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Cisco Helps Small VARs Offer Managed Services to SMBs

By Kelly Teal
December 14, 2011 - News

Cisco Systems Inc. VARs who work with SMBs now can add managed services to their portfolios, courtesy of the new OnPlus appliance and cloud-based access.

Cisco this week introduced the tool, which lets IT partners monitor and manage customers' network devices – phones, computers, anything with an IP address – remotely. OnPlus also allows partners to track warranty and service contracts for Cisco gear on the network. Perhaps most importantly, it gives partners a way to hold meaningful conversation with SMB owners about network quality and performance.

"Finding an opportunity is the first step in making a sale," said Steve Hilton, principal analyst for Analysys Mason.

OnPlus comes onto the scene as Cisco beefs up its SMB focus through the Partner Led initiative, launched earlier this year. Many large VARs have offered managed services for some time; now, their smaller counterparts, who have fewer resources, are able to follow suit. OnPlus Hilton said, lets small Cisco VARs "look like IT rock stars."

"How cool is it to find a customer’s network problem before they do?" he said. "How much more cool is it to fix the problem before the customer even knew he had one? Enabling a partner to find an IT problem before the customer does is the purpose of OnPlus."

To that point, VARs may implement OnPlus into their business models however they please, said David Tang, Cisco's small business engineering director of strategy. For example, some VARs use OnPlus just to assess customer networks, while others use it on an ongoing basis for management and support. Some use OnPlus as a free, value-added service while others charge for it. For their part, VARs pay $250 for a three-year subscription, or about $5 per month. Separate subscriptions are required for each network being monitored. Cisco is limiting OnPlus availability to VARs in North America as it plans expansion to other regions.  

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