Tips For Meraki WLAN Deployment Part 2: Naming, Tagging, and Installation Photos
In our last installment, we covered IP addressing for Meraki access points. In this article, we will discuss a few of the finer details of AP deployment, specifically: AP naming, AP tagging, and installation photos. Taking these elements into consideration during deployment can really help make management of the network easier down the road.
Before deploying APs, you should have already added the access points to your Dashboard Inventory and then deployed them to a Network in your Meraki Dashboard. Now, we’re ready to go hang access points. If you just go around, hang up your APs and power them on you’re going to have an AP list that looks like this (visible in Wireless > Access points):
While this network will work fine once SSIDs and other configuration settings are defined, it’s very challenging to live with a network where the APs have no identifiers other than their MAC address. Some of you reading this may think no one leaves their APs unnamed, but I encounter it all the time in Meraki and other vendors’ wireless environments at customers.
Now, one way to deal with this is to take note of the Serial number or MAC address of each AP at the time of installation and then later, go through the Dashboard and re-name each AP. That works, but it requires additional tracking and paperwork. It’s far easier to take care of the name and other configuration details at install time. And the easiest way to do that is with the Meraki Mobile App.
To use the Mobile App for deployment, download it from your respective mobile App store. It is available for both Apple and Android devices.
Once logged into the app, you’ll see a list of your APs. What I like to do is find each AP in the list as we’re installing it. Just take a look at the last 2 bytes of the MAC address for the AP you’re hanging, like 0c:f0 in the example above.
Now, in the app, tap that AP and look at the AP details. It will look like this (note these are iPhone screenshots, the Android flavor might look slightly different):
As you are putting up the AP and powering it up, go ahead and click the pencil icon in the upper right corner of the screen:
Name the access point however you’d like. In general, I recommend at least a unique identifier for the AP, like “AP04” or “AP-11” and some sort of text location key like “Reception.” In other WLAN platforms, I’ll usually recommend a big string of identifiers like a site code and floor designation, like “PHL-FL4-AP04-Reception” or something, but due to some unique features in the Meraki Dashboard you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. Once you’ve entered the name, it will be reflected in the app (and the Dashboard):
Why don’t we need site codes and floor designators and everything in the AP name? Well, see the next few fields in the AP details? Like Tags and Location? These help us out a ton. The location field is easy. Key in the street address of the AP (or use the “Use my Current Location” button which attempts to resolve your address via the phone’s GPS).
When it comes to tags, clicking that field will enter a screen to search for and define tags:
We might assign several tags, such as:
Why apply tags this way? Well, we can use tags for multiple uses in the Meraki Dashboard. For one thing, we can search the AP list based on the tags. So perhaps we want to find all the APs on the main floor of our office in the AP list? We can just search for that tag:
So, these tags can take the place of trying to encode floor into the device name, keeping the device names more concise and shorter. Why tag the mounting type? Well, perhaps we want to send a tech over to take some action on the AP. It might be nice to be able to easily see whether it’s mounted to the wall or ceiling. Tagging the AP to indicate it’s in an area guests may be present can be used in the Wireless > SSID Availability menu to limit the visibility of certain SSIDs to certain areas of the building, like this:
We might choose to tag APs as being in a VIP area, or in a high-density region, or visible vs. hidden, etc. There is no limit (that I know of) to the number of tags you can assign, so go crazy! Generally, I say if more than one AP will share some attribute, it’s worth assigning a tag for it.
Finally, while we are still at the installation point of the AP, it’s a great time to use another handy feature of the mobile app. In the AP details page is a “Photo” box. If you click that, it will open your phone’s camera so you can take a picture of the AP. Here’s a tip: Take the photo from a wide enough vantage point that you can see some detail to clue you in to where the AP is mounted. A picture of an AP on a single 2x2’ ceiling tile isn’t very helpful. One that shows that the AP is behind the reception desk or at an intersection of hallways if very helpful. The key is that getting a close-up of the AP helps nothing, but getting a picture of the area the AP is in is very helpful. Once the photo is taken, it will appear in the AP details page of the App:
More importantly, it’s also visible in the Location tab of the AP details page in the Meraki Dashboard:
Again, this is exceptionally helpful for easily finding the AP when doing any maintenance in the future, especially when managing remote sites where the administrator may not frequently visit. Imagine being able to send an on-site tech resource a photo of the AP you need replaced to help them identify the right one!
Once these details have been collected, you can move on to the next AP. Of course, a team of installers can be doing this at multiple locations at once to speed installation.
As you can see, taking advantage of Meraki’s built-in tools for installation and AP management can be very helpful in future operations. A little legwork up front when deploying can pay big dividends down the road a bit.
Next time, we will cover the importance of adding floorplans to your Meraki WLAN configuration, and the value you can derive by doing so.