costs and time. The team was also able to quickly identify anomalies in the network and take proactive measures before any potential issues occurred.

Cisco Meraki delivered everything the business needed out of the box.

Exploring your Cisco Meraki setup

With so many options for network management, it can be hard to know which one is right for your business. To help, you must first define your requirements.

Installation

Getting started with Cisco Meraki doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, a simple wireless network can be ready to go in as little as 30 minutes.

Migration

One of the biggest concerns when planning for a network migration is how much downtime you will experience. But, with a carefully executed migration strategy, there shouldn’t be any impact on your business operations. Your new cloud-based network will run parallel to your legacy one until the process is complete.

Dashboard

With Cisco Meraki, your cloud networking and architecture is 100% centralised and managed. An intuitive and easy-to-use dashboard provides superior visibility, so you’ll always have a clear overview of the health of your network, your security posture, and the software and hardware inventory for your entire business. Offering a single point of control on your cloud infrastructure, you can be sure your service is always optimised to meet your demand.

Security

Today, every network is a potential target for hackers. However, Cisco Meraki comes with easy-to-implement security features that prevent network intrusions. This includes:

  • Advanced malware protection
  • Anti-virus and anti-phishing services
  • Automatic intrusion detection and prevention
  • Content filtering tools
  • Enhanced firewall rules and security options.

Security apps are deployed in minutes; synced and automated using zero-touch cloud provisioning.

Networks made easier

At Genisys, we offer best-in-class cloud network management aligned with your business’s objectives.

Partnering with Cisco Meraki to bring you a fully cloud-managed networking solution for wireless, switching, communications, EMM, and security, together we bring you:

  • Cloud-managed Meraki wireless with access points built from the highest grade components
  • Rich analytics dashboard for quick access to network users, devices and applications
  • The only end-to-end solution unifying WAN, LAN, wireless LAN, and mobile device management.

Offering networking with 99.99% uptime, the high capacity Meraki cloud architecture is built for reliability, security, and scalability.

Find out more about how we can help you.

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