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Cisco NSS 300: Big Features For SMBs

In an attempt to support SMBs, Cisco has announced a family of easy-to-use network storage products. The Cisco Small Business NSS 300 Series Smart Storage network appliance systems are specifically designed for companies of fewer than 100 employees rather than being downsized from mid-market devices. The NSS 300 also include a suite of built-in business applications such as a Web server, a WordPress publishing platform and security and management servers.

The devices were designed to be quiet, meant for an office environment rather than requiring a computer room. They plug into a normal outlet so that organizations can use an uninterruptible power supply for battery backup. They are EnergyStar-rated, can spin drives down when not in us, and send e-mail alerts to the network administrator if they overheat.

The NSS 300 series comes in three models: the  2-bay, 4-bay, and 6-bay. They can hold 2.5- or 3.5-inch drives with 1 or 2TB per bay, giving the units a capacity of up to 12TB. In addition, they include two eSATA and five USB expansion ports, meaning users can back up the devices by plugging in an external USB drive. They also include dual Gb Ethernet ports and dual interfaces for backups. Users can back up PCs, Macs or servers to the devices, as well as backing up one device to another for disaster recovery. The devices all use the same software.

Analysts were generally favorable about the announcements but thought Cisco would need to rein in its tendency to be too expensive and complex if it wanted to succeed in the SMB market. "Cisco has to work hard making sure their products aren't too fancy for SMBs," says Steven Hilton, the Boston-based head of enterprise and SMB research for Analysys Mason. "Cisco has the world's finest networking gear for large enterprises, but if you offer fancy, complex gear to SMBs, they often go into a state of paralysis. SMBs don't want all the bells and whistles if having them adds complexity."

The Cisco Small Business NSS 300 Series Smart Storage family is available now from Cisco partners at prices ranging from $913 to $5.625 for the 12TB model. Three years of technical support is available with the Small Business Pro Service, for $149. Cisco's announcements were an effective expansion into the small business NAS space, and competitively priced, though not the cheapest, says Ray Boggs, vice president of small/medium business and home office research for IDC.