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Cisco on UC for SMBs

October 26 2011 , Written by Cisco & Cisco Router, Network Switch Published on #Networking

Cisco is well known for its networking prowess and commitment to Unified Communications (UC) for the enterprise.  What may be less known is its equally deep commitment to UC for SMBs.  According to Cisco, SMBs can benefit from UC in several ways including;

  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Business Process Integration
  • Increased Productivity

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mark Monday, Vice President and General Manager, Cisco’s Small Business Technology Group, to learn more about Cisco’s view of UC and the SMB market. 

TR: SMBs are often without technical specialists, so can you give us a plain English overview of UC?

Monday: Cisco has a small business technology group, and an effort around small business, is because we understand that they typically don’t have an IT professional on staff.  In fact, most of them go out of house for IT services in some way.  So they’re getting that IT professional service from a service provider or maybe even a local VAR in their community.  The question about UC for SMBs is really a combination of IP telephony and the ability to take that traffic, that IP phone call, and do something different with it than you might be able to do with a normal phone system.  For instance, capture voice mail and send it to your e-mail, thereby enabling you to use that information in multiple ways once it’s in your e-mail As examples, you might forward it or store it as text.  So, UC really brings together IP, telephony, and some of the applications used within the framework of the SMB all together into a solution.


TR: Where does Cisco fit in to this picture?

Monday: Cisco’s Small Business Technology Group primarily works with our channel partners who serve the customer.

Today, in the SMB sphere, we’re really seeing two primary methods used to get to UC.  They’re typically trading out an older phone system, usually a key system, which was probably acquired before the year 2000.  These systems have aged out in many ways such as expired warranties. Most SMBs are now moving to some sort of UC via either a service, operated by a service provider who offers them what might be defined as a hosted system, or a new premises-based UC system such as a Cisco UC 300 or UC 500.  While hosted services is a growing business it’s still a fraction of the premises-based implementations.


TR: UC is rapidly replacing POTS/PBXs at the enterprise level and you’ve stated that SMBs are moving to UC, but from my experience many seem reluctant.  What do you most often hear as their reasons for not implementing UC?

Monday: I haven’t really found a customer who doesn’t want to implement UC.  Then it’s a question of balancing the intensity of the requirement against the costs of acquisition, implementation and ongoing support. In these uncertain economic times, the value proposition has to be compelling.  I tend to see that everybody wants UC; the question is, when they move to it.


TR: Is there a generalized cost/benefit rule of thumb that SMBs can apply when evaluating UC?

Monday: Yes. There’s lots of that kind of material available on our own web-site and through our partners. Our partners tend to be able to walk in the customer’s door and walk them through a compelling ROI to move to a UC solution. A cost benefit example is that the new technologies use a different sort of trunking verses the older technology which required specific and specialized trunk for different features (e.g. separate phone lines and data lines).  Now all of that service can be supported on one single line so you can use your data connection for your phone through what’s called SIP trunking.  The immediate benefit is the cost saving from reducing your number and variety of trunks to one.


TR: I know that each implementation is different for a variety of factors so you can’t give us a blanket price, but what about benefits? What are the most common benefits received by SMBs who implement a UC solution?

Monday: One of the biggest benefits we see with our SMB customers is the ability to have an off-premises extension [OPX] to a home office at virtually no network cost because the home usually already has an Internet connection.  Although this may be possible with legacy telephone systems, implementation is generally difficult and prohibitively expensive. With UC today it’s possible today to take a phone home and connect it through a secure tunnel back to the office.  This way the phone at home behaves as though it’s your desktop phone at work, as a shared line, or a unique number at home.  So you can have someone working from home that needs to participate in the office business, but is unable to come into the office.  This same capability can be easily extended to temporary locations such as a vacation home.


TR: How do people find our more?

Monday: I encourage Cisco customers to connect with a service provider or local Cisco channel partner of ours.  Of course, people can visit http://www.cisco.com/go/smb to get a personal sense of what Cisco solutions can do for their business.


TR: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Monday: We truly want to encourage SMBs to take advantage of the technologies that are available. We recognize that there haven’t been a lot of purpose built solutions for SMBs in the past. At Cisco we’ve learned from our successes with enterprise systems and leveraged that knowledge to develop rock-solid, purpose-built SMB solutions. So we can take some of the pain away, if you will, and deliver enterprise like technology to SMBs

---Original sources from telecomreseller.com--Jeff Owen

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