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Business VoIP: Cisco Unveils SMB Communications Products

March 11, 2011

By David Sims, Business VoIP Contributing Editor

In a recent report, industry observer Tony Bradley reported the unveiling of Cisco’s new unified communications (UC) products but questioned if it were a true UC experience.

The new UC offerings, Bradley said, “are designed to take Cisco out of its large enterprise comfort zone and deliver for small and medium businesses. These products might be suitable for SMBs, but they miss the mark when it comes to unified communications.”

One offering is the Cisco Unified Communications 300 Series, targeted at small businesses using business VoIP services between two and twenty-four users, a "complete" collaboration system, delivering business-class networking and voice communications.

When it comes to business VoIP and how it correlates with larger outfits, Bradley says, Cisco has the Cisco Unified Communications Manager Business Edition 3000, “This platform is designed for up to 300 users scattered across as many as 10 different sites.” It’s supposed to deliver what Cisco officials say is “a variety of features including voicemail, voice-conferencing, an auto-attendant, and single-number access that connects calls and lets user’s access voicemail messages no matter where they are working from.”

But the problem, as Bradley sees it, is “they don't live up to the unified communications title. They are great business VoIP systems with many features that enable SMBs to communicate more effectively and efficiently. But voice is only one aspect of unified communications, and these Cisco products don't seem to unify anything.”

He admits there isn’t a set definition for what unified communications is or what tech toys you need to have for it, but notes “I think we can at least agree that there should be some unification of different communications methods in order to qualify as ‘unified’ communications. A fancy VoIP platform is not a UC solution.”

Yes they deliver voicemail messages via email, “but that isn't really UC. Vonage has been doing that for my home voice service for years. Unified communications should integrate e-mail, and your calendar and contacts from your PC, as well as other applications, and streamline productivity,” he added.

The thing is, as Bradley says, “Cisco has unified communications products -- just not for SMBs. Slapping ‘unified communications’ in the name of a product doesn't make it UC. These new Cisco offerings are really just glorified VoIP.”                    

David Sims is a contributing editor for business-voip. To read more of David’s articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for business-voip here.

Edited by Charles West

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