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All That and More

Wow. According to a recent Forbes article, there could be 9.5 billion people on the planet by the year 2075. Think how much energy will be generated by that kind of world population. This puts the emphasis on energy-efficient technologies in a whole new light. Technologies, like switches that reduce power consumption, can save businesses money. But so far, it’s not enough to outweigh the other critical factors small businesses seek: resiliency, easy configuration, and zero packet loss. That’s why the Cisco Small Business 500 Series switches are a home run.

A recent study by Miercom, a network consultancy, specializing in networking and communications-related product testing and analysis, favorably compared the Cisco SF500, SG500, and SG500X series of switches with similar products offered by HP, D-Link, and Netgear. The overall findings with regard to the Cisco 500 series switches:

  • Easiest to configure and implement; highest capacity and scalability of configuration parameters including VLANs, MACs, ACLs, and IP routes
  • Best resiliency when subjected to a DoS attack
  • More efficient in terms of overall energy consumption, and the energy saving capabilities, plus more economical when measured using normalized pricing based on price per gigabit and price per PoE watt
  • Forwarded line rate full mesh traffic at all frame sizes with zero packet loss
  • Most extensive support for IPv6 transitions

Nice to know that if you’re a small business looking to save money and power, you can have all that and more—without having to sacrifice other critical factors you need to keep your business running. You can read more about the results of the Miercom study here. Or, to learn more about how Cisco helps small businesses, visit www.cisco.com/go/smb.

So Many Smartphones and Tablets! It’s Time You Get On Board the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Train

February 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm PST

Here are tips to help you adopt and support mobility for your small and midsized business.BYOD blog image

Did you know, 42 percent of employees who own smartphones use them for work? In addition, 8 percent of Internet web based transactions and activities are conducted from a mobile device.

The new BYOD trend has changed both employee and customer expectations. The future is in your hands now! Are you reading this on your smartphone?

When you consider this new way we all live—the mobile world, as a small or medium sized business why would you want to ignore this BYOD trend? As Linda Beaton, marketing manager for Cisco points out in her recent blog, this BYOD trend encourages business growth and has security challenges. The upside is that companies that choose to embrace mobility reap a lot of benefits, including attracting more customers and serving them better. According to the Cisco ISBG Horizons Research, mobility improves employee productivity and ultimately can provide you with a competitive advantage.

In addition, when employees get to choose how, where, and with which tools they work, there is a 16 percent increase in job satisfaction. Cost savings are a benefit, too! Companies save approximately 15 percent when employees pay for all or part of their own devices and mobile data plans. And what company wouldn’t want to save money?You many ask: so how can I prepare my business for this new growing trend? It’s easy. By taking into account the following tips, you can get your business ready to adopt mobility and start reaping the benefits today.

Network infrastructure: According to the Cisco Connected World Technology Report, 40 percent surveyed expect to be able to access their company network from their personal mobile device. The inability to access the network impedes productivity—up to six hours per week. To support employees with mobile devices, you need a robust network, fast access and a lot of bandwidth, all wireless! You may also need to invest in network improvements to support advanced technologies to improve communication and collaboration among employees, partners and customers all seamlessly—and Cisco’s unified communications is the key.

Security: You may think that your anti-virus is the only protection you need. But guess what? In a recent Dark Reading article it points out, even when 40 antivirus products were tested with the most common viruses today they detected less than 5 percent of those threats. A breach in your company business data can result not only in financial loss, but also lost customer and business downtime. In fact, the new Cisco ISA500 is a comprehensive all-in one solution that performs like a router, firewall, and unified threat management device.

Protecting the privacy of your data from outside threats requires a three-pronged approach:

  • First, put infrastructure precautions in place to protect your network from malicious activity, such as: firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spam software, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS).
  • Second, you need a VPN to ensure secure access and transmission of your data from mobile employees.
  • Third, you need an acceptable use policy that includes guidelines for mobile device usage. The AUP should outline your expectations for these devices, such as who has rights to the data on them, users’ responsibilities, and security procedures.

Support: So, when employees use their mobile devices for work, how do you provide them with support? For example, if your employees use their smartphones or tablets for work and encounter a technical issue, who do they call? Time spent dealing with technical issues is time that your employees aren’t spending on company business.

To address this, consider purchasing a service contract. A service support plan gives you access to expert technical support engineers who can quickly resolve issues, keeping employees productive. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for small and medium-sized businesses is where to start when it comes to mobility and BYOD. A Cisco Partner can help plan, implement, and support a secure, scalable mobile experience for you and your employees. So what are you waiting for? Find a partner today!

This is a great topic, right? Want more? Check out these posts:

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An All-In-One Solution for Security and Productivity

It’s a router. No, it’s a firewall. No, it’s unified threat management. It’s … the new Cisco ISA500.

We hear a lot lately about how many mobile devices are connecting to the internet. And, with today’s BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend, more employees are wanting to use their preferred devices. They’re also wanting flexibility with where they work. We’re in a new work world, where mobility is the name of the game, and security is the game controller that determines who will have the advantage. Enter: The new Cisco ISA500.

As a recent infographic from research and industry analyst firm Techaisle shows, 61 percent of SMBs in North America allow BYOD; and 53 percent expect productivity improvement. But for those two things to happen together successfully, there needs to be strong security in place. This becomes especially important given that we’re seeing an uptick in the number of SMBs targeted for cyberattacks and the number of employees engaging in risky behavior when accessing the web.

So when Cisco looks at these challenges, we focus on three key things: safeguarding outside threats that can bring down the network, the ability for employees to securely access information, and a simple way to manage it all. The Cisco ISA500 helps customers do exactly that, by acting as a highly sophisticated router, firewall, and unified threat management in one device. Not only did it win “Outstanding Hardware Solution” at IT Nation, it’s also getting a lot of praise from our partners.

We sat down with David Lawrence, president of Smart Technology Enablers, who talked about his views of this offering. Take a look at what he had to say.

If you’d like to learn more about Cisco small business products, please visit www.cisco.com/go/smb. And to learn more about responsive, proactive support options that Cisco Services offers to help keep your small business network running smoothly, click here.

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Cisco’s New SMB Business Portfolio – Essential Tools for Secure Productivity

A key trait of innovative small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) is agility– making decisions quickly, shifting direction with a customer, and swiftly working out the details with colleagues. But at the end of the day, what it all comes down to is having the right technology—to enable responsiveness, increase overall productivity, and keep SMBs competitive.

And that becomes especially important when you look at statistics around mobility. The mobile worker population is expected to reach 1.3 billion by 2015, and 71 percent of SMBs now functioning as work-from-anywhere businesses (according to IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2011–2015 Forecast. At the same time, this move to mobile has refocused SMBs’ attention on security.

On-the-go SMB workforces need to be able to work and collaborate securely, whether onsite or mobile. And, since SMBs generally don’t have dedicated IT departments, they need technologies that are easy to use and manage, all while fitting within a tight budget. This kind of enablement is what allows small businesses to be agile.

In response to these challenges, Cisco has introduced a host of new small business technologies designed to support the requirements of nimble SMBs that are looking to get an edge. These offerings deliver new capabilities around security, collaboration, and mobility.

To learn more about our latest small business products, visit our website. And, watch for additional blogs in the coming days that will zero in on related topics to provide more context around how you can help maximize productivity in a secure environment, however you define your workspace.

We’d also love to hear from you about your SMB challenges. What are you hoping to tackle this year from an IT perspective?

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R.I.P. Email Newsletters?

No, the email newsletter is not dead. It’s very much alive and still one of the best ways to build trust, generate demand, and regularly stay relevant with your customers and prospects.

In other words, unless you’re blatantly violating anti-spam legislation, your email subscribers have elected—or raised their hand—to receive information from your company. This is not something to take lightly. This is something to take advantage of on a very regular basis.

However, there are things you might be doing to kill your results. So, consult this list of 5 newsletter “don’ts.” In fact, ignore them at your peril.

1.     Don’t start a newsletter unless you can commit.

Your customers and prospects need to know that you’re reliable. If your home page promotes a monthly newsletter, commit to sending it every month like clockwork—on the same day, at the same time—if possible. Oftentimes this is your subscriber’s first indication that your company delivers on its promises, and goes a long way to develop trust.

2.     Don’t ignore the Peoplemobility factor.

According to Forrester, more than a billion people will have smartphones by 2016. And, Worldata Research claims that 87% of C-Level executives check the majority of their email via mobile device. Clearly, if you haven’t designed your newsletter for easy readability on an iPhone, Android, etc., your regular monthly cadence won’t matter. Ensure that your design renders properly in major email clients.

3.     Don’t assume that blogs take the place of newsletters.  

Blogs are not permission-based. Email newsletters are. It’s far more impactful to send content to contacts who have asked for it vs. hoping the same people find your blog on your website. However, the best scenario is to cross-pollinate, or to use both vehicles to convey your message. Point to specific blogs in your newsletter, and refer to a story in your newsletter in your latest blog. These two tactics can work together for optimal results.

4.     Don’t bore your readers.

Your e-mail newsletter is not the place for a stiff, long-winded introduction accompanied by a “glamour shot.” Avoid the “scroll-fest” (causing your readers to page-down unnecessarily through a manifesto in search of valuable content). Today’s newsletter copy should consist of 2-3 teaser sentences, accompanied by a link to a very scannable article or blog, a video, your social media properties, or to a subtle promotional offer. Include a “colorful” mix of content, drawing from a variety of sources, taking multiple forms. Above all, ensure that your content is relatable, concise, and compelling. Avoid fluff at all costs.

5.     Don’t treat your newsletter like a sales tool.

As tempting as it is for Sales to hijack your newsletter at the end of the quarter in a mad dash to make their numbers, this is not the tool for that. Newsletters are best suited for relationship marketing and nurturing contacts (customers and prospects alike) as they travel along the sales cycle. Consider their journey. Put yourself in their shoes. This is the vehicle for reminding them that you exist, for providing value in terms of content that will make their job/lives easier, and for steadily building demand. This is hardly the forum for “the close.”

Maybe you’re completely new to email newsletters? Don’t be afraid to get started. A little bit of discipline goes a long way to establish and sustain customer intimacy. And, aside from the “don’ts” above, you should also consult the mConcierge Newsletter Tactical Marketing Guide. This 2-page “cheat sheet” gives you a basic overview, best practices, tips on measuring your newsletter’s success, as well as a sample timeline.

Again, the email newsletter is not dead. It’s just evolving like every other tactic in your marketing toolbox. In a world seemingly dominated by social media, there’s still nothing more powerful than a database of customers/prospects who have actively opted in to interact with you on a regular basis. Don’t disappoint them.