Cisco Bolsters Small Business Portfolio With New Products, Programs and Services

Vendor extends SMB offerings to channel partners to mark anniversary of $100 investment in market.

December 4, 2009

D.H. Kass

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Cisco Systems Inc. unwrapped a lineup of new products, programs and services aimed at channel partners selling to small- to medium-sized businesses, extending its portfolio with networking, security and collaboration equipment, pre-sales design support and a hardware replacement service.

At the center of Cisco’s multi-part announcement, which marked the anniversary of the vendor’s $100 million investment in its SMB practice—the company showcased a pre-sales, free design service available to channel partners worldwide, either by telephone or online, to huddle with engineers versed in the company’s SMB technology.

A parts replacement service, which Cisco is calling the Pro Rapid Replacement Service, offers four-hour equipment replacement on the vendor’s Small Business Pro lineup. The program, aimed at mission critical products such as voice, is priced at $999 for a three-year contract, and includes access to Cisco’s Small Business Support Center, located in Greenville, SC.

“The Partner Design Support service helps partners in pre-design installation and configuration stages to design, sell and deploy the best solution possible for their customer’s unique business problem,” said Andrew Sage, Cisco vice president, worldwide small business sales.

“It’s intended to give channel partners the confidence that what they’re proposing to their customers is the right solution,” he said.

Sage said that the Partner Design Support program rounds out Cisco’s folder of services for SMB-focused partners. The vendor struggles with a lingering perception that its products and services are geared for the enterprise at the expense of SMB customers.

“We want to ease SMB partners’ concerns about working with Cisco, we’re trying to be easier to work with,” he said.

Cisco expanded its networking equipment for the SMB market with an 802.11n dual-band, clustering access point, called the Cisco AP541N, priced at $499. It is intended to help small businesses quickly and securely set up high performance networks with multiple access points.

“This is something that has been a little complex in the past but with this product we’ve highly simplified it here,” Sage said.

For security, the vendor enhanced its SA500 Unified Threat Management solution with an intrusion prevention system to better secure SMB customers’ networks and data, and two services that extend virus protection to end points.

The ProtectLink Gateway service combines anti-spam, anti-phishing, content filtering and Web reputation monitoring to block attacks, and ProtectLink Endpoint scrutinizes Windows-based PCs to determine suitable security levels.

List pricing for the SA series begins at $550. The ProtectLink Gateway service is priced at $178 for a five-seat license and the ProtectLink Endpoint services costs $185 for a five-seat license. Both require a firmware update, scheduled for release late this month.

Cisco added MonitorView to its SPA525G IP phone, enabling live video streaming to the phone from security and video monitoring cameras used by small businesses. The phone provides VPN support, allowing tele-workers to connect to the business network by connecting the phone to a broadband network.

New products, services for service providers

For service providers, Cisco also is offering the Hosted Small Business Communications portfolio, a platform to deliver hosted IP telephony to SMB customers that includes Cisco switches, phones and the new SRP services-ready platform. Prices vary by region, configuration and number of users.

“The switches, phone and services all work seamlessly together to deliver hosted services to small businesses,” Sage said.

The SRP 500 Series Services Ready Platforms, allows service providers to easily create, provision and deploy managed data, voice and security services for small businesses. Pricing for the SRP Series services starts at $250, depending on the model, and currently is available in the U.S., Canada and Europe.

The vendor also broadened its Small Business Communication System with two platforms, the UC540 and the UC560, each priced at 25 percent less than six months ago, Sage said. Release 2.0 includes support for up to 100 users and is priced starting at $164 per user.

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TAGS: security,networking,Cisco,small business,channel partners

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