Cisco’s small business lineup is divided into three categories: communicate, secure and connect, a simplified taxonomy that Todd Madgett, director of small and medium business and distribution at Cisco Canada, said was designed to resonate with SMB customers. This week’s announcements fit firmly into the latter two categories.
The small business space in Canada is 100 per cent partner-led for Cisco. As Madgett describes the market: “There are more than one million potential customers in Canada, and we wouldn’t be successful unless we were driving that through our partners.”
The new 200 Series of switches are the entry level of managed switches from the networking vendor with nine new models between 24 and 50 ports, with both fast (10/100) and Gigabit Ethernet options. The 200 series offers greater energy efficiency over previously low-end switches and also introduces Power over Ethernet, making it IP telephony-friendly.
The 200 Series is also the new entry point for IPv6 from Cisco, making it their “future-proof” low-end offering. “This is our entry level offering to support them long-term,” Madgett said.
The switches’ setup and management is all browser-based, offering a simplified setup more importantly to partners, providing access to remote management and diagnostics, as well as “managed services and everything else to be done remotely,” he said.
The company introduces online storage and backup with the NSS300 Series Smart Storage appliance, the entry point into Cisco’s partnership with Mozy for online backup. The NSS300 is available in two- four- or eight-slot configurations with up to 1 TB of storage in each slot, an on-premise appliance that can be remotely managed by solution providers. It also has the ability to do remote backup to another unit that’s remotely located. It’s a type of solution that small businesses increasingly need, especially with what Madgett described as “the explosion of video” in the SMB space making the old “sneakernet” approach of doing manual backups with a USB or Firewire hard drive increasingly unmanageable.
With the new RV 220W firewall, Cisco offers a combination wireless access point and security tool, offering built-in firewall and remote access capabilities as well as Web security and VPN access. It’s also remote management enabled, allowing partners to take control of the SMB’s security and remote access environment. It also offers a simplified, browser-based setup.
Although small business is broadly defined as less than 250 employees, all of the new Cisco offerings fit firmly into the sub-50 employee environment, which includes 97 per cent of those small businesses. But they do have the ability to expand – the switches, for example, are stackable, and the networked storage offering is expandable through additional storage.
“When an SMB decides to invest, we want to be sure we’ve got offerings for them for the long term,” Madgett said.
The three new product lines will be available through Cisco Capital for financing arrangements. In Canada, as in Europe, the company offers three-year, zero per cent financing. But in the U.S., it’s offering three per cent over three years. Although the zero per cent financing package is a promotional offering, it’s one Madgett sees continuing for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve had great success with our partners with that financing option,” he said. “It keeps getting extended, and my expectation is that we’ll continue to provide this for the near term.”