Cool Home Network Device – Meraki Z1

Cisco acquired Meraki, the leader in cloud controlled WiFI, routing and security late 2012. For those that haven’t heard of Meraki, the concept behind the technology is pretty cool. All device configuration and management is handled using a cloud / web accessible GUI. You can configure everything and ship equipment to where it needs to provide network access prior to first powering things on. Once you are ready, all you do is plug in the equipment and it works (IE all configuration is sent to the device via encrypted tunnel from the cloud) . It really is that simple.

I had the privilege of obtaining various Meraki products including their new teleworker gateway / home office wireless router known as the Meraki Z1. The price ranges from $160-225 from online sources. That may seem a bit steep compared to lower grade networking solutions however the value and quality of the Z1 can’t be beat.

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Meraki Z1

Meraki’s design concepts reminds me of how Apple builds products focused on easy usability. The GUI layout and features just make sense.  I set up my entire lab without referencing a configuration guide. I spent maybe 5 minutes setting things up and had my entire home network converted including remote VPN access in less than 10 minutes.

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Meraki web login

The first step to setup a Meraki solution is creating an online account at https://account.meraki.com as shown above.  This will get you into the main GUI. Once in the main GUI, the left column will show available options as you add different device types. The Organization tab represents global items such as login information, device inventory and licensing. Clicking Inventory lets you add devices by serial number using the Claim button. Meraki groups devices by the term network for management purposes. My lab has the Z1 in one network while all other gear is in a network called MerakiTestWireless.

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My Meraki hardware

To add licenses, click the License info tab and click add license. A license should be issued once you purchase equipment. The next screenshot shows my Z1 has a separate license while the remaining Meraki equipment is sharing a license as they were separate orders. Once devices are added to a network, a Network: drop down will appear at the top used to select which network to manage. For my example, I can select my Z1 network or the MerakiTestWireless network containing the rest of my Meraki hardware.

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Adding licenses in the Meraki GUI

The basic setup for a Z1 is creating a SSID name, enabling NAT,  selecting which login security to use and passwords. The Z1 offers a standard layer 3 firewall, application firewall, site-to-site VPN and remote access VPN. The Z1 also has some traffic shaping capabilities such as my example showing how I’m prioritizing VoIP and Video traffic.

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Configuring traffic shaping policies

Once setup, I can view traffic on my network by clicking the Monitor tab. The examples shown below displays my network data, what applications are used with associated bandwidth, clients on the network and operating system profiling. I can click any client and drill into how they are using my network.  The Appliance status page shows  ports and protocols as well as other network details such as public IP and even a map of where the physical Meraki device is located based on google maps. There is a rouge AP detecting feature showing all my neighbor’s devices including if they are Unencrypted.

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Meraki Z1 overview dash

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Meraki Z1 device management

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Meraki Z1 Traffic Analytics page

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Meraki Z1 showing rouge APs

Thats a short summary of using the Meraki Z1. There are some really cool features found in other Meraki products such as IPS/IDS, custom splash pages and even the ability to charge a price for guest wireless access leveraging a built in billing system. I’ll post on the remaining Meraki products in a few weeks.

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Cool Home Network Device - Meraki Z1, 3.9 out of 5 based on 17 ratings

8 thoughts on “Cool Home Network Device – Meraki Z1”

  1. If the license is not obtained how functional will the Meraki Z1 be? Is there an initial grace period in which the Meraki Z1 is not limited? What functionality is gained by having the license? Good blog post btw. The market has needed a low cost/high performing device like this.

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    1. Hi Chad

      Meraki products are different from the typical network tool since they are managed from the cloud. This means the actual hardware doesn’t have core intelligence, which is good for those situations when stuff “walks out the door”. So not licensing a Z1 means you have a dumb endpoint waiting to be activated. Think of it like the difference between autonomous and centrally managed wireless however the controller is the cloud rather than onsite appliance. Meraki is only cloud managed capable so without the cloud management, you have a paperweight. I use Meraki and randomly get emails saying “we updated your software”. I personally enjoy the hands off management approach.

      I believe you can easily request a demo license at any time. The meraki team hosts weekly webinars that give all attendees a free access point just for watching. Feel free to watch one of those and if you have a Z1, ask for a demo license. Another way to try out meraki for free is the free MDM (mobile device management). I use that to track my iPads and iPhones. Its free as beer so why not. You can find more on that HERE.

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  2. I tested a Z1 and I would have to say it is practically useless in any working environment except if you are a teleworker who is single and not very tech savy. My reasons for this comment are the stupid specs it has.

    Z1 has 4 SSID’s to seperate corporate from personal traffic, but it has a 5 user/device limit.

    In my house, I have a PC and a laptop, work voip phone, home voip phone, my wife has a laptop and an ipad, my 2 oldest kids have ipods, there are 3 smart tv’s, 2 smart bluray players, an xbox 360, wii and 2 media players that run content from the internet.

    While I was working on my PC remotely (as a teleworker), I would have to say I was kicked from my remote sessions about 6 times in the first hour, ended up giving up using the voip phone and swapped to my mobile. I ended up swapping back to the $100 standard DSL router and run an IPSec VPN to my office and never had an issue afterwards.

    In this age of constantly streaming content and devices that constantly talk online for news, rss feeds, twitter, facebook. A device limited to 5 users is a dinasaur of epic proportions. For a technically savvie person in a reasonably setup house a Z1 would give you headaches. Sure easy to setup, random disconnections because you left your PC, tablet and mobile phone turned on while your watching neflix on a media player through a smart tv and then you receive a voip call……..

    If they have to limit the device, a starting point is 10 user/devices at a minimum, we are in 2014 and everything is connected.

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    1. James you obviously didn’t test it. The 5 user limit is just a suggestion. It has no hard coded limit… I have lots of networks with many more than 5 users on it. Your issues were not related to any user limit.

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      1. Trent is correct in that there isn’t a user limit as you stated. Check out the data sheet HERE for more specs.

        Also keep in mind the focus market for the Z1. I personally use a more enterprise ready system for my wireless because .. well I work for Cisco and can get it. For the average home network, the Z1 fits the bill and REALLY easy to use. This is also great for small spaces such as a car (I’ve heard some Taxis are running these)

        If you need more power and features, check out the Meraki dedicated APs. I like the MR16.

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      2. Hi Trent,

        I am looking to deploy Z1s for several of my smaller remote offices. Based on your experience, how many devices(read PCs or tablets) do you think will work with Z1. Each of my site will use 5 Mbps of Internet bandwidth, with split-tunnel VPN to a MX100 at HO. I wont use any firewall rules on the Z1s.

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  3. Has anyone had any experience using a Z1 to connect to a Meraki wireless access point? We have an application where we would like to use the Z1 indoors but connect wirelessly to outdoor access points. Or is the WAN connection limited to a wired connection? Thanks

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  4. Could the Z1 be used as a normal family Router?
    All this Cloud talk makes it seem a bit like Overkill for a normal household purpose.
    I need to connect my Windows7 PC, Printer, NAS, iPad, Windows7 Netbook, iPhone, Stereo, TV and whatever my Guest brings in to the apartment to each other and to the internet.
    I have a 60/60 Mbit connection, so that will not be a problem.
    Routertalk is a difficult language, that I can not understand most of it.
    But the Z1 looks like it meets most of my demands.
    Fast and Stabil, 4 Gbit switch, Dual channel WiFi, no outside antennas, Wallmount and White. The only demand I have, that I cant see if it meets I no bunch of flashing leds

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