Cisco Using VARs to Target SMBs

Networking equipment giant adds new products for small businesses, programs for resellers.

Cisco, a long-time leader in enterprise networking, is making a big play in the SMB space with numerous new products and services designed to meet the needs of SMBs and the thousands of VARs that serve them.

The new products include switches, an IP telephony gateway, an IP camera, and enhancements to the Cisco small business communications system, a collaboration system that ties together offices, employees and customers. New services include better technical support, communication, and financing.

“The channel is the only way to get to the SMB customer,” said Rick Moran, Cisco's vice president of small business networking. “That’s why we created an SMB team, and improved and expanded our products and support for customers and VARs.”

Cisco's SMB push began late last year when it started pumping $100 million into SMB initiatives and rebranding its Linksys small business products as Cisco Small Business, while incorporating Linksys small business partners as Cisco partners. Moran said Cisco’s commitment to the SMB space is good news for VARs looking to sell, install and manage affordable voice, data and unified communications gear to SMB customers.

“These new SMB products are much better than the original ones, which were basically pared-down enterprise products that didn’t match the needs of SMBs or VARs,” said Robert Betzel, president and CEO of Macon, Ga.-based Infinity Network Solutions. “Many VARs told Cisco that it needed to build or rebuild SMB products from scratch,” he said. “Cisco listened and created some great products, especially the UC 500 1.5, which I call the ‘office in a box’ for SMBs,” he said. “It is easy for VARs to deploy and maintain it, and easy for SMBs to use.”

The UC 500 eliminates the need for multiple servers and combines voice, data, video, security, and wireless capabilities. It integrates with existing desktop applications such as calendar, email, and customer relationship management programs. New applications in the UC 500 are: WebEx PhoneConnect, Cisco TimeCardView, and Single Number Reach.

WebEx PhoneConnect enables small businesses to join online conferences with the touch of a button on their Cisco IP phone. Cisco TimeCardView allows staff to clock in and out, track hours and download information to payroll applications from their IP phone. Single Number Reach routes call to a desk phone, mobile device, soft phone or other phone that is most convenient device for the employee.

These products also deliver margins of between 35 and 45 points, said Brad Rowsey, business development office at Capital Asset Advisors, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

For VARs serving the SMB space, Cisco has boosted the rebates for Select certified partners that participate in the global Partner Development Funds program, offering up to $15,000 until July 25.

Also new for VARs is the Small Business Performance Accelerator, a global rebate program for registered VARs selling into SMBs.

In addition, SMB VARs can now leverage extended channel financing terms of 90 days for the next six months.

TAGS: networking,Cisco,SMBs,VARs,small businesses

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