Cisco Expands SMB Networking, UC Portfolio

Cisco's new switches, routers and UC offerings are designed to enable smaller businesses to leverage the growing trends of mobility and cloud computing.

Cisco Systems is growing its networking and communications offerings for smaller businesses, which company officials said are being affected in the same way as enterprises by the growing trends around mobility and cloud computing.

Cloud adoption among small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in 2011 was at 72 percent, and is expected to grow to 98 percent by 2015, according to Dave Tang, director of strategy and communications at Cisco. At the same time, over the next two years, SMBs will spend about $50 billion on cloud services.

In addition, these smaller businesses are seeing similar trends in mobility as their larger brethren. Twenty-six percent of SMB employees work at home three or more days a week, 71 percent of SMBs are mobile work-from-anywhere businesses, and 76 percent of SMB employees consider themselves road warriors.

SMBs also are seeing employees increase their use of such mobile computing devices as smartphones and tablets.

€œThe ability to connect to the cloud and [to gain] access to data is becoming more critical,€ Tang told eWEEK. €œConnectivity has become business-critical to them, as opposed to being convenient just three or four years ago.€

With the expanded portfolio, Cisco is looking to give these smaller organizations€”which many times have relied on consumer products for their networking and communications needs€”business-level technology, he said. The networking giant, in a rollout April 12, touched on a number of areas, including wireless access points (WAPs), switches and routers, and unified communications (UC) technologies. In addition, the company is giving resellers the ability to offer greater managed services to their customers.

On the networking front, Cisco is unveiling its Small Business 500 Series of stackable managed switches, giving SMBs the tools they need to handle the growing network bandwidth demand that is being driven by smartphones and other mobile devices. The switches offer 24 to 52 ports and automated management of redundant broadband connections through the Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol, which helps ensure always-on cloud connectivity.

The switches, which come near the high end of Cisco€™s SMB switch offerings, are available now, running from $590 to $5,556.

Cisco also is offering the RV180 and RV180W wireless-N VPN routers. Given the high number of SMBs that consider themselves mobile businesses, and the number of employees who need remote access, secure connectivity is important, Tang said. The routers offer four Gigabit Ethernet WAN ports and can offer up to 10 concurrent VPN connections. The RV180W also offers WiFi support. Both are available now and are priced at $182 and $246.

Cisco is adding two new WAPs to its low end of SMB offerings. The 802.11n WAP121 and WAP321 support Power over Ethernet (PoE) and can be mounted on ceilings, walls or shelves. They support 2.4GHz WiFi and four to eight service set identifiers (SSIDs). Tang noted that in 2011, 33 percent of mobile handset and tablet traffic was offloaded from 3G and 4G mobile networks and onto fixed networks, increasing demand on WiFi networks.

The WAPs also are available now, priced at $173 and $310.

Cisco€™s new UC320W v 2.2 UC offering can support up to 24 phones€”analog and IP€”with auto-attendant capabilities and offers features like voice mail, call forwarding and email notification of new messages. It also includes an integrated 2.4GHz 802.11n access point, Gigabit WAN connectivity and a built-in four-port 10/100 switch. It€™s available now for $995.

Cisco€™s OnPlus Service lets resellers begin offering SMBs managed services, Tang said. The cloud-based services enable service providers to work with customers and offer assessment and management capabilities from anywhere, and detect and resolve problems through real-time alerts. It includes the OnPlus ON100 appliances, which automatically discover all devices connected to a network and offer remote management of a host of Cisco products.

The $250 cost for a three-year service subscription includes the ON100 appliance.