Cisco Puts New Emphasis on SMBs With UC Platforms

Cisco Systems Inc. is putting new emphasis on a market oft-overlooked by the company: small and mid-sized businesses. The networking giant is starting with the release of two new unified communications (UC) platforms that serve specific segments the first, from two to 24 users; the second, up to 300 users.

The UC300 Series targets smaller companies. And at first blush, as Cisco executives themselves admitted, the platform comes off as a Key replacement system. Thats because the features arent as fleshed out as other products Cisco rivals have released. For example, capabilities include voice mail, voice mail-to-e-mail, wireless support, auto attendant and remote access.

But executives deflected criticism about those seemingly shallow components during Partner Summit 2011 in New Orleans, calling the UC300 series the first in-depth IP telephony product for small businesses. Partners should sell Cisco products because they integrate into a full communications suite, rather than standing alone, like competitors designs, said Ian Pennell, senior vice president of Ciscos Small Business Technology Group. In other words, businesses initially can use UC300 series as a Key system replacement, but the technology is engineered to expand.

It opens the doors to adding more capability,” said Pennell.

The Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000, meanwhile, takes aim at companies with up to 300 people across 10 sites. It come with voice mail, conferencing, softphone, auto attendant, the ability to park or hold calls, single-number reach, extension mobility, and tele-worker support. The 3000 platform costs end users about $100 per person; Cisco is offering three-year, zero percent financing to partners and requires a couple of hours for certification.

The UC 300 series runs about $165 per user, with support contracts rounding out to about $45 per year. Training and certification takes less than an hour.

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