Linksys looks to disrupt small business networking with Linksys Cloud Manager hosted Wi-Fi management platform

Linksys believes that the Linksys Cloud Manager, aimed at the sub-100 market, will be highly disruptive in the small business space. The cloud launch is also being accompanied by a channel push in Canada, which will see product authorized for the first time.

It hasn’t been smooth sledding with the Linksys brand for Belkin since they acquired it from Cisco in 2013. The brand underwent some damage with the channel from its Cisco tenure, which Belkin has been endeavouring to rebuild. Now Belkin – which with Linksys was itself acquired by Foxconn earlier this year – is looking to make a big splash in the SMB space and in the reseller and MSP market with the launch of a brand new offering, Linksys Cloud Manager. It’s a hosted Wi-Fi management system that Linksys says is enterprise grade, but which is purpose-built for the needs of smaller businesses, with the sweet spot being in the sub-100 market. It offers acquisition features designed to appeal to that market, and capabilities for multi-site management that Linksys believes MSPs will find attractive.

“We are now launching a new line of products for SMBs with the Linksys Cloud Manager platform, and a series of all-cloud-based remote management access points and switches,” said Wayne Newton, Linksys’ director of commercial business. “This is something where we have been very limited. We have been spending the last year working on the software, and believe that we have a product that really addresses the needs of SMBs. That’s the big takeaway here for us, that we see a big gap between consumer grade offerings and enterprise grade that the Linksys Cloud Manager can address.”

The SMB networking market is dominated by Netgear, with many other players in the space, some of them quite well known, with a smaller share. It’s a market that Newton says has good growth potential – if a company has the right product and the right strategy.

“The challenge for enterprise players is that you can’t just offer good enterprise products and practices and think they will work in SMB,” Newton said. “It’s not a layup for anyone to be successful.”

Newton said that with Linksys Cloud Manager, they have a product which is better suited for the specific needs of SMBs and MSPs than competitive product. The sweet spot will be 100 users or less, although the initial product available will be for 20 users or less.

“Netgear launched a cloud product last year, and while it is great for single sites, it’s an app and isn’t really built for multi-site management,” he stated. “Doing that on an app is an issue. For an MSP managing 30 sites, we think we have more and better features. Ours is more like the Cisco Meraki user experience. We don’t have their level of security and asset tracking features, but we don’t think SMBs want that.”

Linksys Cloud Manager comes pre-installed on select Linksys Business Wireless-AC Access Points, starting with the LAPAC1200C.

“It will next come on our unmanaged and easy smart switches, and then our managed switches,” Newton said.

Linksys believes the feature set will be of special interest to both customers and partners in the target market.

Centralized management with a Global Map lets partners manage multiple, unlimited client WiFi networks anywhere in the world from a single log-in, with full visibility of all accounts, sites, access points, and devices. Partners benefit both from the massive scalability and from alerts and real-time statistics to anticipate potential network issues without the need for on-site monitoring and troubleshooting.  Built-in troubleshooting tools to identify problems using features such as a Ping Test, Blink LED, RF Environment Scan, and Rogue Access Point Detection.

The solution also features rapid deployment with zero-touch provisioning. The access points can be configured even before unboxing them through a quick and simple installation process. After deployment, the APs automatically connect to the cloud over SSL and can be configured remotely, whether they are offline or online, and provisioned in minutes with a few clicks

Newton said that Linksys Cloud Manager being sold essentially as a free add-on to the hardware will appeal to both customers and partners.

“The model is that you get cloud management but don’t pay cloud management fees,” he said. “If you buy the Linksys Cloud Manager-powered  Access Point, it comes with the cloud support for the entire life of the warranty, for five years. The customer can then either extend the warranty or just replace the product.

“For a small business, they get an enterprise-grade access point and the cloud for the cost of the access point, without any fees or charges. An MSP using it for a service has a simple acquisition model, where they just pay the price of the access point.”

Newton said that Linksys will be emphasizing the ability to provide this kind of value to both customers and partners going forward.

“We still think that in SMB, as well as consumer and SOHO, there is still room for someone to emerge, so we will be making a lot more investment in the commercial space,” he said. “There are expectations there around tech support and field support and customer service, and we didn’t have that before. We have been investing in reseller programs that were at a much higher level than the business probably justified, but with an eye on what we would be doing this year.”

Ramping up the Linksys brand in the Canadian channel is a priority.

“In Canada, we will be launching an authorized reseller program for the first time,” he said. “We sell through the channel in Canada, but it is an open market. We will be authorizing resellers moving forward, providing greater benefits such as margin enhancement, marketing funds and project-based price incentives.”

Newton indicated that while in the U.S., there are thousands of partners, in Canada about 400-500 are actively transacting today.

“The business is a little different in Canada, which benefits because it doesn’t have as much of the Amazon marketplace challenges, so it has remained a little more true to the channel,” he said.

The LAPAC1200C has an MSRP $199.99, with the Linksys Cloud Manager included at no extra cost. It will be available in Canada in late October. The LACPAC1750C will be available next week in the U.S., and the LACPAC2600C later. Canadian availability for the latter two has not yet been set. The availability of Linksys Cloud Manager on the other Linksys devices will come later in both the U.S. and Canada.