Cisco Meraki Case Study
St. John's School | Vancouver, BC
Located in the Kitsilano neighborhood in Vancouver, British Columbia, St. John’s School is a renowned IB co-educational day school for grades K-12. It is recognized internationally for offering academically rigorous and respected programmes with a global approach to learning.
St. John’s School
Size: 570 students, 90 FTE
Industry: K-12 Education
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
By introducing a Meraki full-stack solution into their environment, including MS switches and MR access points as their underlying network infrastructure, and Systems Manager supporting mobile device management, the school was able to simplify day-to-day network management and operations with a lean IT staff, while redefining the learning experience for students and faculty.
- Implemented an agile cloud-based network with increased visibility for a lean IT team
- Upgraded wireless, switching to support digital curriculum initiatives
- Achieved 70% cost reduction by keeping IT in-house
- Secure, reliable connectivity for students & faculty while giving time back to IT
To ensure all employees, teachers, and students were met with the best user experience in the classroom, the team’s top priority was to seek a holistic solution leveraging cloud services to simplify, automate, and improve visibility into the operation of their network. However, as the number of connected devices on campus continued to grow at an unprecedented rate, and with a shortage of IT resources on site, this presented a number of roadblocks.
Prior to implementing Meraki’s cloud-based solution, the school encountered several issues with their existing EMM (enterprise mobility management) system—their biggest challenge being that they were spending more time and resources managing the solution rather than the actual devices. Michael LeBlanc, Director of IT, soon became aware of the need for a more robust solution to manage all of the school’s connected iOS devices which consisted of 228 employee macs, and 152 student and teacher iPads as part of their 1:1 learning initiative.
Then there were additional problems that had surfaced when it came to troubleshooting. With poor connections interrupting learning in the classroom, it became increasingly difficult to pinpoint specific Wi-Fi issues on their legacy network. “The wireless controller was a bit of a black box for us”, says LeBlanc. With only two network specialists on site at the time, often the skillsets were not available in-house—forcing the school to rely heavily on IT outsourcing which became increasingly costly and time-consuming.
In order to achieve their goals for operational simplicity and secure, reliable wireless connections, an upgrade to a strong network foundation was needed to support new digital demands. After evaluating several vendors that had raised concerns with the team around scalability, the school decided to move forward with Cisco Meraki—the access network consisting of 16 MS series switches and 71 MR access points, and Systems Manager (SM) acting as the endpoint management solution to support high-bandwidth learning applications.
”We could have moved to another cloud-based solution, but we wanted the multi-OS support and single pane of glass for managing our infrastructure”
Michael LeBlanc, Director of IT
With Systems Manager in place, the team was able to move to a zero-touch deployment model to essentially provide employees with a ‘laptop in-a-box’, where software and policies seamlessly auto-apply—reducing desktop support overhead. It has also enabled the team to easily track and update their K-2 class iPads, making it easier to manage and push apps out faster. The features within Systems Manager Sentry suite has enabled automated, context-aware security and authentication for the devices—something the school is hoping to roll our more broadly in the near future.
In addition to a 70% reduction in OpEx that was previously spent on outsourced IT consulting services, day-to-day operations at the school have improved significantly – eliminating simple points of failure, and allowing for reliable, always-on connectivity. If there is an instance where a Wi-Fi issue occurs in class, the team at St. John’s can quickly detect and troubleshoot in minutes via the Meraki dashboard—right down to the specific access point and radius server.
Then there’s those other, unexpected a-ha! moments. On the previous network, the team had spent more than half a year of unsuccessful attempts trying to connect to the school’s Airprint 3D printing system. But because of the seamless integration with the underlying network hardware, once the Meraki SM was implemented, “all of a sudden it just worked, so that was a win”, LeBlanc says.
Being able to view and manage the entire network from a centralized dashboard was just what the team at St. John’s needed. With minimal amount of time spent on configuring, managing, and troubleshooting, the school has witnessed a significant change in the overall quality of their wireless network, allowing students and teachers to embrace a truly connected and impactful learning environment.
“Wi-Fi is the currency of the school”, says LeBlanc.
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