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3/2/2011
05:28 PM
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Cisco Launches Unified Communications Systems For SMBs

The networking company introduces two new UC platforms built for small and midsize offices at its annual partner conference.

Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000
(click image for larger view)
Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000

Cisco on Wednesday announced two new unified communications (UC) systems for small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

The Cisco Unified Communications 300 Series is aimed at companies with between two and 24 employees, while the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000 is tailored to firms with up to 300 users across 10 locations. Cisco also announced that it will make WebEx available to its partner resellers so that it can be integrated with UC offerings for SMB customers.

"The excitement coming from Cisco in the small business space is contagious," said Steve Hilton, principal analyst at Analysys Mason, in an interview. "I like the products themselves, and I especially like the price points that they're offering."

The 300 series features IP-based voice, session initiation protocol (SIP) trunking, and built-in wireless, routing, and switching. The system's configuration and management utility is Web-based. The 320W model is available immediately and lists at $995. On its Web site, Cisco bills the 300 series as an alternative to PBX or key system options.

Cisco said its midsize UC option, the Business Edition 3000 system, will become available during the second quarter of 2011. It will list at $12,400 for 100 users and include the standard voice, conferencing, and call management features. It also adds telecommute functions such as extension mobility and single-number reach. Hilton noted that the 3000 system gives growing businesses a bit of insurance plan: They can port over their licenses to the company's 5000 series if they outgrow the midmarket model.

"Your investment is protected that way," Hilton said, noting that the same phone sets will work with the higher-end system. "It's not like the asset gets stranded in buying an appliance."

It has been a busy year so far for Cisco's small business division. In January, it expanded its lineup with a new routing, switching, and online backup options.

Hilton thinks SMBs will benefit for Cisco's broader product development strategy -- he cited video, cloud services, data centers, and security as areas where the company's technology will eventually make its way into the products it rolls out for smaller firms.

"I love having a company, that's got this holistic view of the network and what communication means, to now be building these solutions that are designed for small business," Hilton said. He later added: "Net-net for me: There's so much more excitement and thought leadership and development from Cisco in this UC sector than there is from Avaya, from Toshiba. These guys are just out in front, and it's because of the richness of their enterprise business."

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