Cisco offers SMB-focused switches, firewalls, online storage

Cisco Systems Inc. announced three new products to its small business line today, adding managed switches, a secure firewall, and a cloud-based backup service for its storage products.

Cisco’s “Connect” product portfolio of entry-level managed switches entitled the 200 Series Smart Switches are available now starting at a price of $287. The “Secure” portfolio gets a new network security firewall, the RV 220W that costs $363. The NSS300 Storage Products are getting an online backup option from EMC-owned Mozy, starting at $145 for 25 GB per year.

The new products will be available in Canada through Cisco’s partner network, says Todd Madgett, director of SMB at Cisco http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/Home/News.asp?id=60771″target=”blank Canada. The products are being pitched to small businesses as offering improved security and better performance.

“Our strategy is to simplify an SMB customer’s way of doing business,” he says. “We’re trying to make it more cost effective and simple to use.”

Cisco is also offering to finance the sales of the new products at zero per cent for three years in Canada, a perk not offered in the U.S. (where financing is given at a rate of three per cent.) The products will also be available for sale through some retail channels, such as NewEgg and TigerDirect.

That financing bonus will help small businesses that don’t have big capital budgets, says Paul Edwards, the director of SMB for IDC Canada, a Toronto-based consultant firm. It’s a good incentive and shows Cisco’s intention to pursue the smaller firms market.

“Cisco is focused on continuing to provide innovation and updated products to the small business market, and that’s pretty cool,” he says. “They have a clear mandate to support small businesses and it shows in their product announcements.”

Cisco’s addition of Mozy online backup to its Smart Storage lineup allows users to backup their data both onsite and in the cloud simultaneously. The backup option is controlled from one central management console. The backup servers come in 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB sizes, Madgett says.

Small businesses are looking to the cloud for backup storage, according to John Sloan, lead research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. During his research into online backup options, he came across some firms using Mozy.

“Small firms seem to be a little bit ahead of enterprise in adopting cloud storage solutions,” he says. “Primarily for backup.”

Smaller companies are warming up to cloud-based storage after some initial security concerns, he adds. After using the model for a while, comfort with the security is established and businesses spring for online backup instead of incurring a major capital expense for more in-house infrastructure such as server arrays or a tape backup option.

The new 200 Series of switches include nine models ranging from 24 to 50 ports, supporting gigabit Ethernet speeds, and offering a browser-based management tool. The switch supports power-over-ethernet and has similar functionality to Cisco’s enterprise products, Madgett says.

“You can do remote monitoring of the switch,” he says. “I can see if a port’s down, then I can block that port off with some clicking and dragging.”

The switches will support Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) and support both IPv4 and IPv6 address blocks.

“You see Cisco bringing their management smarts into a switch targetd at the small business entry point,” Sloan says. “Small doesn’t necessarily mean less in terms of functionality. Aside from volume issues, you probably get the same value out of a switch as you would if you were a large business.”

The RV 220W secure firewall is enabled with dual-band 802.11n wireless connectivity. It has an embeddd SSL and IPSec hybrid VPN that allows remote access via a Web browser, and an integrated four-port gigabit Ethernet switch. There’s an option to add Cisco ProtectLink for Web security.

“You’ve got an integrated box that provides a firewall or an access point,” Madgett says. “It’s ideal for a small dental office.”

The firewall also promises easy set-up, with a browser-based configuration tool. If another RV 220W firewall is later added to the office network, it will automatically copy the configuration of the first one that was installed, he adds.

Brian Jackson is a Senior Writer at ITBusiness.ca. Follow him on Twitter, read his blog, and check out the IT Business Facebook Page.

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