Discover the clever cloud-based IT solutions to help small businesses scale
When you’re the CEO, COO and head of HR, you don’t have time for IT too. That’s where the Cisco Designed portfolio comes in
"Solutions which had previously been the preserve of large companies are now being scaled down and becoming available for small businesses"
Cisco is helping small businesses meet the challenges presented by the shift to new ways of working as well as the need to transform digitally to become more efficient and competitive in the post-Covid-19 world. Cisco is one of the largest technology companies in the world, providing businesses (including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)) with solutions for everything from networking and data centre to collaboration and security.
“For SMEs who don’t have IT support on staff, this can present unique challenges which Cisco can help them face with advice, guidance – and the right products,” says Tom Long, head of sales with Cisco Ireland.
“Small business is hugely important to the Irish economy,” he adds. “The Small Firms Association (SFA) produced a Manifesto for Small Business earlier this year which pointed out that there are 267,000 small firms in Ireland, 98 per cent of total businesses in the country. Between them they employ 760,000 people. That’s a phenomenal number and represents a very important market.”
The classification used for small business is companies employing fewer than 50 people. “We use the SFA definition as we believe that’s appropriate for the Irish market. While they are different to medium and large companies from a scale and size perspective, there are similarities as well. They share the common objectives to have a successful business and make a profit,” Long says.
He boils it down to its most simple tenet. “When I think of a small business it is about fundamentally making a living and providing one for employees. That’s the common ground, but there are differences. One thing you learn quite quickly is that a small business owner is typically the CEO, CIO, CFO, head of HR and production and everything else all rolled into one. When they are working on all of that I very much doubt that technology is top of their mind,” Long acknowledges, adding, “they have an awful lot of other things to worry about like economic change and what the future will look like for their business.”
Technology that delivers
He believes it is important for companies like Cisco to understand the dynamics of small businesses. “I am very conscious that I work for a large global technology company and that technology is not at the forefront of small business owners’ minds. They are focused on what delivers for their business. No one is buying technology for the sake of it, they need to see how it can help to deliver desired outcomes for their business.”
With businesses facing challenges in terms of cash flow, liquidity, and debt, he believes small firms may be especially vulnerable to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. “But they can also be agile and flexible and make quick decisions,” says Long. “The crux of it is that technology can help, and Cisco will be part of the solution. We just launched our Small Business Recovery resource hub to help SMEs stay connected, protect resources and maintain productivity so they can focus on keeping their business running during these challenging times.”
According to Long, technology can improve the bottom line and help businesses deliver differentiated services. “Cisco can help businesses transform and succeed through digitisation. We can help them become more profitable by reaching new markets, selling more, improving efficiency and taking costs out. This all adds up to an improved bottom line,” he says.
Where technology can help is through what the SFA has referred to as digital readiness. “When I talk to medium and large customers they are in the middle of digital transformation,” Long says. “Small businesses are at the beginning of that journey and they talk about digital readiness. The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the need for digital transformation.”
Digitisation is particularly relevant to small firms in a number of key areas, he explains. The first is having an online presence. “That is now more important than ever. All small businesses need an online presence. Secure remote working is also critically important. Not all organisations are at the same comfort level with that. Remote working is here to stay and will increase in future,” he says.
The other key area is cybersecurity. “This is common to all companies. As they invest in more technology they ask if they are exposing themselves to more risk. They believe they need to transform digitally, but need to do so in a secure, controlled manner. It cannot be reckless,” Long stresses.
Cisco has solutions specifically designed to meet the needs of small businesses in these areas. “The portfolio is known as Cisco Designed and is made up of simple, reliable and secure solutions,” he says.
The value proposition for small business is enabled by the cloud-based nature of the solutions. “The beauty of the cloud is it’s very agile,” Long says. “Once you have a solution in the cloud you can scale up and down as you like using a pay as you use model which makes it very suited to small business. It means we have been able to offer all of the advantages of our enterprise class solution to our small business customers.”
The Cisco Designed portfolio includes a number of cloud solutions like Webex, Meraki, and Duo Security. “We are the number one global player in the cybersecurity, conferencing, networking and connectivity business,” he says.
We can deliver the skills and expertise through an ecosystem of partners while the business owner focuses on their business
“Duo Security is a multi-factor authentication (MFA) solution and enables businesses to verify users and devices before granting access to applications. It is infinitely scalable up and down and doesn’t require any initial capital expenditure,” Long says, adding,“Webex is the largest global conferencing platform. Webex makes sure your teams are connected and collaborating effectively and can connect with customers and partners. Traffic grew threefold in three months from 6.7 billion meeting minutes in February to 21.8 billion in April. This is just phenomenal.”
The Meraki networking solution is ideal for small businesses with multiple locations. “This is a cloud-based networking solution which connects small businesses to their critical applications,” he explains. “All of the configuration is handled in the cloud and the solutions are constantly updated in the background with the user knowing little or nothing about it.
“And what’s brilliant about these cloud based solutions are they all support remote working, are easy to deploy, manage and access and as part of Cisco’s response to driving business continuity, we are offering extended free trials; so I would encourage business owners to take advantage of them.”
One of the issues faced by many small businesses when it comes to implementing new technology solutions is the lack of the necessary skills. “Cisco can take that burden away from them. We can deliver the skills and expertise through an ecosystem of partners while the business owner focuses on their business,” Long says.
“Solutions which had previously been the preserve of large companies are now being scaled down and becoming available for small businesses,” he concludes. “That’s great to see. If we can move the dial for small business to make them more efficient and competitive, that helps the country and the economy as a whole.”
Discover more about Cisco’s Designed portfolio for small business here.
Get free expert information and advice on the Cisco Designed: Empowering Small Business Recovery resource hub.