Cisco Extends SMB Reach With New Security Gear, Hosted Services

On the service and support side, Cisco is adding two programs: Cisco Partner Design Support, which offers VARs access to Cisco engineers focused on small business to help create and deploy product sets, and Cisco Small Business Pro Rapid Replacement Service, which offers 24-hour technical support and also four-hour hardware replacement.

"It's a three-year, peace-of-mind service. Not always does 'next business day' replacement help them," said Kerry McDonough, U.S. director of small business sales at Cisco, in a interview. "It's a service that partners can then add to with value and services of their own. These customers may not have IT staff, and even if they do, they're still cutting costs. Partners continue to tell us that managed services have increased during this downturn. It's important that [end users] have an offering available that's more than just a switch."

For networking gear, Cisco is launching a new access point, Cisco AP 541N, which offers 802.11n dual-band clustering and costs $499. On the security side, Cisco has added MonitorView, an upgrade to Cisco's $430 SPA 525G IP Phone that allows live video streaming for video cameras and other small-business security devices. There's also new VPN support for the SPA 525G.

In addition, there are upgrades to Cisco's three-month-old SA 500 Series security appliances that add intrusion prevention, a service called ProtectLink Gateway, which integrates antispam, antiphishing, content filtering and Web reputation monitoring, and ProtectLink Endpoint, to examine Windows-based PCs and determine whether security levels need to be upgraded. Pricing for the SA 500 Series begins at $550, and individual pieces like intrusion prevention and ProtectLink are available as individual licenses, too.

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Finally, Cisco is offering Hosted Small Business Communications, a platform for hosted IP telephony. That solution set, which is priced according to region and configuration, includes new Cisco SRP 500 Series Services Ready Platforms, which start at $250 and enable VARs to create, configure, deploy or provision different data, voice and security services in a hosted model. The last piece of the hosted platform is a software upgrade, SBCS Release 2.0, which supports up to 100 users and starts at $164 per user.

"The most basic customer thing we hear is 'Make it easier to deploy,'" McDonough explained. "The small businesses are looking to be price-conscious, but they do see technology as a way to grow their business. We want to address the simplest customers but also be able to upgrade as they grow."

The product and service debuts continue a series of small business plays made by Cisco in recent months. Small business was one of the areas singled out by Cisco CEO John Chambers earlier this year as one of the company's "fastest growth opportunities."

Small business has also been a prime area of focus for Cisco rival Hewlett-Packard, which recently bolstered its own small business portfolio around thin-client solutions, servers, storage devices, print services and other areas.