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Is Microsoft’s Unified Support Right for Your Organization?

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It is no surprise that most enterprises and large organizations are customers of Microsoft in one way or another. Whether it’s productivity software for your basic user needs or more complex business applications like Security Software or platform and infrastructure, Microsoft does a great job weaving themselves into customers’ environments to create vendor lock-in. This includes weaving Microsoft Unified Support into your environment.

Support is something that is almost always prevalent for any company’s Microsoft relationship. While we have been working with customers to evaluate alternatives, paying for Microsoft Support is the only way to get that support directly from Microsoft. But of course, that directness comes with a premium, and direct support doesn’t necessarily mean the best level of support.

While smaller organizations may have the ability to be more flexible with Microsoft alternatives, Microsoft has likely been ingrained within your company’s infrastructure for years. Not only is it incredibly hard to move away from a Microsoft solution or software from a technical perspective, but it can also be painful to move away from Support as well. This is even more true if your organization is truly utilizing Microsoft Support and receiving expected value.

While we would leave it up to an organization to best determine the type and level of support needed, we highly recommend getting a deeper level of understanding before simply committing to Microsoft. Microsoft makes the Support fee structure complex, and often hides transparency into how certain fees are even derived. This can have big implications to your Support spend after pen goes to paper. Exploring alternatives (and their pricing structures) should also be an option.

Here, I will go over the Support models Microsoft has offered in the past, Microsoft’s Unified Enterprise Support model and things to consider when evaluating the right Support model for your organization.

An Overview of Microsoft’s Previous Support Models

Historically, Microsoft Support looked more like a traditional professional service. While there were Microsoft-specific nuances to deal with, legacy Premier Support was at least largely priced in a way that makes sense.

Your agreement would have outlined the specific services, number of resource hours, and entitlements very thoroughly, including Support Account Management hours, Problem Resolution Support hours, or even support for a specific product. Again, while still likely a challenging negotiation, you would have been able to achieve a fixed level of support for a fixed cost.

Over the years, and especially as on-premise software became cloud subscriptions, providers have found creative ways to drive more revenue with their fee models, Support being one of them. If you tie the cost of Support to the underlying software subscription, Support becomes a natural additional revenue stream on top of any software. This is prevalent in the market and among other vendors; for example, Salesforce also plays this game. When Microsoft made this realization, legacy Unified Support was born.

The older Unified Support was very complex. Different percentages were applied to different portions of your Microsoft spend over varying lookback periods. There were different tiers of Unified Support as well (Core, Advanced and Performance), with varying percentages applied to each tier.

Understanding Unified Enterprise Support

Today, Microsoft no longer offers tiers of Support. Instead, Unified Enterprise is painted as the one-size-fits-all model for Microsoft Support needs. If different percentages for different products for varying periods of time wasn’t complicated enough for you, Unified Enterprise actually has a tiered percentage fee structure within each product family. In essence, your support fees are treated like an inverse Graduated Rate Income Tax.

It is very important to consider how your existing and future Microsoft spend will directly impact the Support fees that you will pay. What are your user subscriptions, and do you have plans to give them any enhanced capabilities? A percentage of that spend will go towards Support.

What does your infrastructure look like with regards to servers and on-premise licensing? There are different percentages for that spend that become part of your Support fees.

How about Cloud Infrastructure? Your Azure fees, which likely continue to ramp with use, will also have percentages applied to your Support spend. It is easy to see how Support costs can spiral out of control.

What to Consider with Azure and Other Large Adoptions

Are you an Azure customer looking to make the next big push into the cloud? Are you adopting Dynamics 365, Microsoft 365 E5, Copilot or some other strategic Microsoft product?

I’m sure Microsoft Support was brought up as part of these discussions. If it wasn’t, be prepared for Support to drop in at the 11th hour, leaving you to figure out the additional associated fees. And if you are already a Support customer, these additional commitments to Microsoft will end up resulting in added Support fees, even if they aren’t upfront with you about it.

It is also important to look closely at the level of support being provided. Are your SLA’s and access to Microsoft resources changing as a result of the new Enterprise model? These types of questions are also important to consider when your organization is making a decision on whether or not to keep or adopt Microsoft-direct support.

The Bottom Line

Make sure you wrap Support into any other product/solution discussion with Microsoft. When you are negotiating, you need to understand what’s most important to Microsoft as well. If you find the right buttons to push, it can make a huge difference. As an example, Support and professional services are areas where Microsoft actually needs to see growth. With the right strategy in-place, you can use intel like this to your advantage.

UpperEdge helps clients negotiate these agreements every day. Explore our Microsoft Advisory Services to learn how our Microsoft advisors can support you.

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