How NEXT Insurance Found the Best Way to Keep Pace with the Modern Work Environment
IT has made huge strides within organizations. Not that long ago, IT was all about fixing what was broken. When someone’s computer wasn’t working properly, they’d call IT and a technician would handle the problem. In a way, IT was often detached from everything else, and everyone was happy as long as things worked.
But a modern IT department is more integrated into the business. IT teams need to speak the industry language and understand the economics of their systems. They are always looking for areas of cost savings, and if an internal IT help desk is in place, they also need be conscious of managing our people resources and time. Ultimately, IT must work cross functionally among the organization, offer input into financial decisions, find ways to involve end users, and support key automation initiatives.
But it’s hard to be a driver of business when you have to continually deal with the most annoying complaint: “The Wi-Fi isn’t working.”
Encountering Wi-Fi Disasters
As technology has become more sophisticated, it’s IT’s responsibility to enable access to these more sophisticated and complex systems. I’m the Director of Global IT & Information Systems at NEXT Insurance. NEXT is a leading digital insurtech company transforming small business insurance. We leverage technology and advanced machine learning to offer simple, affordable, and tailored insurance products that meet the modern needs of small businesses. NEXT is an international company with approximately 700 employees and offices worldwide.
Like so many other senior-level people in IT, I have multiple tasks with a limited workforce and budget. There are a lot of different elements of the modern IT landscape, and with everything we need to manage, the last thing we should be worrying about is poor Wi-Fi connectivity.
But that was the crux of the issue at NEXT when I arrived in 2020. We were a small company then, and our Wi-Fi network was so slow that people wouldn’t even try to connect to it. This type of situation wasn’t new to me, and I knew just how to deal with it.
Introducing Cisco Meraki to Israel
Six years ago, I was at another company whose Wi-Fi couldn’t support everyday operations. Rather than deal with the headaches of slow connectivity, employees relied on network cables to connect to the internet. It was a highly dynamic environment with flexible workspaces and people on the move, and there were never enough cables to go around. The situation wasn’t sustainable, so we started looking for a cost-efficient solution that would actually work.
There was a lot of buzz around a new solution, Cisco Meraki, and I wanted to try it. We wound up being the first Meraki client in Israel, which was exciting—but it also posed a bit of a challenge. In Israel, the Ministry of Communication checks and reviews all new technology, including Wi-Fi solutions. The access points and switches were stuck in the government communication institution for four months. It was frustrating, but I was sure Meraki Wi-Fi would be worth the effort.
When they finally approved it, the first thing we did was implement the access points and switches in our office headquarters. As expected, it was a great success. Everybody moved to Wi-Fi and forgot about their reliance on network cables. Even our developers (who have a reputation for being very opinionated) were happy. They loved that they could work more efficiently with a strong, stable Wi-Fi connection. With Meraki, we proved that you could get the same connectivity wirelessly as you could when hardwired.
Our success wasn’t just good news for us. Our success meant Meraki was now approved for use across Israel, and we were proof that it could help other companies, too.
Bringing Meraki to NEXT
Fast forward to 2020. Just before I started working at NEXT, they had also installed Meraki but they weren’t getting the same results. The Wi-Fi was still slower than the wired internet. That didn’t make sense—there was no way they had the best technology available, but it couldn’t meet their needs. Thanks to my previous experience with Meraki, I had confidence in its capabilities and knew it had nothing to do with the technology.
So, only in my position for two days, I rolled up my sleeves and opened the Meraki dashboard, where I could see the details of our entire wireless network. I made a few small changes to the configuration, and we were all set.
The difference in connectivity was night and day, but I experienced some resistance because people didn’t believe they could have the same strong, stable connection with Wi-Fi as they could with wired internet. So we let them keep their cables—and then we turned off the hardwired connections. Everyone continued to think they were hardwired to the network, but they were on Meraki Wi-Fi all day, every day.
Today, we have almost zero in-office internet connection issues. Meraki supports mesh routing, which provides us with full redundancy and high availability. This is important given that we use two ISPs, and sometimes they have issues that are out of our hands. Without that redundancy, an ISP outage would mean an entire office couldn’t work. But our redundant Meraki network ensures that the end user doesn’t feel a thing if the main line goes down. With Meraki, we can simply fail over to the other line should our main line go down.
The Benefits of Remote Maintenance and Improved Security
Apart from delivering fast, stable wireless connectivity to the office, Meraki offers other benefits to the IT team and the business. For example, say we’re setting up a new office that’s halfway around the world, or we need to replace the system at one of our northern locations in the middle of winter. Our Meraki MX devices make it simple to perform remote installation and repair. All we have to do is ask the office coordinator to plug in a couple of cables, and we can take care of everything else remotely.
Before optimizing Meraki, maintenance had to happen during off hours. Someone had to come in and work on the weekend, meaning they took a lieu day during the middle of the week. This was tough for our team, since that’s when they’re most needed on the help desk. We now schedule the updates during hours that work for us, which could be different for each office. And because we don’t have to do anything locally to the devices, there’s no need to be in the office to do maintenance. We can all work from anywhere, anytime, and have the same experience. The ability to perform remote maintenance saves us thousands of hours. My team gets their weekends back, and we can be at full productivity during regular business hours.
We also love the out-of-the-box integrations available with the Meraki smart cameras we installed them in all the offices. These cameras are integrated with our access control system so that we can view footage any time someone swipes a fob to enter or exit the office. If an unauthorized person were to enter the office, we can go directly to the video and see if a card was stolen or if someone followed an employee on their way in.
Support That Demonstrates Confidence in the Product
I know the Meraki platform well enough to consider myself an expert. But even I sometimes run into little issues that my team and I don’t know how to solve. But when I do, it’s not a problem, because I can turn directly to a Cisco support engineer for help.
The help we get with Meraki isn’t like traditional support from a large solutions provider. If we need assistance with a configuration, we work directly with a system engineer who solves our problem and educates us so we don’t have to call again. I’ve worked with other vendors who required me to contact an integrator instead of helping me directly. Cisco’s support team is approachable and easy to reach, which gives me confidence in their product.
Because Cisco’s support is so good, I don’t need a dedicated network engineer or network specialist on the team. This resource efficiency frees up my staff to take care of other priorities and saves a salary.
Connectivity Is Critical in a Hybrid World
We can’t allow any issues with the internet, especially today. When workers only come into the office two or three times a week, they want the best experience—better than what they can get at home. One of Meraki’s biggest advantages is the stability of their internet connection.
Foolproof and stable internet is good for the business, of course, because it boosts productivity, but it also improves employee satisfaction.
Employees expect a fantastic work experience. Part of that experience is defined by how they interact with their computer and the network. The world has changed, and with Meraki, NEXT can stay up to date with the most relevant technology.