Cisco Merrily Sails Down the Small Business Stream with New Releases

By Steve Hilton, Enterprise Research, Analysys Mason

Cisco (CSCO) continues to make progress in the small business sector with a series of announcements on Dec. 1, 2009. The announcements are focused around Cisco services/support, products and channel partner enhancements. What does it all mean?

Cisco intends to come out of the global recession in a strong position than its competition. For sheer breadth and quality of small business networking products, Cisco is at or close to the top of a very short list of Tier 1 vendors (including HP, 3Com and Alcatel-Lucent).

I like the continued focus on a small business services and support organization. The executive team recognizes the need to have toll-free support centers; simple, fast parts replacement; and tech support specially designed for partners selling to small businesses.

This is the second year of Cisco’s refined small business play. What do they still need to do? They’ll need to continue localization of services and support, particular channel initiatives, and product/language support. In addition, Cisco should consider matching the warranty of HP (limited lifetime) for most of its solutions, at least those solutions in the Small Business Pro series. While expensive, we think Cisco needs to keep up the general market awareness building. The name Cisco needs to be meaningful for small businesses, which requires continued presence in media.

Here is a little more detail about the announcements. (You also can watch this video of a few shenanigans with Cisco small business executives Andrew Sage and Mark Monday, and Cisco analyst relations’ very own Laura Irwin.)

— Services/support — Cisco provider online and telephone-based support for customer and partners. Now, Cisco has new pre-sales technical design support for partners. Cisco provides this support in two ways — over the phone with its technical staff and using Smart Designs, published technical best-in-class design templates. Cisco also has common setup interfaces for its produces reducing the time-to-install. Finally, Cisco has a small business support community allowing online discussions about Cisco products, installations and business-related issues.

— Products — Cisco has a new 802.11n clustering wireless access point that has auto-discovery and a centralized management tool. They also have a sweet integration of the SPA525G IP phone with their physical surveillance system, so businesses with facilities management needs can run their surveillance over the same IP network they use for data (and voice) traffic. Cisco also has a new Unified Threat Management solution, a cool all-in-one network security appliance. Finally, Cisco announced some new bells and whistles for its Small Business Communications Solution.

— Partner program enhancements — Cisco leads with new 5 percent to 10 percent rebate discounts for partners and 0 percent financing for 36 months in certain countries. Cisco continues to add more partners to its SMB Select tier of certification — now more than 9,000 partners — one measure of its relentless focus on the small business channel.

We expect to hear more announcements from Cisco’s small business team toward the end of the company’s fiscal year. We’d like to see some key performance indictors and metrics for their various small business products/solutions and hear some more support center statistics.

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