Alternatives to Microsoft.

Viable third-party alternatives emerge as competitors to Microsoft Premier / Unified Support

Third-party enterprise software support began in 2005 as an alternative to Oracle's support. Today, 34% of all enterprises worldwide use third-party support competitors for Oracle, SAP or JD Edwards. These savvy enterprises use the 40-60% cost savings to accelerate their business-driven roadmaps via innovation and digital transformation.

Enterprise procurement teams and CIOs around the world have now discovered viable third-party alternatives to Microsoft Premier/Unified support. These Microsoft enterprise support competitors are helping organizations get more value from their Microsoft investments while freeing up funds and resources to drive competitive advantage and growth.
Quality of Microsoft Unified Support alternative US Cloud


For the first time, Enterprise IT and procurement leaders can move past the Microsoft enterprise support monopoly and explore competitive alternatives to MS Premier and Unified. That choice, however, comes with new risks that need to be fully understood before moving away from Microsoft software maintenance and support.

Microsoft Premier/Unified Support alternatives now fall into two primary categories:

  1. Traditional Microsoft Partners (VAR’s, CSP’s, MSP’s)
  2. Independent Third-Party Microsoft Support Providers

Read on to see how these different options stack up and which alternative to Microsoft might be right for your enterprise.


Alternative #1 - Traditional Microsoft Partners

Traditional Microsoft Partners include large system integrators (SI), Managed Service Providers (MSP’s), Value-Added Resellers (VAR’s), Cloud Service Providers (CSP’s), and Microsoft consultancies.  Some enterprises are using their Microsoft Partner as an alternative to Premier/Unified for cloud services support. MS Partners of all stripes have spun up support offerings to increase domain expertise around the Microsoft cloud services of Azure, M365 and Dynamics.

Large Microsoft-centric IT services organizations have some inherent advantages as they enter the Microsoft enterprise support market. Microsoft Partners tend to be more nimble and responsive, with services (not software) as their core offering. They also enjoy established relationships with enterprises and are already connected with the Microsoft Premier/Unified escalation support apparatus in some capacity.

However, providing global high-level L3-4 support across the entire Microsoft stack, including non-business hours, is difficult and not for the faint of heart. A single poorly handled mission-critical ticket can do irreparable reputational damage to a brand. Equally important to ticket resolution is the ability to quickly escalate high-severity enterprise tickets to Microsoft when necessary. As Microsoft begins to push baseline support down to its Partners, many new CSPs are finding the task of L1-2 staffing and operating a 24/7 help desk financially challenging and are now seeking alternative paths.

Alternative #2 - 3rd Party Microsoft Enterprise Support

Although still limited to only a handful worldwide, Independent Third-Party Providers for Microsoft Enterprise Support have emerged and are maturing. The quadrant leader being identified as a viable alternative to replace Microsoft Premier/Unified Support services with 85% feature parity and 50% cost savings. These “pure-play” Independent Third-Party Software Support Providers for Microsoft do not sell software licenses but rathe focus solely on Enterprise Support. Their independence from the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) allows them to act in their enterprise client’s best interest, not the OEM’s.

Some common misconceptions about Independent Third-Party Providers for Microsoft Enterprise Support are:

  • They cannot escalate support tickets to Microsoft – false
  • They outsource support to offshore resources to lower costs – false for some
  • They cannot accommodate Fortune 500 enterprises – false
  • They don’t offer Technical Account Managers (TAM), Designated Support Engineers (DSE) – false
  • They cannot fully replace Microsoft Premier or Unified Enterprise Support – false

If considering an Independent Third-Party Microsoft Software Support Provider as an alternative to MS Premier/Unified Enterprise, make sure to verify their ability to escalate quickly to Microsoft for high-severity tickets, require contractual SLA’s for response times and escalations, and ask about support engineer credentials and ITAR 120.15 compliance.


Each competitor to MS Premier/Unified Support has pluses and minuses that should be considered. Which is right for your enterprise largely depends on what elements of Microsoft software support are most important to you.  Is it:

  • Cost cutting, cost avoidance
  • Depth/breadth of Microsoft expertise
  • Speed, service quality, SLAs
  • Accessibility of key resources
  • Reliability during a critical outage
  • Scale to meet enterprise demands

Read below to consider pros and cons of the two Microsoft Premier/Unified competitor types:


Competitor #1 - Legacy Microsoft Partners


  • Working with an existing Microsoft Partner can take advantage of established enterprise relationships and also lessen set-up time.
  • Many larger Microsoft Value Added Resellers (VAR) or Microsoft-centric Managed Service Providers (MSP) have competent senior (project) engineers familiar with Microsoft enterprise software and can do problem resolution.
  • Microsoft Cloud Solution Providers (CSP) may already have Granular Delegated Admin Permissions (GDAP) with your enterprise, a critical component for rapid escalation of support tickets to Microsoft.
  • Microsoft-centric Managed Service Providers (MSP) run 24/7 reactive operations and have much of the necessary infrastructure (ticketing, knowledge base, call-center, etc.) to support Microsoft enterprise software.
  • If run well, augmenting an enterprise’s internal Service/Help Desk staff with a CSP or other legacy Microsoft Partner can potentially cut or avoid costs vs. MS Premier/Unified Support.


  • Elite Microsoft-certified engineers often don’t work non-business hours. Traditional Microsoft Partners without true three-shift coverage use “on-call” systems that may fail an enterprise during a critical outage.
  • MSP’s tout 24/7 operations, but these support operations are almost always focused on L1-L2 engineering resources not capable of supporting sophisticated Microsoft-centric Fortune 500 enterprises. It is imperative to verify that MS Partner resources are capable of handling complex Microsoft L3-L4 level cloud/on-premise/hybrid enterprise incident management (ITIL) and problem resolution.
  • Many legacy Microsoft Partners specialize in a few Microsoft enterprise technologies, lacking broad L2-L4 engineering talent necessary to cover the breadth and depth of the entire Microsoft stack at scale.
  • If an MS Partner can’t resolve an Enterprise Support ticket themselves, they have two choices: Escalate to Microsoft via a paid incident which is inexpensive but outrageously slow or use Premier Support for Partners which is fast but outrageously expensive.
  • Rarely can a legacy Microsoft Partner, whose primary revenue stream is integration, consulting or licensing, deliver on the promise of quality and savings in a Microsoft Enterprise Support service.

Competitor #2 - Third-Party Microsoft Enterprise Support


  • Significant cost savings vs. Microsoft – 30-50% savings are typical for enterprises moving from MS Premier/Unified to an Independent Microsoft Software Support Provider competitor.
  • Faster response and resolution times – Third-Party Microsoft Enterprise Support have consistently faster response (15 min) and faster resolution (25%) times than Microsoft Premier or MS Unified Enterprise.
  • Proven escalation path to Microsoft – All the competitor Third-Party Support Providers in the Microsoft enterprise support space have shown that they have concrete, proven paths to Microsoft for managed ticket escalations.
  • Financially backed SLAs – The quadrant leader for Independent Third-Party Support for Microsoft Enterprise Software offers Service Level Agreements (SLA) for response time and Microsoft escalations, in stark contrast to Unified’s soft “targets.”
  • Purpose-built infrastructure – Pure-play Microsoft Enterprise Support Providers have the benefit of dedicating all systems, infrastructure, software, personnel, and business processes, specifically for supporting Microsoft-centric enterprises.
  • Depth/breadth of expertise – Niche competitors to Microsoft Premier/Unified Support compete by recruiting higher-level L2-L4 Microsoft certified engineers, staffed for 24/7 global operations, and resolve most Enterprise Support tickets in-house.
  • Reduced compliance risk – At least one Third Party Support Provider in the Microsoft Enterprise Support market has a competitive advantage of all domestic, US-based resources for its Government (ITAR 120.15 compliant) and regulated Enterprise clients.
  • Elite Microsoft partners – Mature pure-play competitors to MS Premier/Unified Enterprise have well-established Partner networks themselves to cover skill gaps and facilitate rapid escalations to Microsoft leveraging the highest-level Microsoft Enterprise Support plans.


  • Independent  Third-Party Microsoft Support Providers are NOT a good fit for enterprises that are simply looking for a cheaper way to escalate the majority of their issues to Microsoft.
  • Even with high resolution rates, the more complex Premier/Unified competitor model necessitates an “extra step” for Microsoft tenant cases or code/bug issues.
  • L2-L4 Microsoft certified engineering talent can be inconsistent in smaller third-party competitor providers.
  • Low severity Third-Party Microsoft Enterprise Support ticket escalations to Microsoft can be slow at times.
  • Some recent MS Premier/Unified Enterprise competitor entrants outsource their service delivery overseas to offshore engineers.


When Sourcing/procurement teams and Enterprise IT are evaluating Microsoft Premier and Unified Support competitors, it is important to dig into the details of each competing third-party alternative to Microsoft. Qualifying and probing for weak spots in the competitor offerings could have a big impact on fit or viability for your enterprise. Whether in Microsoft Premier/Unified negotiations or in a Microsoft third-party enterprise support formal Request for Proposal (RFP), you can gain significant leverage by illustrating that you understand enterprise support best practices.

Read below for some potential questions that can help you qualify Microsoft competitors to determine the capabilities, economics, and risk of replacing Premier/Unified with a Partner or third-party alternative.

Ask Microsoft Partners These Questions

  • With this alternative Microsoft Enterprise Support support option, can we fully eliminate our Microsoft Premier or Unified Support contract?
  • Is this a core competency of the Microsoft Partner? What percentage of their revenue comes from Microsoft Problem Resolution Support (PRS) tickets?  How long have they offered a Premier / Unified replacement?
  • What kind of support tickets does the MS Partner handle? Simple L1-L2 tickets (MSP’s) or complex L3-L4 enterprise issues?
  • How does the Partner cover all Microsoft enterprise technologies well? How do they address any Microsoft skill gaps? Does the Microsoft Partner specialize in supporting large enterprise?
  • What are the Microsoft Partner’s guaranteed initial response times (IRT)? For normal severities and critical Enterprise Support cases?
  • What are response times like during non-business hours?
  • What level of Microsoft-certified engineers will be available on nights / weekends / holidays?
  • If using an “on-call” system, what is the confidence level your enterprise will be able to get the right engineer engaged quickly during a mission-critical outage?
  • What percentage of PRS tickets are solved in-house vs. having to escalate to Microsoft?
  • What are the Service Level Agreements (SLA), processes, and contractual obligations in place to govern when to escalate Enterprise Support tickets to Microsoft?
  • What level Microsoft Partner Agreement (MPA) does the potential support provider use for enterprise support ticket escalations to Microsoft?
  • What are Microsoft’s SLA’s for responding under the Microsoft Partner’s Support plan (Pro / Advanced / Premier for Partners)?
  • What enterprise clients does the Microsoft Partner have in my industry (reactive support, not project)?
  • In aggregate across all Microsoft products, are the Microsoft Partner’s mean time-to-resolution (MTTR) faster or slower than Microsoft Premier/Unified Enterprise Support for the past 12 months?

Ask Third-Party Support Providers These Questions

  • Can you fully eliminate our Microsoft Premier or Unified Enterprise Support agreement?
  • What typical Microsoft Premier/Unified savings should our enterprise expect in Year 1? Years 2 & 3?
  • What percentage of revenue comes from Microsoft Enterprise problem resolution support?
  • What proactive Microsoft enterprise software support services do you offer?
  • How and when do you escalate Enterprise Support tickets to Microsoft as needed?
  • What are your guaranteed performance Service Level Agreements (SLA)? Are they financially backed in a Microsoft Enterprise Support contract?
  • What level Microsoft-certified engineers do you have and are they all US persons and ITAR 120.15 compliant?
  • How do you support overnight and weekend problem resolution for enterprises?
  • Do you provide true Technical Account Managers (TAM) to assist in Microsoft enterprise technology roadmap alignment?
  • What Designated Support Engineers (DSE) and proactive Microsoft Enterprise Support and advisory services can you provide?
  • What size Microsoft-centric enterprises can you support? SME, Fortune 500 or Global 2000 enterprises?
  • What is your enterprise client retention rate after the first year? After 3 or 5 years?
  • Are you at least 25% faster in resolution time than Microsoft Premier/Unified Enterprise Support? If yes, for how many years and what does future trending look like?


Given that Microsoft Enterprise Support is a new category for most IT sourcing and procurement teams, specific evaluation criteria often needs to be created. Software-based or other technology services evaluation templates don’t hit the right elements, leading to subpar selection.

To help Enterprise IT and procurement teams make a good choice for their Microsoft Enterprise Support services, US Cloud created an RFP template so you can easily score alternatives to Microsoft Premier/Unified Support. Use the form as is for an RFP effort, or pick and choose elements for your own process.

Get the Microsoft Premier/Unified Support Alternatives RFP template  instant download to assist your Enterprise IT or sourcing and procurement team in evaluating Microsoft third-party support providers. Score Microsoft competitors for best practices including service delivery, account management, compliance risk, SLAs and more.

Microsoft Premier/Unified Support Alternatives RFP Template

Microsoft Enterprise Support  RFP – Instant Download

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