Growing With Technology Solutions From Cisco

By Patricia Fusco | Posted April 24, 2003
AMI Partners, a New York-based research firm, estimates that there are more than 7.6 million small- to mid-sized businesses in the U.S. alone. All told, these businesses spent more than $139 billion on information technology and communications solutions last year. SMBs, consisting of 1,000 or fewer employees, are expected to be the largest purchaser of IT products and services in the U.S. over the next several years.

Recognizing the buying potential of the mid-market, high-tech market leaders, including Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Microsoft, have announced plans to focus their sales efforts on reaching this audience — the challenge until now has been how.

Cisco's strategy is to deliver unique technology solutions to growing small businesses through its countless channel partners. Last week, Cisco presented sales partners with comprehensive programs designed to provide high-quality networking solutions for SMBs. This week, Cisco unveiled its blueprint for "Growing with Technology Solutions," encapsulating four different business networking priorities for SMBs — routing and switching, security, IP telephony, and mobility solutions.

The four different networking solutions are built on Cisco products and services — each designed to help small businesses improve operational efficiency, increase productivity, and leverage converging technologies.

Kevin Outcalt, Cisco Systems marketing director for SMB solutions development, said the four different programs have been tailored to help SMBs meet their current and future networking needs.

"SMBs want to use technology to drive their business — they want to fill fundamental networking needs, solve business problems and move forward."

Outcalt added that Cisco's programs are flexible enough to provide SMBs with the agility they need to compete successfully in today's challenging economy, while allowing them to individually scale their networks in the future as their companies grow.

"Cookie cutter solutions don't work for SMBs because they're so diverse," Outcalt said. "This is why we've broken down our four solutions into three sizable packages. There's a big difference between what a business with 100 employees needs and what a business with 1,000 employees need."

Specifically, Cisco divides its four "Growing with Technology " programs into three segments — solutions are designed for small businesses with 100 to 250 employees, 250 to 500 employees, and 500 to 1,000 employees. Each segment it uniquely designed to assist companies in securing, converging and mobilizing their businesses.

Network Foundations, Switching and Routing
Cisco contends that a strong network foundation is the key to business agility. Faced with the challenges and opportunities of competing in the Internet era, growing businesses must have confidence that their networks can support the evolution of their businesses. Cisco's network foundations offer intelligent services, such as security, availability, and quality of service (QoS) capabilities designed to optimize networked application performance, ease management, and streamline operations and administration.

Building an agile network infrastructure puts SMBs in a powerful position to improve business resiliency and lower the cost of operations while increasing employee productivity. However, it may not be clear what network strategy will yield the best results in both the short- and long-term. This is where Cisco's networking expertise can be put to work building secure networking foundations for SMBs.

IP Communications
Cisco's Growing with Technology Solutions for IP Communications offer integrated communication capabilities, such as voice-mail, e-mail and fax; converged networking with data, voice and video on a single infrastructure; and converged applications using dynamic XML technology for improved employee productivity and customer responsiveness.

Outcalt explained how one type of small business could reap immediate rewards from deploying converged IP communication solutions.

"For example, a small hotel has three or four uses for different types of IP-based applications," Outcalt said. "In addition to telephony solutions, in-room Internet access, or wireless systems, a converged system can let housekeeping personnel dial an ID from a freshly cleaned room to automatically update the front desk that the room is ready for new guests."

Mobility
Cisco's Growing with Technology Solutions for Mobility include secure remote network access and wireless local area network (WLAN) technology to enable employees to efficiently interconnect with whomever they need to in order to conduct business in real time while they are at work, at home or on the road.

Outcalt said that Cisco's solutions provide much more than just wireless connectivity.

"We provide a hierarchy of mobile solutions," Outcalt said. "There are different solutions for SMBs that want to extend the work place outside of the office, untether employees inside the office, serve users in motion, or provide networks in motion."

Cisco's mobile communication solutions range from being able to e-mail employees through a mobile phone, setting up a virtual private network for a satellite office, processing sales orders in real-time over a PDA, or building a public safety system that can tap into a dashboard database. When it comes to wireless communication solutions — the sky isn't the limit, it's the medium.

Security
Cisco's Growing with Technology Solutions for integrated network security include security-enhanced routing and switching platforms as well as the latest in virtual private networking, firewall, intrusion detection systems, and access control systems.

Laura Koetzle, an analyst at Forrester Research, said one of the biggest challenges for organizations is to cover the bases for all different types of assaults that are possible.

"Every network is vulnerable and security is a prime concern," Koetzle said. "An organization that doesn't take network security seriously can find itself crippled by attacks and other threats."

Outcalt said Cisco solutions cover every element of network security  from basic to advanced security systems.

"Network security is only as good as each individual component," Outcalt said. "It requires a number of different technologies that must be woven into the entire network security structure."

Partners, Papers and Problems
For SMBs, a poorly planned technology investment can harm the business as much as it is intended to help. It's important that smaller businesses work with a trusted vendor and its partners who will help them evaluate their existing business processes and determine the best way to harness and secure the power of today's networking technologies.

To that end, Cisco partners are being trained and will be supported to deliver Cisco's Growing with Technology Solutions offerings. Cisco's Web site for small and medium-sized business has been recently expanded to include these new solutions. The site is populated with helpful guidelines and information including solution overviews, network blueprints, case studies, white papers, implementation guides and business value calculators.

And Cisco is only getting started. Outcalt said that over the next 18-months SMBs should expect to see new services in the form of support systems and financing options, in addition to expanding on the company's four general programs debuted this week.

"As they look toward the future, SMBs must adopt a networking strategy that meets their current technology requirements, while providing a framework for new applications and technologies they will need as their businesses grow," Outcalt said. "Tell us where you business is challenged and we'll take it from there."

You can tell Cisco what your business challenges are by contacting an authorized Cisco Partner in your area. A current list of Cisco's partners can be found online.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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