Cisco Systems has been focusing its attention on the small-to-midsized business segment since late 2019 and is now revealing a new set of offerings to help these customers that have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic get back to business.
"Quickly, the whole world changed. The way of working, pressures from a financial standpoint, and how [SMBs] were looking at IT investments," Dhritiman "DD" Dasgupta, chief marketing officer of Cisco's small business segment, told CRN.
The Cisco Designed portfolio, the tech giant's SMB brand, will now include a new dashboard, switches for wired environments, and a WebEx package designed for the smallest number of users yet -- one license can be purchased at a time, Dasgupta said.
Cisco on Wednesday introduced Webex Work, a cloud-based video and collaboration solution packaged in a single subscription-based offering that is available for the first time in a per user, per month licensing option starting at US$19.95 a month. The offering will be even cheaper for Cisco partners, who will be immediately able to sell WebEx work to their smallest customers or those looking for a more flexible collaboration offering as more of their employees work from home, Dasgupta said.
"This is custom-built for small businesses because it only goes up to 1,000 licenses. We've never done this before -- WebEx has always catered to enterprise or commercial, multi-year licenses," he said.
Network management has changed almost overnight with users working remotely and outside of the office, a trend that is likely to continue, even in a post-COVID-19 world, Dasgupta said. To that end, Cisco has launched Cisco Business Dashboard, a network management tool with a simplified user interface and automated alerting. The dashboard can be hosted in the cloud or on premises and allows businesses, as well as channel partners, to deploy, configure, monitor and operate all network devices, according to Cisco.
Cisco has also tightly-integrated its WebEx platform with its Meraki portfolio to address new concerns as small businesses get back up and running around social distancing, Dasgupta said. Cisco Workplace Monitoring uses AI to count the number of people in a physical space and can send alerts to business owners or security personnel if there are too many people in a location or grouped together, Dasgupta said. The open-source platform allows for messages to be sent via WebEx or a preferred, third-party communication platform, such as WhatsApp, he said.
"Every business is going to have to maintain safe social distancing at least for a little while," Dasgupta said. "We can also use this same technology to manage inventory and equipment, and other IoT use cases as well," he added.
The San Jose, Calif-based tech giant unveiled a new line of Cisco Business switches -- the 250 and 350 series -- that are easy to deploy and can secure connectivity for businesses dealing with both remote and in-office workers, Cisco said. The new switches join Cisco Business' existing line of wireless access points.
"For the first time, we are offering a fully-functional switch at less than $200," Dasgupta said. "These are really built for small businesses as they go back into their offices. They can have the same switch at home and in the office, on the same security and management platform."
Cisco in March began offering free Webex and security solutions for businesses grappling with remote working. The tech giant also unveiled financing options such as the $2.5 billion Business Resiliency program from Cisco Capital that is letting organizations buy technology and make IT investments for business recovery while deferring 95 percent of the cost until January 2021. SMB customers buying anything from the Cisco Designed portfolio will have access to the Business Resiliency program's financing plans, Dasgupta said.
Cisco first introduced its Designed for Business brand to help channel partners go after more small to midsized business customers in November during its annual Partner Summit. The cross-portfolio originally contained a handful of collaboration, security, and Meraki offerings, including Webex; Firepower, Umbrella and DUO; UCS and Hyperflex Edge for small-scale application compute; and Meraki Go for app-managed cloud Wi-Fi. At the same time, Cisco also announced the Cisco Business Wireless Access Points product line and the Catalyst 1K switch, an affordable option for small businesses.
Cisco in March launched the Cisco Business Wireless Mobile App for the management of small business networks. The app is now available on Google Play or the Apple App Store and lets businesses or individuals configure or manage their networks in any location, Cisco said.