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Microsoft introduces elite custom support program

With its sights set on the very high end of its customer base, Microsoft adds another layer to its enterprise support program.

If Microsoft's Premier Plus support program isn't quite cutting it, and your company has some cash to spare, the software company has a new option.

Microsoft's Premier Ultimate program, now available, eliminates hourly rates for support calls and instead bundles in unlimited troubleshooting with a three-year contract aimed at proactive services. Customers choose which proactive services they want and then a fixed price is agreed upon for the duration of the contract.

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The idea is that through such proactive services as assessments, education and remediation, the overall health of a company will improve and in turn reduce support calls.

Premier Ultimate customers also get a dedicated remote or on-site technical account manager from Microsoft, as they do with the Premier Plus, Standard and Foundation enterprise support program levels.

"Microsoft is assuming some risk with [the Ultimate] program by having unlimited support calls as part of the deal when you buy proactive services, but [Microsoft] also walks in the door knowing the history of that customer, what they've deployed, the relative health overall and number of incidents per year," said Dwight Davis, senior analyst with London-based consulting firm Ovum Ltd.

Four large enterprise customers are currently testing the Ultimate program. Program pricing is hard to nail down since it is a three-year custom contract designed to fit each company's unique IT environment. But Charles DeJong, general manager of support and health for Microsoft Services, said the pilot customers so far pay 20% to 70% more for Premier Ultimate in comparison to Premier Plus.

This cost can be as low as 5% more than Premier Plus, DeJong said, adding that one customer using Microsoft's Exchange proactive assessment service cut email server downtime from 20 incidents a year to five incidents.

"The [Exchange] assessment service costs around $35,000 to $50,000, but you get high business value for those dollars and we have many other examples of that," DeJong said.

Customers will pay a premium for the premier services, Davis said, but customers will be getting a large knowledge base of best practices, configurations and processes in return that will lead to less downtime and a healthier infrastructure.

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