Cisco has produced a new package of IP-network hardware and software for small business, including VoIP systems.

The new service,Cisco Business Communications Solution (BCS), comprises two Catalyst series switches, one for small businesses with up to 250 workers, and the other for companies with 250 to 1,500 workers.

Cisco also offers a selection of three new IP phones and a dozen software tools supporting tasks such as network monitoring and voice provisioning, plus revised versions of four existing products.

Azmir Mohamed, Cisco's BCS product line manager, said one example of the simplicity built into the new offering is a VoIP configuration tool that lets IT managers use a bar code reader to insert 12-digit Ethernet addresses for up to 1,200 IP phone lines in about 30 minutes. That's down from as much as four hours using the conventional method of typing in the information, Mohamed said.

Forrester analyst Robert Whiteley said the BCS packages are well timed, partly because VoIP technology has matured at large companies, and small and mid-size businesses are now willing to spend money on it.

Among Cisco's competitors, 3Com comes the closest to matching the BCS offering with its range of data networking and VoIP products for small and midsize companies, Whiteley said.