In an effort to make inroads in the SMB market, Cisco Systems Inc. this week is launching two sets of IP networking products and services. The goal is to offer small and midsize businesses the communications capabilities that typically only larger enterprises enjoy.
For small businesses, Ciscos new Business Communications Solution suite includes an SMB-class Catalyst Express 500 Series of switches, built for companies that want to operate converged voice and data networks. Using the new switching products and an updated version of Cisco Network Assistant, small businesses can set up wireless LANs and IP communications more quickly and easily than before.
Peoples Federal Credit Union, in Nitro, W.Va., is using Ciscos new SMB technologies to develop a satellite-connected mobile banking vehicle. Without the Business Communications Solution offerings, the mobile unit would not have been possible, said Jeff Snider, vice president of IT and marketing at the credit union.
“As recently as nine months ago, we wouldnt be able to do it,” Snider said. “As far as we know, this is the first of its type. Im sure it will be the first of many.”
The mobile unit will serve as a temporary branch office in areas where a new banking site is under construction and as a mobile service facility for members far from the credit unions two existing branches. It will provide all the services that the branches offer, except for safety deposit boxes, Snider said, adding that it will raise the companys name recognition as well.
The Cisco suite includes an upgraded version of CallManager Express with MeetMe Conference capability for 20 to 96 users, improved call routing and queuing, and increased security. Cisco also upgraded Unity Express to better integrate auto-attendant and call distribution features.
To let small businesses focus on their own work and not on network complexities, Cisco is offering an SMB Support Assistant, which provides electronic tools, software bug fixes and replacement of hardware that can be delivered by the next business day, where available.
For midsize companies, Cisco is rolling out a series of IP applications, including its MeetingPlace Express voice and Web conferencing software, and Mobile Connect, which lets users consolidate all their calls in one IP phone number for multiple devices. Mobile workers can move to their IP desktop phones from their mobile phones without disconnecting a call.
In addition, midsize businesses can now deploy a browser-based voice mail system using Ciscos new Unity Connection software, which comes with speech recognition, call routing, call screening and message notice features.
Cisco also introduced new XML-enabled IP phones aimed at the SMB market.