Cisco Simplifies Business Edition for SMBs

by Sandra Gustavsen

Cisco recently expanded its Business Edition family of all-in-one communications platforms with a new model optimized for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), the Business Edition 4000.  The new system joins the portfolio as a voice-centric telephony appliance for simple office communications, supporting up to 200 devices. For unified communications and collaboration requirements and/or the need for more capacity, Cisco offers the more advanced Business Edition 6000 that targets mid-size enterprises with up to 1,000 users and the Business Edition 7000 for larger enterprises above 1,000 users.

We can expect the Business Edition 4000 to replace the earlier Cisco Business Edition 6000”S” which was introduced in 2015 to fill a gap in Cisco’s product line, following the 2014 end-of-sale of Cisco’s Business Edition 3000, UC300  and UC500 business telephony platforms for SMBs. The Business Edition 6000S is based on Cisco’s Integrated Services Router (ISR) 2921 platform which is being discontinued (the last date to order will be December 9, 2017). The new Business Edition 4000 is based on the same platform as one of Cisco’s newer ISR 4000 series routers and promises greater performance at lower price.

Cisco Business Edition 4000 became generally available in April 2017 and is launching first in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, Germany and Australia.

Licensing & Management Simplified

Cisco highlights four easy steps for getting started with the Business Edition 4000. Customers choose the Cisco phones (Cisco SIP 78xx, 88xx or analog phones) and interface cards (FXO, FXS, PRI and BRI interfaces) if required to connect the system to the public switched telephone network or PSTN (SIP trunking is also supported), then add licenses using Cisco’s 1-, 3-, or 5-year prepaid term-based licensing plans. A Cisco partner preconfigures the dial plan and calling features using the cloud-based management portal and the system is automatically configured, enabling the partner to complete the installation within a day, according to Cisco.

Some notables:

  • Cloud Management: Business Edition 4000 is deployed on-premises, but managed in the cloud via a new hosted management portal with intuitive menus designed to simplify system deployment and provisioning. The portal is also used for ongoing administration such as adding new users, setting up features and monitoring system status.
  • Flexible Term-based Licensing: Customers select a 1-, 3-, or 5-year term-based user subscription plan, with one subscription for every device connected to the Business Edition 4000 appliance.  The license provides one voice mailbox, access to the management portal and 24×7 Cisco support. At the end of the term, the customer can renew the license or can choose to migrate to Cisco’s cloud-based Spark service or the Business Edition 6000. With either migration option, customers can continue using the same telephones, protecting this portion of their hardware investment.
  • New Features Pushed from the Cloud: Business Edition 4000 supports essential telephony features, including call park, pick-up, hold, forward, transfer, paging, hunt groups, 3-way audio conferencing, speed dialing, do not disturb, music on hold, intercom, E911, voicemail messaging and auto attendant, as well as ‘single number reach’ that simultaneously routes incoming calls to a cell phone or any other number. New features (in the coming months) will be automatically “pushed from the cloud” via the Business Edition 4000 management portal. Customers will be able to take advantage of the new functionality without having to install any new software or hardware on-site.
  • Cisco Spark and WebEx Support: For additional functionality, Business Edition 4000 customers can add-on a Cisco Spark or WebEx subscription service for messaging (group chats) and multi-party online meetings. If customers require a more integrated UC experience, Cisco recommends subscribing to the complete Spark service with Calling, Messaging and Meetings or installing a Business Edition 6000 with Spark Hybrid Services which allows the sharing of calls, calendaring, directories and features among Spark (cloud) users and premises-based Business Edition 6000 users.

The new Business Edition 4000 lists for $4,995 USD, with user licenses at $21 per user per year for a 1-year pre-paid term (there is a maximum of one user device with voicemail per user license; a 15% discount is available for 3- and 5-year pre-paid terms). Phones are purchased separately.

Read more here  about other vendors bucking the trend by introducing a new on-site IP-PBX when most providers and vendors are racing to build out their cloud unified communications (UC) offers.  Each has a different target or niche market to address with their new hardware, and each recognizes the value of offering a full spectrum of deployments – cloud, premises and hybrid arrangements.