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Cisco continues to court small business

Networking giant launches new program for resellers targeting small and midsize customers.

Networking giant Cisco Systems has launched a new program for resellers targeting small and midsize businesses.

The company on Monday announced the Cisco Security Virtual Private Network and Firewall Express specialization program, which provides special certification to resellers that sell virtual private network (VPN) and firewall products to small and midsize companies. The certification focuses on channel partners that sell entry-level network security products for a single or limited site.

Cisco, which is the No. 1 supplier of networking gear to large businesses worldwide, already offers specialized certification for resellers that target larger corporate customers. The company plans to build on its existing course work, exams and certifications from these programs to create one tailored to small and midsize customers.

The small and midsize business market is important for Cisco. The company has been aggressively courting customers in this sector for the past few months, introducing new products such as Ethernet switches.

It also has added other new programs for its channel partners. In July, the company created the program to differentiate channel partners focusing on customers with between 20 and 1,000 employees from those aiming at enterprise customers. In September, it created an incentive program for resellers targeting small and midsize companies in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.

Cisco's reseller partners play a critical role in the company's strategy, because they account for more than 90 percent of the company's sales in this market.

"We understand that channel partners who sell into the SMB space have different needs, and we are focused on creating programs to help them be successful," Luca Marinelli, Cisco's managing director for channel partners in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, said in a statement.

Under the new program, Cisco resellers who qualify will get formal training in the security products targeted for this market, 10 points toward their company's certification, and recognition on the Cisco Partner Locator.