Cisco Systems is updating parts of its product line for small businesses, a world where IT needs have grown up over the past few years.
In a broad product rollout set for Wednesday, the company is introducing new managed Ethernet switches, IP (Internet Protocol) phones, security cameras and other products. Cisco faces a wide range of competitors in this market segment, which the company defines as companies with 100 or fewer employees. Those rivals include well-known names such as D-Link and Netgear. But it also needs to keep up with small-business technology concerns that have grown up, according to analyst Steve Hilton of Analysys Mason.
"Networking for small business, and IT for small business, is starting to incorporate concepts from large enterprises and from consumers," Hilton said. In just the past few years, small businesses have become more concerned about security, business continuity, virtualization and VoIP (voice over IP), though they may not use those exact words, Hilton said.
On Wednesday, Cisco will start shipping the Cisco 300 Series Managed Switches, fitting them in between the low-end 100 series unmanaged devices and the 500 Series at the high end. The switches are designed to tackle at least two issues that large enterprises already face and SMBs are starting to see, power consumption and IPv6. Cisco said it designed the 300 Series for low power consumption and that the systems save as much as 74 percent on energy compared with earlier products. The new switches also are designed for use with IPv6, the new version of IP that is likely to become more important and widely used over the next several years as IPv4 addresses are used up.
The 300 Series switches have a wide range of management settings that can be set remotely by a service provider or system integrator, which usually takes on the role of IT manager for businesses with fewer than 100 employees, said Mark Monday, vice president and general manager of Cisco's small business technology group. Via a Web browser, those channel partners can set up VLANs (virtual LANs) and define quality of service among the users in a business, among other things, Monday said.
With the introduction of the 300 Series, Cisco has now replaced virtually all of the small-business products it inherited from Linksys, the division of the company that is now solely focused on consumer products, Monday said. In 2008, Cisco began realigning its products to have just one brand in the small-business arena.
The company is also coming out with three new IP desk phone models. The Cisco SPA525G2 IP Phone comes with Wi-Fi so it can be set up to connect to the LAN without an Ethernet cable, and it can be paired with cell phones via Bluetooth. Among other things, this Mobile Link feature allows users to walk into an office while on a cell-phone call and link up the two phones so the call is then carried through the desk phone's handset or speakerphone. A cell phone contact list can also be sent to the desk phone via Bluetooth, Monday said. Cisco is also introducing Office Manager, an administration tool designed for small-business office administrators to carry out routine operational tasks on Cisco's IP communications system. Two entry-level phones, called the SPA300 Series, also are hitting the market Wednesday.
For security, Cisco is introducing two IP surveillance cameras, the VC 220 Dome IP Video Camera for indoor locations and the VC 240 Bullet IP Video Camera for outdoor settings. It is also rolling out Cisco Advanced Video Monitoring System software, which features analytical tools for tasks such as sending out alerts if an item in the camera's view appears, disappears or moves.
Also on Wednesday, Cisco will make its Small Business Support Service available across its entire small business lineup. With the service, businesses or channel partners can get three years of support for a product, including software updates, next-business-day replacement for hardware and other features.
A wide range of configurations for the 300 Series Managed Switches offer between eight and 48 ports of Fast Ethernet and between 10 and 52 ports of Gigabit Ethernet.
The switches carry list prices starting at $217, and most are available immediately. The SPA 300 Series phones are priced from $83 to $125 and the SPA525G2 phone costs $430. All are available now. Office Manager is a no-cost download, available only in English. The VC220 camera costs $794 and the Bullet IP Video Camera costs $921, while the Advanced Video Monitoring System software is priced starting at $1,000. All three are available now.
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