Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support

Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support.

Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support

Organizations are always on the lookout for alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support because, let’s face it, Microsoft has fallen behind. Support costs continue to increase each year while the quality of that support slowly stagnates. While third-party alternatives may sound like a last resort option, many provide a greater degree of customization and support than Microsoft. While there are a variety of options available to you, each offers a unique set of features and benefits that could change your outlook on support.

Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support

Unified Support Alternatives

Before you can assess the competition, you must know the playing field. A greater understanding of the elements available to you and what you’re looking for in a support alternative goes a long way in improving the state of your support and your business.

Microsoft Premier Support

Before Unified Support existed, there was Premier Support. Premier offered a more traditional support model with tiers and support credits. Some organizations are still using Premier or a legacy service, but the switch to Unified is all but guaranteed soon. Premier is no longer offered as a support solution from Microsoft and has been effectively retired. Anyone still on Premier will be forced to switch over when their contract is up for renewal or in the next five years, depending on how much leeway they are able to get in their negotiations.

Third-Party Support Providers

There are many third-party companies that offer support services for Microsoft products. Many of these providers offer a greater degree of customization for support plans and potentially lower costs depending on the scope of their support. US Cloud is a third-party support provider that saves you 30-50% on your yearly support costs and responds to tickets within 15 minutes of submission, financially guaranteed. Because our services aren’t directly tied to Microsoft, we have the freedom to dive deeper into the support pool and hone our services to fit the needs of each company that approach us.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

MSPs offer a range of IT services which, in this case, would also include support for Microsoft products. They offer a more personalized approach to support solutions and often build support packages tailored to an organization’s specific needs.

Microsoft Partner Network

Microsoft has a vast network of partners that offer various services, including support. These partners can provide specialized expertise in specific industries or for certain Microsoft products.

Self-Support Resources

If you have the internal capability, self-support is a viable option. Microsoft offers extensive documentation, community forums, and other online resources to troubleshoot and resolve issues. While this would require more internal resources to set up, tickets could theoretically be addressed faster than if you were to submit them to Microsoft and wait on them to address it.

Hybrid Support Models

If self-support isn’t viable for every issue but you don’t want to fully rely on Microsoft or a third-party, hybrid is the next best pick. This model utilizes internal resources for less critical support functions like small break-fixes while leaning on Microsoft or a third-party support for the bigger ticket items.

Consultancy Firms

Specialist IT consultancy firms provide support services alongside strategic advice on effective use of Microsoft products within your IT landscape. Typically these firms are chosen as a support option more so for the advice than the support services, as their support reach is more limited than a dedicated third-party specialist.

Cloud Solutions Providers (CSPs)

Organizations that use cloud services may lean on CSPs, which can offer support as part of their service package. This includes both technical support and assistance with managing cloud resources.

Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support - Next Steps

Assessing Alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support

There are a variety of different factors that play into the decision to switch from Microsoft Unified Support to an alternative. Elements like the complexity of your Microsoft environment, the needs of your organization, your budget, and the level of expertise required to maintain your IT environment all play a part in your assessment. Every alternative has its strengths and weaknesses, but you need to weight these against the needs of your business. To do so without the added stress of starting your search blind, here is a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process.

Step 1: Define Your Needs

Start at the ground level. Identify your organization’s size, technical expertise, and budget constraints. Then analyze your current IT environment and the complexity of your Microsoft deployments. This should give you an idea on how much assistance your business needs to keep your services moving smoothly. Determine your specific support requirements, including desired response times, service levels, and specialized expertise. Combine these requirements with your preferred support model: fully managed, co-managed, or self-service. Finally, consider how much growth you are expecting in the future, short and long-term, and the scalability needs from your support option.

Step 2: Research Alternatives

Your research efforts should start by exploring established third-party Microsoft support providers, as these are some of the most experienced options in the industry. Third-party alternatives like US Cloud or Remini Street have a wider pool of services and experiences to pull from and offer you the most comprehensive services next to Microsoft. Next, Evaluate open-source software and online resources like Microsoft Q&A, Tech Community, Stack Overflow, and GitHub. Then, after assessing the feasibility of building dedicated internal IT support teams and analyzing a hybrid approach, you should have a solid idea of what your business needs to succeed and where to start.

Step 3: Evaluate Your Options

Your evaluation criteria should cover:

  • Service Offerings: Compare the scope of services provided, including incident resolution, proactive monitoring, technical account management, and access to specialized expertise.
  • Response Time/Service Levels: Evaluate guaranteed response times and resolution timeframes for different severity levels.
  • Pricing and Cost Structure: Compare service fees, upfront costs, and billing models across your available options.
  • Technical Expertise and Experience: Assess the providers’ team qualifications, certifications, and experience with your specific Microsoft technologies.
  • Security and Compliance: Ensure the provider adheres to your organization’s security and compliance requirements.
  • Customer Support and Satisfaction: Read reviews and testimonials to gauge the provider’s customer service and track record.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Evaluate the provider’s ability to adapt to your future growth needs and changes in your IT environment.

Step 4: Request Proposals and Negotiate Terms

Get in contact with providers on your shortlist and request detailed proposals outlining their services, pricing, and service level agreements. Then you can compare providers on a deeper level, eventually reducing the pool of options further. Once done, negotiate terms based on your specific needs and budget constraints. If there are any ambiguities or unanswered questions, seek clarification from the provider.

Step 5: Conduct Reference Checks and Pilot Projects

Contact existing customers of your shortlisted providers to gain firsthand feedback on their experience and satisfaction level. If you are still on the fence, consider conducting a pilot project with a preferred provider to test their services and compatibility with your IT environment.

Additional Tips for Alternatives

Third-Party Support Providers

Utilize Gartner and other industry reports to gain greater insights into leading Microsoft support providers. Coupled with industry events and conferences, you’ll have a deeper understanding of the industry along with more knowledge on what will and won’t work when dealing with a provider. Consider engaging a technology consultant or managed service provider to assist with the evaluation process and make your life easier.

Following this comprehensive approach should help you effectively assess alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support and choose the solution that best aligns with your needs and budget. The ideal option will always deliver efficient support, cost savings, and long-term value for your Microsoft environment.

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