Wednesday 16 July 2008

Some thoughts on Microsoft's new SBS Support Policy

There have been a number of articles written by various SMB or key technology folks over the last while indicating that the solo shop or fly by the seat of the pants consultant should see the writing on the wall.

Some links:
With the upcoming changes that Microsoft is implementing for business critical support for SBS products, the consultant calls in for that support creates an incident and will receive a call-back from Microsoft Product Support Services to work on the problem.

When Microsoft announced the changes to the Business Critical Support (BCS) policy, there was a lot comments on the "fact" that charging for BCS was a bad idea.

This begs the question: Why is it a bad idea?

We operate an I.T. business that generates its revenues via providing implementation and support services for a variety of manufacturer's products. In most cases, we may have a FAQ, forum, or knowledgebase (Live search), or other such support mechanism provided by the manufacturer.

The key here is that we provide products and services for a fee. We do not provide them for free. We may make small allowances for our clients that spend a good portion of their I.T. budget with us, but we ultimately charge for our services.

While there are manufacturers that do provide some sort of free technical support for their partners, things can get out of hand. Just ask Vlad here: Things that piss Vlad off: SMB Enterprise White Paper, and here: Hacking OWN Support: DRaaS Encyclopedia, and here: Should free content creators be commercially compensated for giving away things for free? Check out his blog for more: (Live search for RTFM).

Microsoft is no different than us as far as providing products and services for a fee.

Yes, we are supporting Microsoft products ... but with the understanding from our client's perspective that we are trained on those products.

This bears repeating: We are supposed to be Professionals. Essentially that means that we are thoroughly knowledgeable in the intricacies of the solutions we design, implement, and support.

We have taken the time to pay for training, certification, technical books, technical mentorship, and business mentorship to build up our product and business knowledge as well as the product and business knowledge of those that work for us.

Coming back to Microsoft and their support policy for those of us that support the SMB with a specific focus on SBS: It is in Microsoft's best interest to charge for that service.

While the $8,000 a year support policy that enables one to get front line support might be a little high for those of us with a one or two person shop, we can certainly pay $4-5,000 a year for the service.

That $4-5K a year is an insurance policy for those times where there is absolutely nowhere to turn when things go sideways. That fee would weed out most of the calls that have absolutely no right to be in the BCS queue. Having that fee would eliminate the need to outsource ... giving us the assurance that the person on the other end of the phone will indeed know their stuff.

Ultimately, it would give Microsoft the opportunity to recognize those Partners that were willing to invest in their own and Microsoft's business presence ... and perhaps focus their partner building with them.

If Microsoft does offer such a support policy oriented to the SMB/SBS Partners, we would be first in line to sign up.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

*All Mac on SBS posts are posted on our in-house iMac via the Safari Web browser.

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