Cisco Introduces Unified Communications For SMB
(Las Vegas) — Integrating enterprise customers' voice, data, mobility, security, and video options into a single communications platform has been the focus of many VARs over the last couple of years. Those UC (unified communications) systems provide users with an array of features and streamlined processes to chose from, beyond find-me-follow-me and call recording options. For example, the phone number from an incoming call can trigger the CRM (customer relationship management) system to populate a user's computer screen with information from the caller's account. While UC has benefited VARs' larger customers, it has been either too complex or beyond the budgets of businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Cisco intends to change that scenario with its new SMB line of UC products.
I recently attended the Cisco Partner Summit 2007, where the company's channel executives discussed their new SBCS (Smart Business Communication System) series of UC products and how it would benefit solutions providers' smaller customers. This product line includes plug and play components for quick on-site installation or for VARs to stage off-site. SBCS includes the UC 500 Series for Small Business, combining VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol), messaging, and mobility into a single device.
When you add in IP phone extensions, the SBCS allows VARs to provide complete UC solutions for customers that have between 5 and 249 users. Other components include an eight-port managed Ethernet switch, wireless access points and mobility controllers, a centralized management application, Internet connectivity with firewall protection, VPNs (virtual private networks), and wireless LAN access for reliable and secure communications. "Solutions providers start with the UC 500 as the core and add the components and applications required to meet their customers' business needs," said Chuck Robbins, VP of U.S. channels for Cisco. "The centralized management application recognizes other SBCS devices, meaning VARs can spend time customizing the system instead of dropping in IP addresses."
Customize UC For Specific Markets
Cisco executives discussed several vertical markets that can benefit from SBCS applications, including healthcare, legal, retail, and manufacturing. At the conference, ISV (independent software vendor) IPcelerate demonstrated how SBCS could be implemented with its software solution in hospitals and doctors' offices to simplify the communication for nurses, doctors, and their staff. Patients at the reception desk can select the check-in icon and enter identification information on a phone interface using IPsmartSuite. The application alerts the nursing station when patients check in for appointments and to pick up prescriptions, and automatically accesses their medical charts and billing information. "VARs can leverage features such as patient schedule management and outbound messaging [e.g. appointment reminders, office delay message] to increase SBCS sales opportunities with their healthcare customers," said Kevin Brown, president of IPcelerate.