Microsoft on the lookout for channel support guinea pigs

Microsoft on the lookout for channel support guinea pigs

Networking distributor MUA has just completed an exclusive pilot program conducted by Microsoft for the provision of technical support for the vendor's Small Business Server product line. And, according to the software king, channel support partners will play a vital role in the vendor's plans for the SME market.

According to MUA's managing director, Paul McQuarrie, the eight-week pilot was conducted to determine the competency of its online help desk and on-road technical support staff.

McQuarrie said that despite the fact support calls from Small Business Server customers have been limited, there is still enough interest in supporting the product from MUA to encourage it to pursue any support strategies Microsoft will put in place.

"The growth of Small Business Server has shown that there is a market out there for distributors such as ourselves. The only drawback for us is that we can't get out to some remote locations immediately," McQuarrie said.

Microsoft's technical director, Greg Buchanan, told ARN yesterday that channel-based support is an initiative the vendor hopes will add another of support outlet for customers who already have access to standard telephone-based and online support services.

"We feel that the best way to service the growing SME market is to enable our channel partners, which are closer to the customer than ourselves, to offer more than just telephone support," Buchanan said.

Buchanan added that Microsoft will consider support proposals from any current channel partner and added that local integrator, Praxa has already expressed its intention to join MUA as a channel-based support partner.

"We have been quite happy with MUA's performance in the trial," Buchanan said. "Speaking to some of their customers we have learned that they are asking for an increase in on-site support and consulting services."

"When Small Business Server was released late last year all phone-based support calls were patched through to MUA. "Now, with this new channel support initiative, Microsoft wants to bring the likes of MUA to the front of the support queue and allow them to handle phone-based, on-site and consulting support for customers," Buchanan said.

MUA has also been busy over the last three months establishing a server integration business in response to a groundswell of reseller customer which have limited integration experience and resources. According to McQuarrie, MUA's expertise in high-end Compaq and IBM server environments allows it to bid for accounts for which most mainstream distributors lack the necessary integration skills.

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