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Cisco Expands SMB Networking, Storage

Cisco 200 Series Smart Switch
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Cisco 200 Series Smart Switch

Cisco on Tuesday added three new products to its small business family, launching a new wireless router, adding online backup to its storage offering, and rounding out the line of switches it began expanding in 2010.

The lightly managed Cisco 200 Series switches offer a middle ground between the company's unmanaged 100 Series and fully managed 300 Series; both were introduced last year. The 200 Series is aimed at price-sensitive smaller business customers, said David Tucker, vice president of the small business technology group at Cisco.

"They need some basic functionality, they need the performance, but they don't have the dollars to really step up to a fully managed solution," Tucker said. List price for the 200 series starts at $287.

The 200 line delivers nine new models with between 24 and 50 ports, and is compatible with fast or gigabit Ethernet switching. It supports IP telephony, wireless access points, and video surveillance via Power over Ethernet (PoE).

Cisco defines the small business segment as firms with up to 100 employees. Tucker said that keeping small businesses separate allows Cisco to develop a "purpose-built" product portfolio, rather than retooling its midmarket or enterprise lineup for smaller customers. Tucker noted that over time, the company has standardized branding and look-and-feel -- everything from packaging to the actual GUIs -- across the portfolio. They also offer sales partners a dedicated support center for small business.

The RV 220W network security firewall represents a step up from its previous 120 router, and is based on dual-band 802.11. It offers four-port gigabit Ethernet and hybrid VPN that supports SSL and IPSec, as well as optional Cisco ProtectLink service.

"For many customers, this is the door to their network," Tucker said. "If they use a wireless network primarily, for a very small customer this could be almost their entire network."

The company also added online backup to its existing NSS 300 Series Smart Storage line. The optional service is offered in partnership with Web-based backup provider Mozy. Cisco will offer plans starting at $145 per year for 25GB.

Cisco launched the 300 series of network-attached storage models geared for small business in June. Adding the cloud-based option offers another potential layer of backup and recovery protection.

"Storage has been a fast growing category for us, and this is the one thing that our partners have been waiting for," Tucker said. "Which is: Give me an online ability to offsite certain files and protect my data through an encrypted method, in case I have a flood, or I have an emergency on my site -- my data is still protected."

He added that Cisco's sales partners will now have a service annuity option that will enable them to wade into the professional services business for storage.

Tucker thinks that an increasing number of companies will pursue a mix of on-site and Web-based solutions for their backup and storage needs, rather than strictly one or the other.

"I think it's a definitely a growing trend," Tucker said. "A combination of onsite and offsite working together seems to be the most asked-for application."

Recent studies have shown that small and midsize businesses (SMBs) may not be well-prepared for IT disasters. The online backup option essentially adds disaster recovery to Cisco's small business lineup.

"It's amazing how many small businesses still don't even have the first level of data backup. Their stuff is still sitting on drives, on servers somewhere, or on PCs spread out," Tucker said. "For a lot of them just getting the concept of storage and actually doing that is a big step, and then they naturally go to this next step as well."