Microsoft offers extra Assurance

Microsoft has announced enhancements to the desktop and server sides of its Software Assurance Program.

The new additions – covering budgeting, productivity, tools, support and training – will be embedded into the current program at no extra cost to existing customers.

Microsoft licensing manager, Thomas Kablau, said the software giant also had no immediate plans to raise the cost for new customers.

“It has always been our intention to have these benefits incorporated but that meant we had to consult with customers and partners to get feedback,” Kablau said. “Lots of other vendors have these assurance services – we were late coming in but are starting to get in line with the rest of the industry.

“Our long-term strategy is for software to become a service and this is another step in that direction.”

On the server side, Problem Resolution Support offers customers Web and phone access to Microsoft technical support services. Software Assurance customers are also being given access to TechNet, which provides technical information on all Microsoft products and acts as a form of network support.

Extended Life Cycle Hot Fix Support provides customers with extended support for older products that have dropped off the Software Assurance Program. Historically, customers had to pay Microsoft a retainer to have those products covered and then paid for support calls as they were needed. Under the enhancement scheme, that retainer has now been waived.

Microsoft Reliability Services is a new server monitoring tool that provides customers with information on things such as server up-time. Reports provide details across a whole network.

For desktops, including operating systems in some cases, there is the Home Use Program allowing customers with business licences to install software at home.

“One of things customers had said to us was that they were looking for ways to extend the benefits of applications to increase employee productivity,” Kablau said. “This program enables staff to take work home even if they don’t have a laptop.”

Another one aimed at workers is the Employee Purchase Program, which allows a customer’s staff to buy directly from Microsoft.

Kablau said this was merely a convenience offering and advised those wanting best prices to shop around.

Aimed at enterprise customers and the application developer community, the Source Licensing Program enables eligible customers to look at Microsoft source code. This is designed to help enterprise customers get the most out of products and to enable developers to design products that have a good fit.

For training, partners - including Aspect Computing and KAZ Group - have been registered as Certified Training and Education Centres. Customers receive training day vouchers that can be redeemed at these centres.

A Microsoft Press enterprise learning library also gives customers access to 140 hours of e-learning modules that can be downloaded and completed whenever suitable.

“Not every employee can take a day out to do training,” Kablau said. “We wanted to incorporate a more flexible structure to take account of that.”

Not all of the enhancements are available every customer – eligibility is dependent on which licensing program was bought, the level of software assurance acquired and commitment levels.

The Software Assurance Program has a minimum term of three years for enterprise and two years for SME customers.