TORONTO — In a bid to generate heat in the small and medium business space, Cisco is pitching network tools, a services program and leasing options to its channel partners.

Working with resellers in the small and medium business (SMB)

market is starting to pay off this year, said Andrew Sage, Cisco’s senior director of marketing for the Americas, International, “”and we’re going to add fuel to that fire.””

Sage made his comments at a Toronto reseller education seminar that attracted about 150 VARs. Toronto is the final destination on a three-city VAR tour (other city stops included Montreal and Calgary), which aims to teach resellers how to explain to customers the value of deploying an integrated network solution.

“”When we’re in there talking to a SMB we shouldn’t be talking about 802.11,”” he said, “”but about what they are all concerned about, which is profitability, cash flow, productivity.””

The top three things SMBs want are increased network security; increased availability or reliability; and operating cost reduction, said Jan Sirek, a channel systems engineer for Cisco, speaking about the intelligent services network at the event.

Sage said resellers should also be aware of the key trends in the SMB space, which include the adoption of e-business across all different applications and an increased interest in voice-over-IP (VoIP). “”Compared to last year, we got five times more the number of active engagements and quotations for VoIP.””

Findings of a recent survey of 400 SMBs in Canada highlight other key trends including: 50.2 per cent are using or implementing Internet Business Solutions (IBS) — which is good news for resellers peddling into the SMB arena, said Sage. Other findings show 20.3 per cent intend to adopt IBSs within the next three years; while 28.4 per cent have no intention of adopting IBSs.

With the Canadian adoption of IBSs, companies are using business applications including customer service and support (which garnered the top spot); customer development and e-marketing; e-commerce; finance and accounting; corporate portal; sales force automation; procurement and MRO; human resources; and supply chain management.

The goal of the integrated network — built on the pillars of availability, security, mobility, intelligent infrastructure and quality of service – supports a company’s growth without driving up operating costs, improves customer relationships and helps them gain a competitive advantage, Sage said.

“”The integrated network is the linchpin that brings together customers, partners and employees . . . The network is going to deliver quality of service, availability and security – and those services are going to enable business applications.””

The idea is to offer business resiliency, information integrity, provide access from anywhere, scalability, and to enable collaborative applications, he added.

Why should resellers and customers care about an integrated network? For starters, Sage said it lowers the cost of ownership (offers savings in facilities and support), lowers capital costs; and improves productivity (offering better, faster information and time back to the business).

With the right tools “”a smaller company can offer the level of service that a larger company can.””

Given today’s move towards converged networks (voice, data and videoconferencing), focusing and investing in the network infrastructure is a “”major wake-up call,”” said Sirek.

Given resellers have the potential expertise and market reach, “”we’re asking you to spend time to understand the different technologies, then work as a trusted advisor to the customer – and then create long-term relationships.””

For more information on selling into the SMB space or for technical queries, check out Cisco’s Internet Business Roadmap site at www.cisco.com/go/cibrcchannel.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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