Cisco Targets Small Offices With New IP Telephone Packages

New Call Manager Express and Unity Express software aims to provide small business customers with IP telephony features competitive with key systems or PBXes.

Cisco Systems Inc. Thursday launched a pair of new IP telephony offerings designed to reduce the cost and complexity of deployment in small offices.

Cisco made it possible for users to deploy call processing capabilities through add-on IOS software for its Access Routers, ranging from the 1700 series through the 3700 series routers, in its new Cisco Call Manager Express. Cisco added a companion voice mail and automated attendant capability, dubbed Cisco Unity Express.

To make it easier for small-to-medium sized customers or those at small branch offices to create a full-services office, Cisco also created a series of 10 blueprints on a Web portal at its site that describe tools, best practices and channel partners available to help with technology deployments. The blueprints cover IP telephony, security, application optimization and business video as well as connectivity.

"It tells you about other customers doing similar things, provides financial justification tools, and details ways to deploy solutions yourself or with help," Jeanne Dunn, director of marketing for Cisco Access Technologies in San Jose, Calif., said. "We are trying to accelerate the customers time to success and advance new applications."

Cisco has evolved services on those areas over the last five years that work in Cisco LAN switches and routers for small offices. The goal is to simplify deployment and management and reduce total cost of ownership for offices with no IT staff on site.

Cisco Call Manager Express, intended to support up to 120 users, provides features competitive with key systems or Private Branch Exchanges. The features include call forwarding, call pick up, hunt groups, paging and intercom. Cisco Unity Express adds voice mail and automated attendant functions.

A graphical user interface makes it possible for non-technical users to add new phone extensions. It can also be deployed as a managed service from carriers or Internet Service Providers.

BloodSource, a non-profit blood distribution agency, is already saving between $3,000 to $5,000 per month in toll charges and maintenance fees using CallManager Express, according to Stephanie Stevens, director of center recruitment in Sacramento, Calif.

"Im not a fan of PBXs," she said. "[CallManager Express] is totally easy for non-technical people to set it up and administer. Were going to roll it out organization-wide."

Both offerings are available now. Cisco CallManager Express ranges from $750 for 24 users on a Cisco 1700 series router to $2,800 for 120 users on a Cisco 3700 series router. Cisco Unity Express starts at $2,995.

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