One year ago, Cisco announced a $100 million dollar global investment plan to develop products and services specifically for small businesses with up to 100 employees. It was a big, splashy push into the small business market, and more importantly, it was a well-executed initiative that continues to provide a lot of value to small business owners.
Marking the initiative’s first anniversary, Cisco today announced an expansion to its small business portfolio in the areas of networking, security and communication, as well as in partner programs and financing. The company says its broad lineup now includes more than 600 products designed expressly for small business needs.
According to Rick Moran, Cisco’s vice president of small business solutions marketing, the company divides its small business products into three distinct buckets: Connect, for wireless access points, switches and VPN; Secure, for anti-spam, firewalls and cameras; and Communicate, for telephone systems.
The latest addition to company’s networking family is a 802.11n dual-band clustering access point, the Cisco AP 541N. Moran explained the advantage. “This is the first access point to auto-discover other access points and automatically configure them, which means you only have to set up one SSID [the name of the wireless network].” The AP541N is available now, and it sells for $499.
Cisco made a few changes to its Configuration Assistant (software that helps you set up and deploy the Cisco Smart Business Communications System). As a result, you can use the Cisco SPA 525G IP Phone to stream live video from Cisco security cameras.
“You can connect an IP camera and display the video on the phone screen,” said Moran. “Live video monitoring lets you see who’s at the loading dock, in the lobby or at the front door.” For customers with a service contract, the Cisco SPA 525G IP Phone sells for $430.
A software upgrade to Cisco’s SA 500 Series Security Appliances adds new features and capabilities. It includes an intrusion prevention system (IPS) that scans for and blocks suspicious or malicious network activity, plus the Cisco ProtectLink Gateway and the Cisco ProtectLink Endpoint.
These features protect your network (through a hosted provider), desktops, laptops and servers against denial of service (DoS) attacks and also provide anti-spam, anti-phishing, content filtering and Web reputation monitoring capabilities.
These new features are sold as licenses: IPS costs $150 per license; a five-seat license for Cisco ProtectLink Gateway costs $178; Cisco ProtectLink Endpoint costs $185 for a five-seat license. Cisco says the firmware upgrade required to activate the IPS and ProtectLink Endpoint features should be available in late December.
If you buy a Cisco Hosted Small Business Communications system, which includes the new Cisco SRP 500 Series Services Ready Platforms, it will most likely be through a service provider such as CBeyond or Verizon. “This remote telephony box sits on the customer’s site, but it’s managed and provisioned by the service provider,” said Moran. “It supports up to 20 hand sets, and it’s also available with a Wi-Fi access point.”
Pricing for Cisco Hosted Small Business Communications varies depending on your region and the number of employees and the type of configurations. Pricing for the Cisco SRP 500, which is available in different models, starts at $250.
The Smart Business Communications System (SBCS) Release 2.0, which integrates voice, data, video and wireless services and provides a secure way for remote workers to communicate, now comes in two versions. The UC540 handles up to 36 people, while the UC560 scales up to 100 people. Pricing starts at $164 per person and goes up depending on region, number of people, configuration and specific business needs.
Cisco also announced a program of its reseller partners. The Cisco Partner Design Support program offers free help for resellers as they design and install systems that meet the specific technology needs of their small business customers. In addition, the new Cisco Pro Rapid Replacement Service guarantees four-hour hardware replacement and 24-hour tech support for Cisco Small Business Pro products. The three-year service costs $1,000.
“These programs are designed to let our partners sell faster, install faster and respond faster before, during and after service,” said Moran. “It lets our partners provide their customers that balance between flexibility and simplicity.”
Finally, Cisco Capitol is extending its zero-percent, 36-month, same-as-cash financing through July 2010. This financing applies to the Cisco Unified Communications and Small Business Pro Series solutions for small businesses, and it includes the option of keeping the equipment at the end of the lease.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|