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Partners Applaud Free Cisco Security, UC Licenses Extended During Coronavirus Pandemic

COVID-19 coronavirus is putting a sudden strain on IT teams to enable remote workers. Partners are taking advantage of tech vendors, such as Cisco, extending free licenses for remote collaboration and security tools.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is forcing many employees around the world to work from home. As such, IT vendors and service providers are rushing to the aid of businesses armed with remote collaboration and security tools to enable an offsite work staff.

"Coronavirus has been a huge topic of conversation, both for us internally and for our customers," said Chris Grundemann, vice president of client success for New York City-based Myriad360.

The security-focused solution provider and Cisco partner has been busy helping its customers make sure they have the tools in place to work remotely, and also ensure that its own staff can work from home without interruption. "We're a small company, so we are grappling with making sure our folks are safe and don't put any unnecessary burden on the healthcare system," Grundemann said.

[Related: Cisco Employs Mandatory Work From Home Policy Due To Coronavirus ]

In particular, solutions such as mobile security, VPN, and zero-trust network access are in high demand right now as businesses ensure their employees can connect to their applications from wherever they are, Grundemann said.

"Outside of the fact that it's being caused by a pandemic, it's good for us as a partner because it's a security conversation we've been trying to have with customers for a long time," he said.

To that end, San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco has extended free licenses and expanded usage counts at no extra charge for three of its security technologies to help strained IT teams and partners ready themselves and their clients for remote work.

Cisco Umbrella, the firm’s cloud-based security platform that protects users from malicious internet destinations while on and off the corporate network, is now available to new customers via free license. Existing customers can also exceed their user limit to support more remote employees. The same deal goes for both Cisco's Duo Security offering, which offers duel-factor authentication, as well as Cisco AnyConnect Secure Mobility Client, its secure endpoint access solution.

Gee Rittenhouse, senior vice president and general manager of security for Cisco, said in a blog post that these offers will remain in effect July 1. "Supporting our customers and partners remains a top priority, and we hope these proactive steps help companies manage the business impact and keep employees safe during this evolving situation," Rittenhouse said.

Cisco Webex, the tech giant's popular videoconferencing platform, has gained popularity as a result of the coronavirus outbreak as many businesses make arrangements for their employees to work remotely. Traffic on the Webex backbone that connects China-based Webex users to their employers increased more than 20 times since the outbreak began. At the same time, Cisco Webex saw 4 to 5 times as many users in Japan, South Korea and Singapore, with the average time spent on Webex video meetings doubling in those countries. Impacted countries are seeing free Webex sign-ups increase seven-fold compared to pre-outbreak sign-up rates, Sri Srinivasan, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Team Collaboration Group, said in a blog post.

Cisco at the beginning of March expanded the capabilities on its free Webex offer in all countries where it is available, not only to those impacted by coronavirus, Srinivasan said. The new Webex features include unlimited usage or no time restrictions and support for up to 100 participants. Cisco is also providing free 90-day licenses to businesses who are not Webex customers in this time of need through its sales team and Cisco partners, Srinivasan said.

Computex Technology Solutions, a Cisco Gold Quad Master-level partner, is helping many of its clients prepare to work remotely right now.

"Webex is something people are familiar with, so it's great that it's targeted for COVID-19," said Faisal Bhutto, Houston-based Computex's executive vice president of enterprise networking, cloud and cybersecurity.

Bhutto would like to see a dedicated partner help desk from Cisco to help partners and their customers get up and running faster with solutions geared toward remote working.

"If people can have security [solutions] available like Umbrella free of cost to use BYOD, that's a great option," he said. "We just need the execution to be higher-touch from major players like Cisco."


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