When I received a rather out of the blue email back in November last year asking whether I’d like to join a “webinar” with Meraki, I clicked delete before I was even a few lines into the email – you can’t imagine how many of these reach my inbox as an IT Consultant. Every little start-up wants to show off their “amazing” products and I’m a busy guy.

A few weeks later I received a really cheeky follow-up from a guy called Scott (his email signature said his title was “Meraki Account Executive – West London”). Now this email was a little different as, on line two, it said,

I am more than happy to send you a free Access Point just for attending. Let me know if any of these topics are of interest to you at this time.

Now, I may be busy but I’m also a sucker for a freebie. Surely a £350 new toy was worth an hour of my time? Quite.

The webinar was nothing special. Some guy from the Midlands harked on and on about the benefits of cloud based wireless distributions and something else I can’t really remember much about. If I’m honest, and I hope Meraki never read this, I was designing a wireless network for a client based on Cisco equipment while the webinar droned in the background. Ironically, Cisco has subsequently bought Meraki – go figure!

ap-hangoutSo anyway, about three weeks later, my shiny new Meraki MR12 turned up in the post. I opened the box, looked at it, smiled about acquiring a freebie and put it away in the back of a cupboard for a rainy day. As it turns out, yesterday was that rainy day. After a rather tedious day in the office, I took the MR12 home to play with and boy did I play – I didn’t get to bed until nearly 2am!

My mind is well and truly blown by what this thing is capable of. In short, it’s a rather small, neat, modern looking access point with no antennae which, as soon as you plug it into your network, completely configures itself based on some settings you’ve entered into the Meraki online control panel. I had set up a network called “SpecTronics UK Test” and could have plugged in any number of these devices and they’d all have just started transmitting the same wireless network. You can gain the most incredible insights into the users, applications and devices on your network and can even pinpoint them on a map showing which access point they’re currently associated with as well as how much YouTube they’ve been watching. Thankfully you can’t see that it was actually an old episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

I’ve lost count of the number of network infrastructures I’ve planned and deployed, but I’m really excited about recommending Meraki when an appropriate project next comes up because I’d love to sink my teeth deeper into the methodology. Until then, I’ve got the most advanced WiFi network on the street, if not in Wimbledon!

If you have the time, I recommend that you sign up for one of their webinars in return for a free access point. Oh, and pay more attention than I did!

Image credit: Meraki