Cisco Systems is rolling out several new mobility and collaboration products to help small and midsize businesses deal with such technology trends as cloud computing and a more mobile workforce.
The goal of the products is to give small and midsize businesses technology tools that offer similar business-level capabilities larger companies enjoy, but that address the cost efficiencies and ease of use concerns of smaller firms, according to Lief Koepsel, director of the SMB segment at Cisco.
SMBs already are delving into cloud computing and are dealing with the challenges that a more mobile workforce brings, Koepsel told eWEEK. Plenty of products on the market from many vendors can help them in those areas and enable them to allow greater collaboration, find new markets, and improve sales efficiency and employee productivity, he said.
However, Cisco differentiates itself by offering technologies that not only enable SMBs to reach their business goals but are purpose-built for smaller companies, with features such as a high level of security, standards-based hardware and software, tailored support and low costs.
"That is where we begin to talk about the Cisco story," Koepsel said. "This is why you want to buy business-level devices and not just consumer devices."
On Jan. 23 Cisco unveiled the ISA500 Series integrated security appliances, which offer SMBs a level of wireless security similar to that of larger enterprises. The ISA500 Series brings unified threat management (UTM) capabilities to an SMB's mobile infrastructure, from Internet, wireless, dual WAN, remote VPN and site-to-site access. The all-in-one device is designed to fit into a small office or home office (SOHO) environment, comes with Cisco support and starts at $441, Koepsel said.
Cisco's new RV215W Wireless-N VPN router offers a number of security features and mobile connectivity through options such as 3G and 4G via a USB card. The router enables wireless connectivity when wired access is unavailable.
In addition, the networking giant is unveiling a new handset, the SPA302D multiline digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT), and the SPA232D multiline DECT analog telephone adapter (ATA). The new offerings give SMBs an on-premise mobility tool that can handle a company's voice-over-IP (VoIP) and public switch telephone network (PSTN) calls.
Cisco also is offering a new SPA500DS expansion module, a console for improved collaboration and software updates to the company's WAP121 Wireless-N access point and WAP321 Wireless-N selectable band access point, which allows for easier deployment of office-wide wireless networks through a single-point setup as well as improved WiFi connectivity.
All this connectivity and security are increasingly important to SMBs and enterprises alike, Koepsel said. Seventy-two percent of SMBs had adopted cloud computing to some degree in 2011. That number is expected to hit 98 percent by 2015, he said, adding that the cloud has enabled smaller businesses to better compete against larger companies. In a Jan. 23 post on the Cisco blog site, Koepsel, stressing the growing mobility trends, quoted IDC numbers that show the population of mobile workers should reach 1.3 billion by 2015, and that 71 percent of SMBs now run as work-from-anywhere firms.
"On-the-go SMB workforces need to be able to work and collaborate securely, whether onsite or mobile," he wrote in the blog.
Because SMBs generally lack dedicated IT departments, they require technologies that are easy to use and manage, all within a tight budget, Koepsel noted.
"This kind of enablement is what allows small businesses to be agile," he said.