Cisco targets SMBs with 'unified communications' products

Cisco launched new "unified communications" products for SMB customers, but the offerings are really just glorified VoIP.

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

First, let's look at what Cisco has to offer. The Cisco Unified Communications 300 Series is targeted at small businesses between two and twenty-four users. The Cisco press release describes it as a "complete" collaboration system, delivering business-class networking and voice communications.

For larger customers, 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. The Cisco press release explains that this solution delivers a variety of features including voicemail, voice-conferencing, an auto-attendant, and single-number access that connects calls and lets users access voicemail messages no matter where they are working from.

Fair enough. Here is the problem, though, with these Cisco products -- they don't live up to the "unified communications" title. They are great VoIP systems with many advanced, innovative 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.

While there is no set definition for what unified communications is, or which technologies must be integrated in order for it to be unified communications, 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.

These solutions do 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.

With unified communications, there should be presence notifications that alert others to your status or availability. The solution should integrate with your calendar so it can automatically update your presence when you are in a scheduled meeting, and it should integrate with your voice and instant messaging systems so it can automatically update to reflect when you are busy talking / chatting with someone else and are not currently available. You should be able to call someone by clicking on their name or phone number in your contacts.

Cisco does offer some limited presence info with the 3000 model -- at least notifying others when you are in a call, but that is not enough in my opinion to qualify the platform as a unified communications solution. These Cisco products seem to fill a void left when Microsoft pulled the plug on its Response Point voice system.

Cisco has unified communications solutions -- 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 solutions.

As I said, there is no hard definition for what unified communications is, but there is at least some consensus on what it should do, or how it should alter business efficiency and productivity, and these Cisco products don't qualify.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Cisco Systemstelecommunicationvoipproductivity

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?