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Cisco Abandons UC For SMB

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Cisco’s foray into the SMB unified communications market ends as a cautionary tale for partners and customers. The company has announced end-of-life for their UC300, UC500, BE3000 and UC5000 models.

In late 2008, Cisco announced plans for a $100 million global strategic initiative to target the SMB market. In its announcement, Ian Pennel, senior vice president of Cisco’s Small Business Technology Group noted, “It’s critical that small-business owners have a technology partner they trust to help them find and deploy the right solutions to grow their business.” Two years later the company unveiled its first unified communications products for SMBs, the UC300, UC500 and Business Edition 3000.

Cisco aggressively recruited partners to support its entry into the SMB unified communications market. The company pledged to invest in people and technology to support its SMB partners worldwide, and in turn, encouraged partners to develop a practice centered on Cisco SMB solutions.

Initial sales of Cisco SMB unified communications solutions appeared to be relatively strong. Although the company did not release specific sales figures, anecdotal evidence from Cisco partners suggests that thousands of businesses invested in Cisco’s SMB unified communications offerings.

However, Cisco’s interest in the SMB unified communications market soon waned. In 2013, just two years after it unveiled its SMB unified communications portfolio, Cisco announced end-of-sale and end-of-life plans for UC300, UC500 and Business Edition 3000 solutions.

This abrupt announcement left Cisco’s SMB partners with just six months before UC320W, UC520, UC540, UC560, BE3000 and BE5000 reached end-of-sale dates. These partners, many of whom invested heavily to sell Cisco SMB unified communications solutions, were effectively left without a product for prospective customers.

SMB customers, who just two years ago had been assured that Cisco was a trustworthy partner for small businesses, faced quickly approaching end-of-maintenance and end-of-life dates. Cisco’s announcement left these businesses with few options. They could either risk running mission critical communications systems on an unsupported product, or they could abandon their initial investment and migrate to Cisco’s Business Edition 6000 solution, a costly appliance designed for businesses with up to 1,000 users.

In hindsight, Cisco’s exit from the SMB unified communications market is not surprising. Cisco’s focus has always been on the enterprise market. The company, under pressure to meet revenue and earnings targets, was likely unwilling to invest the time and effort necessary to develop a successful SMB business. SMB customers and partners attracted to Cisco’s size and financial resources ultimately discovered that they could be abandoned and written-off like any one of Cisco’s many investments.

Is it time for Cisco SMB customers and partners to shift to ShoreTel? Avoid costly forklift upgrades while safeguarding your UC for SMB interests with a company with a long-term SMB focus. Choose from either an on-premises unified communication (SBE 100) or a cloud phone system (ShoreTel Sky for SMBs). These are time tested solutions specifically priced and packaged for SMBs. Limited time rebates and free phones are available to reduce the upfront costs of switching.