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Cisco Broadens SMB Portfolio

Cisco Systems is building out its small business portfolio, Cisco Small Business, with today's rollout of networking, security and storage products, as well as both service and financing offerings. The products include entry-level Ethernet switches, a network security firewall, backup service for its NSS300 storage products, and a three-year, 3 percent financing package.

A part of its Connect lineup, the Cisco 200 Series Smart Switches (starting at $287) family consists of nine models of entry-level or light-managed switches that fall between the unmanaged and managed switches. The Cisco RV220W Network Security Firewall ($363) offers a combination of faster performance with Gigabit Ethernet. The NSS300 Series Smart Storage product line is getting an optional integrated online Mozy backup service. List pricing starts at $913; customers can activate or add Mozy online backup plans starting at $145 for 25Gbytes for one year.

Cisco says the small business market has been fairly strong, growing even during the downturn. IDC's Justin Jaffe, senior analyst, SMB & Home Office Research, thinks the new offerings will continue this trend. "IDC research shows that less than 20 percent of U.S. small businesses (firms with less than 100 employees) currently own managed switches, compared with more than 60 percent of midsized firms (100 to 999 employees). The benefits of lightly managed and managed switches are increasingly attractive to SMBs, and lightly managed models are often less expensive than fully managed ones, which is going to be critical for smaller firms that are only just beginning to thaw out IT budgets."

The small business market is the most heterogeneous segment of enterprise networking, says Steve Hilton, enterprise and small enterprise program, Analysy Mason, Research. "'One size never fits all' in the small business sector. As the networking environment becomes more complex, a small business might need a fully managed switching environment, but until then, it's likely that the small business can spend a little less money on the switch and be satisfied with a 'switch light.'"

Jaffe says technology that can help SMBs securely access resources from remote locations, like the RV 220W, will have appeal as firms look to increase the productivity of employees, whether they're working at the office, home, client locations or branch offices. "Cisco continues to expand and refresh its offerings for the small business market, introducing traditional networking equipment (to both drive and address increasing LAN use among small firms), as well as products in other categories, such as IP telephony and video, which still represent uncharted territory for most small firms."

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