Cisco sets its sights on small business

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Cisco sets its sights on small business

New networking systems offer 'all forms of business communication in one box'.

Cisco has made a move to boost its presence as a networking equipment provider for small and medium-sized businesses.

The company will be offering a new system designed to bring together all forms of business communication into one box.

The Smart Business Communications System (SBCS) will comprise three networking devices and two new administration applications.

A C500 Ethernet switch, wireless access point and controller will allow users to plug in up to 16 VoIP phone systems, as well as local area and wireless networks.

Eren Hussein, unified communications manager at Cisco, said that the system will combine the voice, networking and data-sharing aspects of a typical small-business network.

"Small businesses typically have a number of different network systems," Hussein said. "The SBCS replaces all these networks with a single platform." 

The system is also designed to simplify the management of software on a network, allowing for integration with customer relationship management software, such as call centre applications.

Cisco also hopes to make the system easier to administrate. SBCS will include a local 'manager' software client and a 'director' application for a third-party companies to administrate the systems.

The 'partner' companies will help small business customers to install the system and oversee maintenance of the network.

To further encourage the development of the partner companies, Cisco will introduce a new certification programme for small and medium-sized businesses.

The programme is key to getting the new products into businesses, according to Cisco and industry analysts.

"One of the things we see is that the SMB market is highly segmented, and many do not know how this technology can help them," Ann Sun, global SMB market group senior manager at Cisco, said.

"It is not just a solution itself, but a delivery through our channel partners."

Outside companies provide nearly all IT services for many smaller businesses, according to Yankee Group analyst Steve Hilton. 

"You need an incredibly deep channel," added."SMBs cannot implement these things by themselves. There's just no way."

Hilton added that, while ease of use and integration are important, Cisco and its partners also need to assure small business that the systems will be affordable and lasting.

"If I go with a Cisco solution, and it is more difficult to implement, I am going to go with that rather than something that I am going to have to rip out in 12 months," he said.

Cisco's ability to provide financing to start-ups low on capital and businesses in developing nations will also be important going forward, according to the analyst.

"Small businesses have relied on financing to a small extent, and I think they are going to be relying on it increasingly in the future."

Cisco plans to begin shipping the SBCS systems in June.
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