Unified Support explained
Introducing Microsoft’s Unified Support offering
Premier Support and Unified Support are the hero motions for Microsoft Support Services. Unified Support is the replacement for Premier Support and aims to offer a more comprehensive support offer.
Unified Support is still pretty new for most people dealing with Microsoft and Microsoft is slowly rolling it out to its subsidiaries. It’s predecessor, Premier Support, has been around for a long time and is more widely known.
Microsoft says Unified Support “accelerates the value of your Microsoft technology with personalized support delivered through a mix of reactive, proactive and in-depth solutions to help drive the outcomes you most need”. But what does this mean? What is Unified Support? How does it differ from Premier Support? What does the Unified Support offering include?
Topics in this blog
- What is Unified Support?
- Who is Unified Support for?
- What services are offered in Unified Support?
- How is Unified Support priced?
- What is included in Unified Support?
- Unified Support Severity Levels
- What is Flex Allowance?
- Any additional services?
- How does Unified Support differ from Premier Support?
- Is Unified Support worth it?
1. What is Unified Support?
Unified Support is Microsoft’s new support offering, which was introcued in July 2017. It launched as a replacement for the previous Premier Support and Microsoft Software Assurance support offerings. Unified Support aims to provide a more streamlined and comprehensive support experience for organizations using Microsoft products and services.
With the introduction of Unified Support, Microsoft consolidated various support programs into a single offering, attempting to simplify the support experience for customers. The aim is to provide enhanced access to support resources, proactive services and improved flexibility in addressing organizations’ changing technology needs.
Microsoft states that the main benefits of Unified Support are:
- “Maximize uptime” – Ensuring you won’t suffer from severe issues in their environment
- “Know and guide you” – Helping you to better understand your IT environment and offering recommendations on how to further improve
- “Enable you to do more” – By leveraging the services included in the support offering, you should be able to further your progress
This description is a lot more vague than their description of Premier Support, what is it they are actually offering? Keep reading to find out.
2. Who is Unified Support for?
The support services offered in Unified Support are for all Microsoft customers who have dedicated account management, whether they are signed up to Enterprise Agreement, CSP or Azure.
Note: Unified Support is only available in a limited number of countries but rapidly expanding. At the time of writing, it is available in North America, Australia and parts of Europe (read mainly Western Europe). Microsoft is slowly rolling Unified Support out throughout the world. Premier Support now only sells in those areas that cannot not yet access Unified Support.
Licensing Expert Floris Klaver
For the sake of transparency, we hope Microsoft makes changes to Unified Support before they cover the whole world.
Why? Currently the model is priced based on a customer’s licensing spend, whereas the pricing for the Premier Support model is based on an hourly rate. The Unified Support contract model sees price increases 25 times higher than Premier Support pricing, which is outrageous.
Unified Support also includes many services that you are obligated to procure but might never use. While this was also true for Premier Support, a customer now spends even more money on services they do not need or won’t use. We find this difficult to accept.
3. What services are offered in Unified Support?
With Unified Support you have two different types of services, namely Foundational Services and Tailor-made Services.
- Technical support: Expected response time for critical business impact less than 1 hour (Azure 15 min); moderate & minimum impact 2-4 hours
- Escalation management: For Critical Business System Down issues resource assigned within 1 hour (Azure after 15 min); for Critical Business Degraded after 1 hour
- IT health: On-demand assessments with as-needed setup and configuration services
- Cloud assistance: Billing support provided by the Azure Support team (included in the free support)
- Account management: Assigned Customer Success Account Manager
- Advisory support: Advisory Phone Support (limited to six hours or less per incident)
- Technical training: On-demand videos, hands-on labs, learning paths, and expert-led webcasts
- Proactive services: Expert-led solutions and specific engagements that are designed to help customers onboard and optimize their key solutions with services for Well-Architected, Server Migration, Security, Microsoft Teams, Power Apps, Analytics and more.
- Enhanced solutions: Relationship-driven in-depth support experiences including Azure Event Management, Azure Rapid Response, Designated Support Engineering, Developer Support, Office 365 Engineering Direct, Support for Mission Critical
Customers who used Premier Support are familiar with some of the add-on services, like the 24/7 problem resolution support, but the digital experiences are new. With Unified Support, Microsoft has created a one-stop shop where you can access all the services available in Unified; ready to be used and ordered as required.
4. How is Unified Support priced?
The pricing is calculated by:
- Previous 12-months of cloud services purchases
- Previous 12-months of Software Assurance purchases
Unified Support is meant to get you the most value out of your Microsoft investment. For most organizations it might still be beneficial to stick to Unified Support, however, expect to pay more as prices have gone up.
Microsoft offers industry aligned pricing as a percentage of your total annual Microsoft licensing and cloud spend (incl Enterprise Agreement, CSP and Azure licenses). The cost is based on a customer’s actual spend, so you need to bear in mind that when your IT spending increases, so will your costs for Unified Support. If you are a company with multiple millions in IT spend, you are going to have to pay a lot more than you used to pay for Premier Support.
The price for Premier Support was negotiated based on requirements and cost, whereas Unified Support makes it easier for Microsoft to “hide” behind the calculations that are freely available (see below).
This is a difficult calculation and different to what you are probably used to. Microsoft does the calculation for you.
- Microsoft calculates based on the cloud services or Software Assurance you purchased over the past 12 months.
- They include Azure, Modern Workplace, M365, BI-apps, on-prem user & server licenses.
- Microsoft adds up the total value and graduates the rates. This means that, for example, for a customer with 6 million annual Azure spend, the calculation for this piece of your Unified Support pricing is 10% over the first 1.8 million, 7% over the next 4.2 million.
- Microsoft uses the higher percentage for the first 1.8 million, and the lower percentage for the rest up to 6 million.
Your Unified Support price is based on this calculation.
Be aware of these percentages and use them to your advantage. We always advise our clients to dictate the negotiations with Microsoft (preparation and understanding your own licensing estate are key!) as this gets you the best deal and price.
Leverage everything available to you and use it to drive the price down, such as:
- Check if your IT partners can provide a similar service
- Get quotes from different parties (we have a list if you require it)
- Make a list of the things you want and don’t want from Microsoft
- And remember, as with everything, Unified Support is negotiable even though Microsoft might say it isn’t!
5. What is included in Unified Support?
Unified Support includes three fixed packages, namely a Base Package, Additional Services and Enhanced Solutions (and Multi-country support).
You start by choosing your base package with the core functionality you need and you can then add Additional and/or Enhanced services on top of this. The Enhanced Solutions cover a specific Microsoft product or IT system.
The base package is usually a fixed offer combining proactive, reactive and delivery management services that support the Microsoft products and/or online services in use within your organization. This is pretty similar to the way Premier Support was offered.
The Base Package includes the following:
Help prevent issues in your environment and are scheduled in advance to ensure resources are available. Microsoft divides these in:
- Planning Services (assessments and review of your current Microsoft estate)
- Implementation Services (technical and project management expertise to accelerate deployment)
- Maintenance services (prevention of issues in your Microsoft estate),
- Optimization Service (work towards optimal utilization of Microsoft products)
- Education Services (provide training for your support staff)
- Additional Services (anything not covered in the ones mentioned before)
Help resolve issues in your environment and are consumed on-demand. Include these as needed in your Unified Support contract. Think of things like:
- Advisory Support
- Problem Resolution Support
- Reactive Support Management
- Extended Hotfix Support
- Onsite Support and much more
Service Delivery Management
Onsite or remote support from a Customer Success Account Manager (CSAM). Mircosoft assigns an employee to your account to service you optimally. The CSAM is there to help you to use the support offerings, to give updates and guidance, to maintain relationships with you as the customer and work on program development and management.
Usually, the base package is already a lot for most organizations, but there might be additional items not included that tickle your fancy. First of all you can expand any of the above listed categories with Additional Services (listed in the Unified Enterprise Support Services Description or USSD). Additionally, you have the option to procure Enhanced Services. Enhanced Services include:
- Designated Support Engineering – Maintain deep knowledge of any current or future requirements
- Rapid Response – Accelerated reactive support for cloud services
- Azure Event Management -Enhanced support for Azure before/during/after critical events happen
- Office 365 Engineering Direct – Enhanced support for M365 tenants
- Developer Support – Enhanced support for development lifecycle
- Mission Critical Support – Higher level of support for a predefined set of services in your environment. This is a much sought after addition to the support offering
Lastly, we mentioned the availability of Multi-country Support. This is an additional offer for companies that operate in many different countries.
The core region availability for your Unified Support contract is the region in which you signed your contract. So, if you are in the United States and you sign a Unified Support contract there, the services are provided to the US entity. If there are downstream entities that need to benefit from this Unified Support contract as well, then you need to sign up for Multi-country Support.
Microsoft might not have everything available for the downstream locations but they provide as much service as they can. You can read more in this PDF version of the Unified Support Services Description.
6. Unified Support Severity Levels
Critical Business Impact
Significant degradation of services, immediate attention required
Less than 1 hour for all products/services
Less than 15 mins for Azure Rapid Response!
Moderate Business Impact
Loss/degradation of services, but organization can still function
Less than 2 hours for all products/services
Business hours access (24/7 available)
Minimum Business Impact
There is an issue, but small impact on organization
Less than 4 hours for all products/services
Business hours access
7. What is Flex Allowance?
Flex Allowance provides the flexibility to choose support services that align with your business goals and requirements.
It is a flexible part of the list price for the base package offer that a customer can use towards purchasing proactive services and credits, enhanced solutions and custom proactive services.
Flex Allowance can be used at the time of purchase of Unified Support. Your representative at Microsoft will tell you how much of the base package list price you can use as Flex Allowance.
The specific utilization and allocation of the Flex Allowance varies based on the specific terms and conditions of your Unified Support agreement. Use Flex Allowance for services such as proactive support, advisory services, training or additional services. Customize your support experience with Flex Allowance and allocate resources based on your specific needs and priorities.
The following conditions apply:
- Allocation on an annual basis and any services purchased with Flex Allowance to be used within a year
- Purchase Proactive Credits or Custom Proactive Services using up to 20% or $50,000 (depending on which of the two is higher) of your allotted Flex Allowance
- Not available for Service Delivery Management services
- Allocate Flex Allowance by the contract execution (end date), or you will forfeit this feature.
8. Any additional services?
Microsoft offers the Services Hub with the aim of providing value when you switch from Premier Support to Unified Support. The Hub has a lot of information and items that are helpful to get the most value from your Unified Support and run on-demand assessments to keep the health of your IT environment in check.
Microsoft also offers a learning portal where you can easily manage your support by raising tickets, etc. The Services Catalogue shows you any items you might need or any new additions to the Unified Support offering. The Update Centre keeps you updated on any developments in Microsoft in terms of support offerings.
9. How does Unified Support differ from Premier Support?
The main difference between Premier Support and Unified Support is the pricing of the support model.
Premier Support for Enterprise offers end-to-end managed support for customers across the full Microsoft spectrum of products and services. Tailored to your unique business priorities, Premier Support for Enterprise helps you accelerate the value of your on-premises and cloud-based software investments by minimizing risk, reducing downtime, and lowering support costs.
Note: Premier Support is now only available in those regions that do not have access to Unified Support.
One of the main differences between Premier Support and Unified Support is the pricing. With Premier Support a Microsoft customer estimated how many reactive support hours they might need in the upcoming year and purchased based on this. This led to organizations rationing their support hours. As we explained above, pricing in Unified support works very differently.
With Unified Support, problem resolution is available to an entire organization as needed. Additionally, an organization gets access to service hub add-ons such as proactive services and enhanced solutions. This was not readily available in Premier Support, only as a more tailor-made approach.
Other differences between Unified vs Premier Support:
- Proactive support – Premier Support used “Support Assistance Hours”, whereas Unified Support uses Unlimited Proactive Support
- Initial response time – Both support models maintain a response time of less than 1 hour for critical issues. For non-critical issues, the response time is 2 hours with Premier Support, but increases to between 4 to 8 hours with Unified Support
Is Unified Support worth it?
Unified Support aligns the pricing to the costs of the Enterprise Agreement which can lead to exponentially high costs. The pricing for Premier Support is not linked to other products/contracts, making it cheaper. Try to stick to your Premier Support contract as long as you can!
If you need to move to Unified Support, make sure you negotiate a price that is more in line with Premier and only pay for services you want to use. Microsoft is good at selling you a support offer that includes all kinds of shiny things, but most organizations barely ever use these.
Our final piece of advice? Explore the Microsoft partner landscape! See what they can offer and do for you instead! Your current partners often provide a lot of the support for you anyway; and if they can’t, they have their own support contract with Microsoft that they can leverage.
If a partner can offer support instead, you can take these costs out of your Microsoft support contract. If they can’t, onboard a different partner that can (again, we have a list if you are interested). Partners can often offer 95% of the support that Microsoft offers. Do your research and use this as leverage to drive the price down.