Cisco offers two distinct lines of wireless access points: Meraki and Aironet. Though this hardware may have significant overlap in form and function, they differ in an important area. The two products are managed and administered differently. Aironet is locally managed by the network administration team, much like any other networking equipment. Meraki, however, is managed though a unified cloud experience.
Both are Cisco, One is in the Cloud
Meraki and all of its solutions are owned by Cisco since they purchased Meraki in 2012. However, Meraki maintains their brand name and has overlapping product lines with the flagship Cisco brand despite operating under the same umbrella.
Meraki’s key defining feature is its cloud management. For all Meraki products, you can manage the entire Meraki network across multiple branches from any location at any time. Much like you can access your Microsoft Office 365 documents from any computer and any location, a Meraki network administrator can access the management interface wherever they like.
Meraki is More than Just Access Points
The Aironet solutions are all wireless access points, but Meraki casts a wider net with their solutions. Meraki has wireless access points, firewalls, switches, and routers. From there, they have also expanded into other industries related to networking equipment.
The first example of this expansion would be the Meraki Phone. It replaces the standard on-prem PBX server with a cloud-managed platform. It’s easy to use. It’s easy to deploy, and provides significant value particularly to SMB organizations. This is because it does not require the business to maintain any hardware in the data center.
Second, Meraki has developed an advanced for on-premise physical security. Like all Meraki products, it is cloud managed. Yet, its value goes further than that. Between analytics capabilities, sharing tools, and a built-in storage device, the Meraki MV Security Camera brings physical security into the Internet of Things.
The Aironet line of wireless access points is divided into five series. Each is designed to apply to a certain segment of the market. The Cisco Aironet 3800 Series is designed for high-density networks. The 2800 is for medium-to-large networks. The 1850 series is then best suited for small-to-medium-sized networks.
The remaining two series, the 1830 and the 1815, are designed to fit with network sizes in different ways. For example, with a lower overall cost. Uniting these five series of access points is their support for 802.11ac Wave 2 technology and excellent hardware specs.
Meraki vs. Aironet: Pick Your Flavor
For locally-managed wireless access points, Aironet provides a solution specifically designed for your network size. Meanwhile, if you prefer a cloud-managed approach, Meraki has the access point for you. The difference is the management style. Your business’s unique needs are going to dictate which product line makes the most sense for you. In either case, both product lines are viable paths for your network. You just need to pick your flavor.