Maybe the best way to plug a market leak is to send in the leading pipe fitter to handle the grunt work. Last night, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO) put up healthy fiscal third-quarter results, reporting earnings of $0.17 a share on $5.6 billion in revenues.

There was a lot to like in the numbers. Margins were strong. Sales growth is accelerating. Inventory turns and days sales outstanding (DSO) improved sequentially. Operating cash flow of $2.4 billion was a company record.

Cisco believes in Cisco. It spent $3 billion this past quarter buying back stock, yet it managed to keep its cash levels near $19 billion.

Yes, Cisco has had some mood swings over the past few years. Four years ago, the stock was battling Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and General Electric (NYSE:GE) to command the market's largest capitalization. Two years later, the stock had fallen nearly 90% from those highs.

But the comeback trail has to start somewhere, right? The stock has nearly tripled since it bottomed out in 2002. Even while many other tech companies are marching in place, Cisco continues to make inroads in areas that will bear fruit once corporate spending picks up.

As companies upgrade their networks and embrace IP telephones (Cisco has managed to sell 3 million of those next-generation office communication devices), results should continue to improve. A more robust economy should eventually kick the company's growth into higher gears.

Cisco saw its profits more than double in fiscal 2003, but that came on flat revenue growth. Now, both the top and bottom lines are moving higher in concert. So believe it. Cisco's back -- even if it's not all the way back just yet.

If Cisco produced record cash flow from operations, why is the stock trading for less than a third of its all-time highs? What should Cisco do with its significant cash hoard? All this and more -- in the Cisco Systems discussion board. Only on

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't a router rooter -- though he plays one on TV. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.