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Cisco Refreshes Its Small Business Pro Lineup

As Cisco continues to evolve its efforts to reach small businesses, it's rolling out new security and collaboration technologies, including security appliances, routers, and VoIP phones.It's been almost a year since Cisco reorganized to target the small business market -- companies with fewer than 100 employees -- and the latest announcements continue the company's quest to deliver solutions with all new technology.

The most important new product is the SA 500 security appliance, which Mark Monday, Cisco vice president of product marketing, described as a "unified threat management product." The SA 500 is designed to protect small businesses from threats via Web and e-mail, and provide security for VPNs and Firewalls. Cisco worked with Trend Micro to make the SA 500 use SaaS technology to check every since e-mail message and Web URL accessed -- with only a few milliseconds delay, Monday said.

The Cisco SA 500 security appliance family.

It also supports personal authentication and works with Verisign for 2-factor authentication that uses a token-like device on certain smartphones. "You have to know something and have something" to get into the network, Monday said.

Pricing for the SA 500 starts at $550, with a 3-year Pro Service agreement priced at $69.

The new SR 520 secure router, meanwhile, is intended for the 425 of small businesses who still rely on T-1 lines as their primary Internet connection. The $1500 unit can be installed by the end user, Monday said.

The Cisco SR 520 secure router doesn't offer a lot to look at...

Finally, the new SPA 500 SIP Port Adapters comprise five new models of VoIP phones that incorproate HD audio to turn voice-quality arguments against IP telephone on their head. By assigning additional bandwidth, the SPA 500 phones can actually sound better than traditional land lines, Monday said. The new phones work in multiple environments, from standard SIP to Digium Asterisk (open source PBX) to Broadsoft SIP to Cisco's unified communications platforms, and prices start at $139. There's even a new "sidecar" add-on for additional buttons. (Pro Service for the phones costs $19 for a 3-year contract.

New Cisco SPA 500 phones, and a sidecar!

Pulling it all together is Cisco's Smart Business Communications System (CSBC)Release 1.6, with the Cisco Configuration Assistant. The latest version of the CSBC supports the new products, and adds a new telephony wizard to help manage everything. Rick Moran, Cisco vice president of SMB solutions marketing, said the system also supports new vertical applications for the automotive, insurance agent, call accounting, and network and systems management.

Cisco has entered into a rhythm of announcing new small business products every 3 to 4 months, Monday said, so expect the round in December with "a whole new set of capabilities" including rebrands of Linksys products and more.

In the meantime, Cisco also announced new programs to support its partners that sell to SMBs. While these shouldn't affect end users directly, you may find your consultants and resellers pushing Cisco products a bit harder in the next few months.

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