Cisco pumps up small business line

Adds hardware, incentives for little guys

hands waving dollar bills in the air

The nearest thing to Cisco's heart is clearly a nice, solid conglom to sell oodles of networking kit. But about a year ago, the company glued together products and people from across LinkSys and its US reseller channel to create a new unified SMB program.

Since then, the company has been punting small business technology with relative frequency and focus through its network of resellers. Cisco's scheme continues today with a handful of debuting security and collaboration products aimed specifically at businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Highlighting its merchandise rollout is the Cisco SA 500 Series, an "all-in-one" security appliance that packs built-in firewall and VPN capabilities. The SA 500 also has an optional cloud-based email and web security service using Trend Micro's ProtectLink Gateway that helps block spam and viewing of inappropriate or unsafe web sites.

The base unit, which includes 4 LAN ports, 2 SSL VPN seats (upgradable to 25 with license), and 50 IPsec VPN tunnels starts at $550, with a 3-year Pro Service agreement for $69.

Cisco is also selling a new family of VoIP phones with "HD-quality" wideband audio that has "twice the sound quality of a standard phone," according to the company. The SPA 500 Series IP Phones consist of five models ranging in price from $135 to $430, and work with Cisco Unified Communications 500 Series or hosted IP telephony solutions.

Finally, the company is unveiling Cisco Smart Business Communications Systems Release 1.6, which supports the IP phones and Cisco's new SR 530 router. The SR 520 is intended for small businesses that rely on T1 lines for their primary internet connection and starts at $1,500.

As part of the hardware rollout, Cisco conjured up five new Small Business Partner Development Fund tracks covering Cisco Registered Partners, Cisco Specialized Partners, online resale partners, and service providers. Each track offers quarterly payments to qualifying partners based on how much Cisco swag they purchase.

Because SMBs can be difficult for Cisco to reach and expensive to service, the company relies on resellers to push their product to the market. A little sweetening of the deal apparently goes a long way.

Cisco future-announced its extending interest-free financing in the US and Canada on voice solutions to include the Smart Business Communications System, Unified Communications Manager Express and Unified Communications Manager Business Edition through December 31, 2009. In Europe, zero per cent financing has been extended to include all Cisco Unified Communications and network technologies. ®

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