Consultants take on the next part of the services portfolio in a role similar to that of a Nascar team's car chief or expert mechanic. They help with the actual adoption and deployment of Microsoft technologies, particularly around technology optimization and business application services.
Let's say you have a hosted email service in place but are concerned about being legally compliant. An enterprise architect might first suggest you use a hosted Exchange service that includes archiving. From there, a Microsoft consultant with expertise specifically in Exchange deployments and migrations would step in and help deploy the hosted Exchange. You don't have to hire an enterprise architect before hiring a consultant; if you know you want certain Microsoft technology and need help deploying it, you may decide you don't require the enterprise architect service.
Once your Microsoft technologies have been architected and implemented whether by you, Microsoft Services, or other providers, it's time for Premier Support -- the pit crew, in the Nascar analogy. This Microsoft Services offering is widely used by enterprises and familiar to most.
You typically call Premier Support when something goes horribly wrong and you cannot get your systems to function properly. But the Premier Support group would prefer to be called on for more proactive needs. After all, if you give Microsoft the time to familiarize themselves with your environment and potentially make recommendations to improve your overall IT health, you may reduce the need for reactionary support.
Broad customer service and support
What about support for your small business or your family? What does Microsoft offer there? There are several options, including paid per-incident phone support, various forums (such as Microsoft Answers, MSDN, and TechNet), support though social media sites like Twitter, and -- one of my favorites -- the new Fix it Solution Center. Microsoft has also recently launched the beta Microsoft Fix it Center, a client- and Web-based service that guides users through the complete support experience with automated fixes, customized self-help in the cloud, and escalation to paid support if needed.
Microsoft offers a variety of free tools, such as the new Exchange Deployment Assistant and the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer, that are worth thousands of dollars in time savings and peace of mind.
Ultimately, if you use Microsoft products, it's good to know you have this kind of support to reach out for.
This article, "Making sense of Microsoft's support offerings," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com.