Troubleshooting Meraki Networks


Meraki Mini in Box

It started with Mark Pesce at Web Directions South 2007, then it was moved on by Lachlan Hardy, with a little help on the west coast from Myles Eftos the Meraki migrated over to Western Australia. So these mesh networks are starting to popup every where in an effort to freethenet and provide free wifi across the country. People have already started in Canberra and with lots of known Meraki in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne this is surely going to increase.

For the most part setting up a Meraki network gateway is easy.

  • Plugin to network gateway (with network cable).
  • Signup and register devices on Meraki Dashboard.

That’s basically it. You can go into more details with the advanced settings. But if you want it up and running in minutes that all you have to do.

But what happens when the other nodes in your mesh network fail to connect with each other. What can you do to troubleshoot your Meraki. Well let’s look at that:

  • Wifi Audit

    Do a wifi audit of your location, have a wander around and map what (802.11 b/g) wifi networks are where. You can do this via a laptop, mobile phone or a PDA. If you are like me you maybe surprised at the number of wifi networks within your street. Take note of the SID, channels and the strength, this maybe an issue later when you go to build your mesh network.

  • Placement

    Consider where you place your Meraki, the signal will be better for others if you place them on or near a window. However be aware of where the electrical cables are running in your walls as these can create a grid of AC power if you have multiple cables running across a small wall space. This will effect your signal too.

    Also for some reason certain high density gyprock, if setup in multiple layers, may offer a greater resistance than a brick wall.

  • Home Stereo Wifi

    Did you know that those wireless home theater speakers on your TV or stereo system are transmitting usually on channel one via 802.11 by default. Same as the Meraki default. Sadly you can’t auto configure these speaker systems usually. So you are going to have to move channels on the Meraki. If your nodes tend to drop out in the evening you maybe suffering from a bleed of another wireless speaker setup you have not found, from a neighbour, if not it’s your own system. Chances are these will not show up on the audit as well, good eh.

  • Cordless Phones

    Yes, I know they aren’t meant to be transmitting onto the 802.11 b/g network but some cordless phones will be bleeding into this frequency range. This is why the wifi audit is really useful. If you are lucky they may appear, if not you may just find there is one channel in a certain area that just is forever falling out. Again move channels.

  • Boost the Signal

    So you have a clean wifi channel, but the Meraki just aren’t connecting to each other due to distance. Well try boosting the signal. You can do this by adding an omni or directional booster antenna (standard RP-SMA, 50 Ohms) or just a low cost reflector. The former will work all of the time, the later well it really depends on signal focal points and the directional placement of the dish, and the size of the template. So it’s a little trial and error.

  • Get Outside

    Depending on your Meraki distribution, you may have to consider an outdoor Meraki (spec at 150-300m range), maybe with a directional antenna. If you do go with a booster antenna you should make yourself familiar with any local authority requirements for this type of tight band transmission.

    Now a bit of advice, don’t connect this Meraki to your wired LAN.

    If you have it above the roof line be prepared that it may get hit by lightning. I hope it doesn’t but if it does you don’t what to give the lightning more that one direct route to the ground; like into your computers.

    I would recommend placing the Meraki power outlet near any grounding rods for the electical system. Lightning arrestors rods may help, but only if they are correctly grounded. Okay any lightning hit will destroy your Meraki, but as long as the lightning goes to ground as fast as possible it may not start a fire, which is the other problem. You could consider some lightning protection devices for the Meraki as well. Lightning is a tricky beast, its not worth just saving a few dollars, and hoping it won’t happen.

    Better yet, put a solar power panel on the roof and run the Meraki of that, remember they run on very little current (3-12 W), perfect for a solar power cell.

So how is my Meraki network going. It’s just amazing. I bet you have leftover bandwidth at the end of the month, wouldn’t it be good to let someone use this, instead of it going to waste. Wouldn’t it be good if we could all share the web. So go on get a few Meraki, start the trend, linkup your street, your suburb. joy the Meraki mob. Go on do it.

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