By Rebecca Leach, Cisco Canada
It’s October again and that means a few things: the weather is starting to cool down; it’s almost time to carve pumpkins and it’s SMB Week/Month (depending on who you ask)! We’re kicking off SMB Week/Month with part one of a four-part blog series focusing on preparing small business owners for their next technology upgrade.
For part one, I thought we would start at the beginning of any business purchase, financing.
It’s quite common to see a small business’ big technology idea be restricted because of budget. Finding the right financing plan for your information technology (IT) project is critical because often, simple upgrades can provide the framework your business needs to reach its goals.
A good financing plan will allow you to align your IT assets with your business initiatives. It can help you adopt new technology that will increase profits in the long run and your immediate cash flow can be invested back into your company. Here are five tips on how to find the right financing plan for your small business:
Make a plan
Before looking at financing options, you must decide what technology you need to achieve your business objectives. While setting these goals, ensure you are being realistic in regards to your financial realities. If your budget is slim, allocate your resources to what you predict will be the most important and rewarding project. Once you have a plan you can browse your financing options while being educated and targeted, not wasting any of your – or your business’ – time.
Start with a flexible contract
In today’s fast-paced world it is important to ensure you are signing a contract that will allow you to stay current with technology innovations. By starting with a flexible contract you are able to control your IT investments when new business or technology is introduced. When starting a business, cash flow can be volatile so having a flexible payment plan in place can deter additional fees or unforeseen costs. In order to achieve this stability, choose a company that offers captive financing rates. And here’s another tip: some types of institutions are supported by their parent company, and not impacted by banks’ fluctuating rates.
Look for the ability to upgrade
The issue with purchasing IT hardware is that technology can become obsolete before you teach all of your employees how to use it. Having a contract that requires you pay off old hardware before purchasing new can severely affect a small business’ cash flow, so when evaluating financing plans look for companies that offer the ability to refresh the technology you have by replacing old hardware and software with newer versions. Some plans offer to purchase back your existing equipment before leasing you a new asset. It is also beneficial to investigate which plans include environmentally-friendly disposal of your old technology. These features are more commonly found in financing plans that come from the technology provider itself.
Request an adjustable lifecycle
Most technology has a suggested lifecycle, based on the optimal time to refresh your system and services. While these suggestions are usually accurate and timed to when new products are set to be released, it is still important to have the ability to refresh when you feel it is necessary. Your IT and business needs may not change on the same timeline as your technology. Unpredictable events can happen, so look for a product suite that will offer an adjustable lifecycle to fit the needs of your small business.
Decide what to finance
Lastly, it is important for you to dictate what you want to finance and what you are prepared to pay for upfront. Implementation, servicing and maintenance costs can all be incorporated into your financing plans, lowering the cost of ownership while giving you time to establish your business and optimize the return on investment (ROI) of your solution. Find a plan that allows you to bundle operating, maintenance, service solutions, technology migration, sales and leaseback services, depending on your needs.
To learn more about what Cisco offers SMB’s, visit our website.
By Rebecca Leach, Cisco Canada
They say communication is the key to success in a relationship, and that rule certainly applies to the relationship between business owners and their employees and customers. Collaborative technology solutions facilitate that communication through a variety of channels that include voice, conference calls, instant messaging, video conferencing, enterprise social software, and mobile applications. Cisco’s collaboration tools allow employees to be less dependent on physical presence and travel, and be more productive and responsive to the needs of customers and partners. This results in better customer service and an efficient, more innovative workforce.
So, how do you decide what’s right for you? When looking to deploy collaboration solutions, there are four questions all small business owners must ask.
What products and services do you offer?
Collaboration is a broad term, and can include services such as Unified Communications, Cisco IWE, Jabber, and TelePresence. It’s important that small business owners are aware of the various types of technology under the collaboration umbrella and any integration limitations for each. Look ahead and consider emerging technologies, as implementing video collaboration services may differentiate your company from competitors. And some industries, like healthcare, have industry-specific security requirements your collaboration solution must support.
How does your solution support employee devices?
Once you’ve chosen what collaborative products you want your employees to use, you have to consider how they will access them. As more employees purchase their own smartphones and tablets, how these devices are supported becomes paramount in the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) movement. A small business collaboration solution that works with all devices can deliver greater mobile productivity benefits than one oriented to a single manufacturer or desktop systems. So look for a collaboration solution, such as the Cisco BE 6000 that works with mobile devices and desktop computers from any device manufacturer, any operating system and any wired or wireless network location.
How secure are your products?
When selecting a single collaboration service or suite of services, especially with a cloud delivery service model, small business owners need to ensure that there are adequate security precautions in place. Too often small businesses use consumer technology not designed to meet their security needs. Ask about the security of their solutions, and work with your technology partner to define policies and procedures to secure your collaboration services. Look for ways to control who can access your wired and wireless networks, how servers and confidential data will be protected and how you will control remote access from any device while ensuring the security of sensitive or confidential communications.
How much will it cost?
This is a big issue for a small business, it is imperative to implement a collaboration solution that integrates with your existing IT investments because costs are reduced when you can build on top of previous applications. How will the products you’re considering integrate into your current environment? Will additional costs be incurred if customized solutions are required? And don’t be afraid to ask about the Return on Investment (ROI) of the solution. While the initial setup cost for collaboration may be expensive, the service will reduce business expenses such as long distance, utility costs and travel expenses.
It’s important to know the answers to all of these questions before you decide on the collaboration solution that’s right for your small business.
Do you have other questions that SMBs should ask before choosing collaboration technologies? List them in the comments below!
For more of our four-part series on small business technology, read my post on how to find the right financing plan for your business. And for more small business technology solutions, visit our website.
How do you get a feel for things? Perhaps a little research online, a review or two, maybe a referral from a friend or co-worker. But big purchases, such as a new car may require more; more information. So you go to take a test drive. Well, we have something similar to a test drive.
As you may know, it is not often you get a chance to check out how an IT device’s graphical user interface (GUI) looks and feels. Sure you might see a couple of static screen capture and be able to point how the navigation menu is laid out. But beyond that, it is not until the device is purchased and in the installation process, that the real user experience is realized. It’s hard to get a grasp on on the level of complexity for set-up and deployment, let alone configure a VLAN or set-up a secure VPN.
Well, we have offered something better. Our team has delivered a set of device emulators, including switches, access points and routers. You can actually navigate through the actual menus, see how the wizards look and work, and truly get a sense of how easy the small business products are to configure, install, deploy and manage.
Here is what the emulators/GUI’s look like:
Small Business Online Device Emulators
You will notice that all of the small business product user interfaces share the same look and feel, as well as similar general navigation principles. With our Small Business product line, we truly take to heart the need for a great user experience and are always looking to make our products easier to use.
Please, leave us a comment or suggestion good, bad or otherwise to help us improve our products.
Tags: AP, Cisco, emulator, ethernet, gateway, ip, IPv6, network, performance, PoE+, port, QoS, quality, reliablility, RV, small business, VLAN, vpn, WAN, wireless
Network Connectivity is a big concern for any size of business, let alone a small, growing business. Picking the right solution to address growth is a key decision.
There are countless options available to small business owners ranging from asking cousin Jimmy, calling a “computer expert” you found on Yelp, or even a quick Google Search. No doubt, this experience can be a daunting one.
All jokes aside, choosing the right solution can save some money now and in the future. That is where right-sizing your network solution comes into play. It does not take long for a successful, single-person business to transform into a growing small business. A consumer wireless router could probably do the job for a single person home office adequately. But if you are looking to use your network for more than just accessing the Internet, then the choice is not so obvious. Now or in the future, you may want to access local network resources remotely and securely, use Voice over IP, or segment your network to securely support guest access. Moreover, as you grow, business applications become more critical. They need to be readily available, dependable and always on-line.
This is where the new Cisco Small Business Wireless Access Points and RV Series Router come into play.
Part of a growing small business portfolio, the all-new Cisco WAP551& 561 are perfect wireless solutions for your small business These access points enables small businesses to deliver high-capacity wireless N connectivity and guest access, securely and reliably. Simple yet powerful, it delivers business-class features such as Gigabit Ethernet connectivity with PoE, a captive portal for customized guest access, multiple SSID, VLAN’s and more…
Makes sense right?
But wait! How does the network connect to the WAP’s? First, you need a router. The business-class RV320 is the new flagship in the Cisco Small Business RV Series portfolio.
The Cisco RV320 is a powerful, yet highly secure business class router, offering strong networking performance throughput. Add in business-class features such as dual WAN’s for fail-over and load balancing, an intelligent user interface, USB 3G/4G Broadband failover, and you have a router that will provide years of reliable service.
The last piece of the puzzle is a Cisco’s business class switch that offers power-over Ethernet (PoE) functionality, allowing Access Points to be flexibly optimized for placement. The Cisco SG300 Series of PoE switches offer PoE functionality, with the Security, Quality of Service, Scalability, and Reliability to deliver the best experience for your users. These switches are available in 10 to 52 port configurations.
The bottom line is this: Cisco Small Business Products are changing the way you connect your business to the world.
Tags: access point, AP, business, computer, environment, ethernet, gigabit, LAN, network, Open, port, RV, switch, vpn, WAN, wifi, wireless
As a Small business owner, you know how to run your business efficiently. So what do you do when you need support for your current Cisco small business network? If you are like me, you will search the internet for a solution. Hopefully your search will lead you to the Cisco Small Business Support Community where you will find helpful support documents, videos, and active conversations regarding all Cisco Small Business Products.
Look at what you will find within the Small Business Support Community:
A) Check to see if you have the latest firmware by clicking on the product family. You can download the latest firmware from there too.
B) Search the community by typing in your question to see if there is another discussion or document already available that may have an answer.
C) Use our Guide Me Tool to search our knowledge base or troubleshoot your equipment.
D) This area has all of our popular links such as contact information for our Small Business Support Center locations where you can speak directly with an Small Business Support Engineer.
E) Log in to post your question. To post a question, all you need to do is to register for a Cisco ID or if you have a Cisco ID just login.
F) Go directly to the product area to see all the conversations and documents related to that product.
G) Stay up to date with the latest firmware release by following @CiscoSBsupport on Twitter or to see what is new in the Small Business Support Community, follow the Small Business Community Blog.
The Cisco Small Business Community is available 24X7 and encourages participation from everyone. We update the community frequently and strive to make the community the first place to go for your Cisco Small Business Product support needs.
Please bookmark or add to your favorites, this URL: www.cisco.com/go/smallbizsupport
If you have any ideas on how we can improve, please leave a comment.
Tags: cisco support community, Help, small business, small business network, small business support, small business support community, support