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Cisco SMB Offensive Continues: More Gear, More Services, More Support

The SMB seeds Cisco planted two years ago are flowering, according to Cisco small business channel chief Andrew Sage.

Cisco on Wednesday unveiled a number of new products, services and support options for its small business portfolio, part of a continued SMB offensive that's brought the networking titan big gains in the past two years, according to Andrew Sage, vice president of worldwide small business sales.

Among the Wednesday debuts are a refresh of Cisco's small business-focused managed switch line and a host of new IP phones and video monitoring software options.

On the switch side, Cisco's 300 Series Managed Switches (starting at $217) are designed with power savings and IPv6 support in mind, and include a lifetime warranty. Portfolio-wise, the 300 Series sits roughly between Cisco's low-end, unmanaged switches and the Catalyst series switches more often used in midmarket and enterprise deployments.

Among new phones, there's the SPA 300 Series (entry-level, with support for Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series, starting at $83), and the higher-end SPA 525G2 (listed at $430), a wireless- and Bluetooth-enabled IP phone with a USB port and a call-transferring feature for use with mobile device called Mobile Link.

Software-wise, there's Office Manager (free download), a desktop administration tool for Cisco's Smart Business Communications System, and the Advanced Video Monitoring System ($1,000), which offers monitoring and analytics for small business video surveillance configurations of up to 64 cameras.

Cisco is also releasing two video cameras, part of what Sage called an "increasing conversation" around IP-based video surveillance opportunity. There's the VC 220 Dome ($794), and the higher-end, weather-proof VC 240 Bullet ($921), designed for outdoor deployment.

All of its Wednesday releases, with the exception of a few Cisco 300 series models, are available immediately.

Next: Services Announcements


Among services announcements, Cisco confirmed that its subscription-based Small Business Support Service -- ranging from $19 to $499 and providing three years of support, next-business-day hardware replacement and Cisco small business resources depending on product -- is now being offered for the entire Cisco Small Business portfolio.

Finally, Cisco's Partner Development Fund (PDF), the small business rebate program used by 10,000 Cisco partners, now has four tracks instead of eight, and Cisco will automatically re-enroll partners who were eligible for PDF at the end of Cisco's fiscal 2010, which ended July 31.

Cisco has also updated the My Cisco feature on Cisco.com, allowing partners to personalize the site into their own dashboard and see all of their relevant Cisco information, from rebates to certifications, in one place.

"Partners are telling us we're hard to work with," Sage said. "They want all of their Cisco information in one place: the status of their certifications, the balance of their rebate accounts, everything. We did it for our larger partners a year and a half ago and we're scaling it down for registered small business partners."

The latest releases extend what's now been a two-year effort by Cisco to dedicate significant resources to growing its small business base. In November 2008, it announced it would invest $100 million as a base for the program -- including engineering and a dedicated small business sales force -- and it's been making product, service and support updates to the effort almost quarterly since then.

Among Cisco's small business highlights for 2010 have been its 3-year, zero-percent-financing program for sub-$250,000 small business sales through Cisco Capital, the launch of Cisco Small Business University, and this summer, the move of former distribution boss Dave O'Callaghan to a new role running what Cisco describes as its commercial segment, which includes small business and midmarket customers with fewer than 1,000 employees.

Sage, who drives route-to-market sales strategy for the space, now reports to O'Callaghan, and he said a major focus from Cisco heading into the new year will be how to take its successes in small business and apply their lessons to its midmarket base.

He declined to provide further details, but emphasized that Cisco's small business strength had brought Cisco a number of new solution providers, including SMB-focused VARs looking to add networking plays.

"We're testing what partners and customers react to the best," Sage said.

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