Earlier this year, Microsoft announced that it was doubling down on expanding its Microsoft Office 365 and Azure services into the Middle East by opening its first data center in Abu Dhabi. By doubling the number of Azure regions available, in tandem with its goal to be in 50 regions across the globe, Microsoft is expanding data residency options for enterprises to deliver a consistent experience, fortified by robust policies, controls and systems to help keep data safe and help comply with local and regional regulations.
This move is prompting many enterprises in the Middle East – including Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel – to more seriously consider incorporating Microsoft products and services into their IT portfolios.
Alongside this expansion into the Middle East, Microsoft also changed the way it delivers support services for those using their software, transitioning from a Premier to a Unified support model. Even if you’re just interested in online Microsoft applications and services, you’ll still be on the hook to pay for support across any Microsoft technologies – even on-premises ones you may not even use.
This change will make the cost of Microsoft support even more expensive. Enterprises in Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel can expect to pay up to 40% more for Microsoft Unified Support than they would have under the old model. This means you’ll pay anywhere from 33% to 39% of your Microsoft licensing costs for maintenance, 56% higher than the industry average. The bigger issue is that the support you receive isn’t worth the price increase. Here are a few reasons why that’s the case:
Who is actually troubleshooting and working your support tickets? You would assume it is Microsoft employees, but that’s usually not the case. Third-party vendors (v-badges) like India-based Tata or Wipro are actually doing the work. You can discern this from the email address of the support engineer. If you are paying for premium support, you should get premium support. US Cloud will never outsource its support services. In fact, all TAM/DSE are USA-based, making us GDPR/ITAR compliant.
At all levels (core, advanced, performance) of Unified Support, your cost is a percentage of your Office 365 and client software annual costs, as well as a cut of your other software and online services annual spend. US Cloud only bills you for the services you consume, in the manner that works best for you.
Depending on the tier of Unified Support you purchase – in other words, how much you’re willing to pay – you will have a dedicated team or share with other Microsoft customers. Are you a public sector entity? Make sure that a vendor offering a Microsoft Unified Support alternative can assure you only US citizens are handling your support cases so you don’t run afoul of GDPR or ITAR.
In the Unified world, non-human proactive support is unlimited. However, you will pay extra for an engineer. Or, if you are a Performance or Advanced tier Unified support customers, you will have a certain number of days built into your contract. If having an experienced Microsoft engineer on call to help is important to you, be prepared to pay an additional Microsoft tax for the service. Given that many times third-party contractors are handling your support, look for an alternative like US Cloud, which has more than 20 years of experience across all Microsoft technologies as part of the support hours for which you’ve already paid.
In the Unified model, you will have unlimited hours … as long as you’re OK with picking up the phone. However, maybe you don’t have to call. Online services will cost you extra in the Unified Support model.
In the Unified model, the one-hour critical/catastrophic SLA holds except for Advanced tier Unified Support customers. They’ll have a 30-minute SLA for critical issues. For standard problems, expect to wait anywhere between 4 and 8 hours. US Cloud responds within 6 minutes to all calls regardless of how critical they may be.
Those paying for the lowest tier of the Unified model will have no way of getting to third tier support. For all others, it’s included but at varying levels of criticality. US Cloud has handled more than 61,000 support tickets, and have escalated less than 1 percent to Microsoft. However, in the case you do need to get escalated to that level, it’s included in your hours. We will work with you every step of the way to navigate the Microsoft support system and get you the resolution you need as soon as possible.
Despite Microsoft’s size, you cannot realistically expect to enjoy the same SLAs if the company is rolling out a new version of Office 365 or patches for its on-premises software. There seems to be little communication between Microsoft’s engineering and services groups. So, when demand increases for support, SLA response times slip and fail. The Microsoft Technical Account Manager is then forced to triage unhappy Unified customers paying 30% more for less support.
Unless you have a named secondary (backup) Technical Account Manager (TAM) or Designated System Engineer (DSE) on your contract, you’ll be at the whim of whoever is available to try and assist you. Or worse, your needs may go unheard for a week or two. You’ll have to plan ahead for when these key Microsoft roles are unavailable to assist you in time of crisis. That’s more work that you’re expected to do, even though you’re paying almost a third more for enterprise support services.
Many companies we speak with are having to push their Microsoft account representative hard to hold their company accountable if it misses a SLA. The SLA should be financially backed to incentivize the provider. Aggressive SLAs are common in cloud service provider agreements – your Microsoft Unified Support contract should be no different.
For those who are new to the Microsoft world, there are a lot of unknowns – and you trust a Microsoft Account Manager to guide you along the right path to implement your software the best way possible.
We’ve had many enterprises in the Middle East tell us they balk at the high price of support but feel they are stuck. They’ve been told that when you buy Office 365, the support is included in the cost of those seats. When they say they want to go with a third-party Unified Support alternative, Microsoft Account Managers tell them that they will lose their Office 365 support when they do this. However, Office 365 and its support stand on their own. Don’t fall for this trap.
There Is an Alternative
Middle East enterprises looking to take advantage of the expansion of Office 365 and Azure services in their region have a viable alternative to Microsoft Unified Support with US Cloud. With us, you can expect:
Tired of paying an additional Microsoft tax for a lackluster support experience? Get the right level of support with US Cloud, the industry’s first true alternative to Microsoft Unified Support now available in the Middle East as well as many other countries worldwide. Contact us today for more information and a free trial.