Tough Economy Creates A Buyer's Market For SMBs

By Patricia Fusco | Posted February 11, 2003
Cisco Systems this week unveiled its Cisco Solution Center as part of the Yahoo! Small Business directory. The Cisco Solution Center offers specific content and solutions to help small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) accelerate their business progress in vertical-specific industries, such as financial services, healthcare, the public sector, professional services, education, hospitality, manufacturing, retail, transportation, and wholesale trade.

Raymond Boggs, IDC vice president for small/medium business research, said the visibility of the Yahoo! name and the vertical market focus of the Cisco Solution Center will make the site a logical place for SMBs to start.

"SMBs have a desperate need for information and resources, but they just don't know where to start," Boggs said. "The irony is that while nearly 75 percent of them have Internet access, few are using online resources to get the help they need when they need it."

The Cisco Solution Center aggregates and organizes valuable content and resources, making them available to SMBs in one comprehensive, easy-to-use destination. Featured solutions from IBM and Expanets are delivered using Cisco networking solutions and services. As a result, these industry focused solutions address some of the more pressing technology dilemmas SMBs face today — the need to expand and upgrade communications to stay competitive.

The Cisco Solution Center also houses the Cisco Internet Business Roadmap tool that is designed to help growing businesses develop an individualized guide for implementing e-business solutions. This comprehensive planning generates a customized Internet solution along with suggested rollout plans for users that complete a 24-question business and technology assessment. With this tool, businesses of any size — within almost any industry — can identify networking solutions that best suit their immediate and long-term needs.

Changing The Channel
Meanwhile, Network Associate's forged an alliance with HP this week in order to offer bundled security solutions to resellers targeting SMBs. Together, the companies plan to deliver business-tested, pre-certified security products and services to channel partners serving the SMB market.

An initial solution includes either the McAfee Active Client Security suite or the McAfee Active VirusScan SBE suite bundled with HP ProLiant servers. The McAfee Active Client Security suite includes VirusScan virus protection, NetShield software for real-time scanning of files, and Desktop Firewall to protect against malicious code and other security threats. The suite also includes ThreatScan, a virus vulnerability assessment technology that enables IT administrators to proactively scour a network and uncover all points of entry that could be susceptible to viruses. The McAfee Active VirusScan SBE suite includes VirusScan and NetShield for virus protection.

During the initial phase of the program, channel partners will be also able to offer small businesses a vulnerability assessment. Based on McAfee ThreatScan technology, the tool is designed to reveal existing security threats. SMBs seeking such high-quality security solutions should contact their reseller to see if they are taking part in the NA-HP pilot program.

But Wait, There's More
America Online and OPEN: The Small Business Network from American Express, just forged a multi-year strategic marketing alliance that makes the OPEN Network the exclusive small business card advertiser on AOL for Small Business.

The alliance provides the OPEN Network with the opportunity to showcase its products and services to small business owners across several AOL Time Warner online properties. In addition, AOL will integrate OPEN Network content and articles designed to assist small business owners in managing their companies into its SMB channels.

OPEN Network Card members are also eligible to receive special subscription offers from AOL for Small Business, such as a 50 percent discount on a six-month enhanced online Yellow Pages listing on AOL, MapQuest, Netscape, and CompuServe.

Buyer's Market
Cisco joins ranks as an SMB solutions provider with Microsoft's bCentral, a business resource center that launched in 1999. Microsoft's bCentral offers Web and email hosting services, an advice and legal center, email marketing, a commerce manager, financial, human resources, and accounting solutions, and a travel center for corporate events that links to Expedia.com.

Other online SMB resources range from Salesforce.com's integrated suite of small business tools; NetLedger's business suite from Oracle; Dun & Bradstreet's solutions for managing business finances and credit; Inc.com's resources for starting and growing a small business, and Business.com's B-sources, a solutions site for small business and professional services.

This is just the beginning of an onslaught of SMB offerings. From big businesses to big government, it seems almost everyone is a building new program to serve SMBs these days. While offers vary from e-commerce and security to financial services and federal funding, one thing is certain — everyone is banking on Main Street, not Wall Street, to cure the ills of a ailing economy.

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