Cisco Expects Big Things From Small Businesses

Cisco today stepped up efforts to woo small and medium
business (SMB) customers with a new multi-pronged initiative.

Dubbed SMB Class Solutions, the push includes enhanced networking hardware,
software and services designed for flexibility and scalability.

Taking a page from telecom carriers’ playbook, Cisco is bundling telephony
and voice mail, enhanced routing, switching, security and Virtual Private
Network products with wireless connectivity at reduced prices.

The San Jose, Calif., company also improved its applications. New
communications programs allow SMB customers to activate intelligent
telephony features such as click-to-dial and on-screen notices of incoming

A series of improvements to network manager programs aims to make it easier
to set-up, secure and manage components using new intuitive menus.

“We have been building to this,” Peter Alexander, vice president of
commercial products, told “We’ve increasingly seen
growth and success in the small and medium business space.”

Cisco doesn’t formally report the percentage of SMB sales compared to
enterprises and service providers, but Alexander said roughly 25 percent of
its product revenue comes from deals with companies with between 20 and
1,000 users.

There are other non-technical aspects to the plan, such as financing.
There’s a new one-page credit application and quick funding decisions. A
zero percent, 36-month leasing option and service-only financing starting at
$5,000 per year for three years are also now available.

Finally, training is part of the mix. The SMB Class Solution designer tool
educates users on networking and helps them design customized networks and
online classes are available.

In all, Cisco, which competes against Juniper and Nortel
, among others, has earmarked about $2 billion over the next
two years to support SMB Class Solutions.

During the telecom downturn, President and CEO John Chambers often said he
believed SMBs would lead the way to recovery because of their networking
needs and ability to act quickly. Today’s announcement puts additional
resources behind that prediction.

Industry watchers believe SMBs are becoming more reliant on networked
applications, including online interactions and communicating with their
mobile workforce.

“For long-term survival, SMBs must be able to adjust quickly to
unpredictable market conditions,” Helen Chan, senior analyst, Yankee Group,
said in a statement. “They look for flexible and scalable technology
solutions that meet their business requirements today and future-proof
their business needs tomorrow.”

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