Cisco Unveils Small Biz Communications Platform

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted November 25, 2014

Cisco brings enterprise-grade collaboration to small and midsized businesses (SMBs).

The computer networking company recently unveiled a new offering—called the Cisco Business Edition 6000S (BE6000S)—for organizations with 25 to 150 users. Set for an early 2015 release, and based on Cisco's 2921 Integrated Services Router (ISR), the solution bundles secure small business network routing, voice, video and application services in one device.

For small businesses, that translates into integrated voice calling, video conferencing, paging, presence and instant messaging, all provided by Cisco's Unified Communications platform, along with built-in security that helps keep hackers off their networks. Features include hardware-accelerated virtual private network (VPN) encryption and a suite of Cisco IOS-based protections including firewall, intrusion prevention system (IPS) and content filtering.

Granted, those capabilities are offered by other vendors, even some cloud-based solutions, admitted Thomas Wyatt, vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Infrastructure Technology Group, in an interview with Small Business Computing. Yet few, if any, package it into a single solution for small businesses that live and die by secure voice and video communications, he said.

While there are no shortage of small business voice, video and collaboration solutions on the market, good luck managing them, argued Wyatt. A notable trait that distinguishes the BE6000S is "the fact that it is integrated with your routing, security and switching," he said. In short, it slips into Cisco networking environments seamlessly.

Collaboration Made for Small Business

Cisco did more than repackage its 2921 Integrated Services Router for SMBs, said Wyatt. The company tailored the deployment, configuration and management experiences of the BE6000S to fit the needs of shops with limited IT personnel and resources.

The BE6000S arrives pre-configured "before it ships," meaning that small businesses can practically hit the ground running when it arrives, assured Wyatt. This eliminates on-site installation time by 60 percent, according to the company's estimates.

"Take the 6KS [BE6000S] out of box, and make your first call in 30 minutes," boasted Wyatt.

Once you switch on the device, you're treated to a suite of "brand new management applications," said Wyatt. Wizard-driven tools allow average users to set up phones, video inputs and add users. Small businesses "don't need someone with IT experience" to manage users and the services provided by the BE6000S. Active Directory support ensures interoperability for organizations that have standardized on Microsoft's identity management platform.

Supported applications include Cisco Unified Communications, call-processing software that pushes voice and video to IP phones and compatible devices, and Cisco Unity Connection, which provides auto-attendant capabilities and allows users to check voice messages via the Web or email.

The new product also supports Cisco's Instant Messaging and Presence Service that integrates with the company's Jabber messaging and presence apps to provide workforces with real-time, text-based communications—along with click-to-call, visual voicemail and other mobile collaboration features. Cisco Paging Server enables voice paging between groups of up to 50 Cisco IP phones. Finally, Cisco Prime Collaboration Provisioning is the management layer that delivers a consolidated view of the environment and a user-friendly interface for making additions, deletions and changes.

All told, the system can handle up to 150 users, with a matching number of voice mailboxes, and 300 devices. Naturally, not all SMBs have plans to stay small.

The BE6000S makes it easy to migrate users to the company's midmarket flagship, the BE6000, said Wyatt. Used by more than 10,000 businesses and 3 million users, the BE6000 supports up to 1,000 users and thousands of devices.

Cisco BE6000S prices will start at $10,800 when it goes on sale in the first quarter of 2015. Customers can expect the actual street price to be lower as the gear makes its way down to Cisco's channel partners, according to a company spokesperson.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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