Microsoft Unified Support: Cost, Services, Discounts
What is Microsoft Unified Support
Microsoft Unified Support includes a set of Proactive and Reactive support services priced based on overall licensing and cloud spending with Microsoft: Enterprise Agreement, CSP licenses, and Azure usage.
What is included in Unified Support?
Unified support includes Foundational Services and Tailored Solutions.
Technical Support (24/7)
Expected response times:
Critical Severity 1: 15 minutes for Azure*; 1 hour for all other products.
1 hour for Severity A
2 hours for Severity B
4 hours for Severity C
For Critical Business System Down issues, resources are assigned after 15 minutes for Azure or 1 hour for all other products.
For Critical Business System Degraded, resources are assigned after 1 hour for all products.
Select third-party support with interoperability and configuration guidance, and troubleshooting.
Services Hub portal for one-stop support management, recommendations, Microsoft Services catalogue, and product updates.
On-demand assessments with as-needed setup and configuration services.
Billing support provided by the Azure Support team (included in the free support).
Assigned Customer Success Account Manager.
Advisory Phone Support (limited to six hours or less per incident).
On-demand videos, hands-on labs, learning paths, and expert-led webcasts.
Expert-led, solution-specific engagements designed to help customers onboard and optimise their key solutions with services for Well-Architected, Server Migration, Security, Microsoft Teams, Power Apps, Analytics, and more.
Relationship-driven, in-depth support experiences, including Support for Mission Critical, Designated Support Engineering, Azure Rapid Response***, Azure Event Management, Office 365 Engineering Direct, GitHub Engineering Direct, and Developer Support.
*Commercial cloud only **Available through Flex Allowance or for purchase as add-ons ***Limited availability in some geographies
Optional Unified Support add-ons
Microsoft offers customised, proactive plans for digital transformation challenges, utilising the services of Designated Support Engineers (DSE).
DSE Azure IaaS
DSE Azure PaaS
DSE Office 365
DSE Microsoft 365
DSE Dynamic 365
DSE Power Platform
DSE Modern Identity
DSE Azure Data
DSE Data Analytics
DSE Culture & Cloud eXperience
DSE Cyber Security
What’s a Base Package vs Additional and Enhanced services?
Support services are available as a Base Package, with additional services and enhanced services and solutions available to purchase under an existing Base Package agreement listed in the Enterprise Services Work Order, as described below.
A mix of proactive, reactive and delivery management services that support Microsoft products and Online Services in use within your organisation. Part of your Base Package includes a Flex Allowance* to add proactive services, enhanced services and solutions services and Custom Proactive services to your Base Package.
Additional support services, including Proactive services.
Enhanced services and solutions
Support services, which cover a specific Microsoft product or customer IT system.
Multi-country Support supports you in multiple Support Locations.
*Flex Allowance is a flexible portion of your base package list price that may be applied towards purchasing Proactive services, enhanced services and solutions, Proactive credits or Custom Proactive Services at the time of the purchase of the services. Your Microsoft representative will provide the portion of your Base Package list price available for use as Flex Allowance. The following conditions for the allocation of your Flex Allowance apply:
Up to 20% or $50,000, whichever is higher, of your allotted Flex Allowance may be applied to purchasing Proactive Credits or Custom Proactive services.
Flex Allowance is allocated annually, and any services to which Flex Allowance has been applied must be utilised during the applicable annual term.
Flex Allowance may not be used for Service Delivery Management services, as defined herein.
All available Flex Allowance must be allocated by the time of contract execution, or it will be forfeited.
Unified Support Severity levels
Expected Response Time
Critical Business System Down:
Business at risk. Complete loss of a critical application or solution.
Needs immediate attention
Business at risk. Complete loss of a critical
application or solution.
< 15 minutes for Azure*;
< 1 hour for all other products
Critical Business System Degraded:
Significant loss or degradation of services
Needs attention within one hour
Significant loss or degradation of services.
< 1 hour for all products
Moderate Business Impact:
Moderate loss or degradation of services, but work can reasonably continue in an impaired manner
Needs attention within two business hours
Moderate loss or degradation of services, but work
can reasonably continue in an impaired manner.
< 2 hours for all products
Minor Business Impact:
Substantially functioning with minor or no impediments to services
Needs attention within four business hours
Substantially functioning with minor or no
impediments of services.
< 4 hours for all products
What's the difference between Premier Support and Unified Support?
Microsoft Premier Support (no longer available)
Microsoft Unified Support Core
Microsoft Unified Support Advanced
Microsoft Unified Support Performance
Per-hour pricing based on consumption
6% of Office 365 and client software annual costs and 8% of other software and online services annual cost
8% of Office 365 and client software annual costs and 10% of other software and online services annual cost
10% of Office 365 and client software annual costs, and 12% of other software and online services annual cost
Technical account manager (team, shared or dedicated)
Service delivery team
Service delivery manager
Service delivery manager
Proactive Support – Automated and online programs
Support assistance hours
Proactive Support – Engineer-led risk assessments, chalk talks, planning, implementation and supportability engagements
Can be obtained using Support Assistance hours
Optional, additional charge
Specific number of days included
Specific number of days included
PRS – Reactive support
PRS – Online services
Included without using hours
Included in fees @6% of cost for O365 and 8% for Azure and Dynamics
Included in fees @8% of cost for O365 and 10% for Azure and Dynamics
Included in fees @10% of cost for O365 and 12% for Azure and Dynamics
Initial Response Time
1 hour catastrophic or critical; otherwise, 2 hours during business hours
1 hour critical; 8 hours standard
1 hour critical; 4 hours standard
30 minutes critical; 4 hours standard
Optional, extra charge
N/A (no option)
Included (priority routing for critical)
Included (priority routing for all incidents)
Minimum Contract Size
Unified Support cost
The cost of Unified Support is no longer consistent. It's determined by your total licensing and cloud payments to Microsoft. It's dependent on your Enterprise Agreement, CSP licenses, and Azure usage.
The support cost is based on a percentage of your historical annual product spend, using graduated pricing rates. If your IT spending grows YoY, your Unified Support bill will also increase.
As you may rightfully conclude, the growing cost is not correlated to the benefit you receive from your support agreement.
How is pricing calculated?
The Unified Support price is determined based on the Microsoft Licensing spend by product class called Product Spend (P).
What makes up the total “P”?
You begin by applying the rate for the product categories to your historical IT spending in that product category.
Your “P” is comprised of the following:
Previous 12 months of cloud services purchases,
All license-only purchases made in the last 60 months,
Previous 12 months of Software Assurance purchases.
Graduated pricing rates
With graduated pricing, the support price is determined by applying a specific rate to “P”:
Is Microsoft Unified Support worth it?
Price Increase is a fact
For most organisations, the safe and most effective option is to stick to Unified Support, yet this will come with a substantial price increase. The average increase in price is 30% - 200%+ with the switch from Premier Support.
To mitigate this price increase, organisations must prepare in-depth for the renewal and evaluate new alternatives in the market.
What happens in Years 2 & 3
Organisations moving into their second and third years of Unified Support will see substantial cost increases. Due to Microsoft no longer offsetting expenses with SAB credits used in year one and removing any special transition discounts used from Premier Support.
But much more significant increases are due to increased Microsoft 365 usage and Azure consumption.
Unified Support is a tricky contract to budget. Many organisations are missing their budget predictions due to misunderstanding how the Unified Support formula works.
You need to keep in mind that your Unified Support is tied directly to your EA and Azure spending. A good rule of thumb for budgeting is to forecast a 2-6 times cost increase from your previous Premier Support Contract.
Microsoft’s unique position in the market
Competitive support solutions for companies like Oracle and SAP have been available for years, driving down costs and increasing service quality. Microsoft support market has not seen any such competition, resulting in increased pricing and (per customer feedback) a drop in service levels.
Many procurement teams are frustrated; they cannot negotiate with Microsoft in good faith under these conditions and come up against a “take it or leave it” approach from Microsoft sales teams.
This situation is changing today with the introduction of new third-party support offerings, competing with Microsoft Unified Support. Even if you choose not to move to a competitive support contract, using these new options as leverage in your negotiation is in your best interest.
Negotiating a Unified Support contract
Understanding the intricacy of Unified Support is vital to protecting your organisation’s service uptime and managing IT budgets. A shift from Premier Support to Unified’s unlimited support hours is valuable for some organisations. Substantial price increases and shifting service quality have become a growing concern for others.
Key elements to look out for
Don’t take Microsoft’s calculations for granted. It is not uncommon for the details going into the Unified Support pricing formula to be flawed. In addition, verify that pricing is split into “base” and “add-ons”, with add-ons (such as proactive credits) listed. Make sure it also details the number of any SAB (Software Assurance Benefits) credits used. Pro Tip: Review the calculations with Microsoft and perform your own checklist of items and costs. Use your past Premier Support Agreement as the baseline for comparison.
Organisations entering year 2 of Unified Support report an average price rise of 25%+ year-over-year. This is on top of the prior 50-250% price increases in year 1 (after transitioning from Premier Support). Pro Tip: Ask the MSFT account team for a 3-year comprehensive cost projection based on your roadmap.
DSE hours are still negotiated and paid for individually. They are not unlimited under Unified Support. DSE hours and engineer-led proactive support credits (optional for additional fees) get a 30% up-charge added automatically for “TAM time”. These costs are often hidden in the small print of your Unified Support offer. Pro Tip: Ensure you are looking at the ACTUAL amount of the add-on services.
License-only costs. Purchasing License-only software without Software Assurance (SA) comes with a steep Unified Support increase. Microsoft uses a 12-month look-back for all Cloud services and SA but a 60-month look-back for License-only software. In addition, License-only payment is charged at 10% of the entire spend vs 10% of SA, which can result in a 3x-4x additional cost. Pro Tip: Ask Microsoft for detailed calculations and negotiate what licenses are included in the Unified Support fee.
On-time renewals. If you started your renewal process too late, and do not have time for internal review and external benchmarking, request Microsoft an extension to your renewal date. Pro Tip: it’s not uncommon to see 30-day extensions.
Review your current agreements
Current Unified Support Agreement. Ask for a detailed spreadsheet going back three years, including all support tickets opened, area of support, severity, time to respond, and a list of reactive services. Pro Tip: Create a chart comparing all support data year-on-year and get your team to comment on service levels and satisfaction.
EA/CSP/Select contracts. Ask for a complete list of contracts, including itemised products and the Unified Support formula allocations for each. Pro Tip: Make sure all the contracts are for your organisation, correctly classified, and currently being used. Pay attention to any other divisions or organisations included in your EA that may not be part of an internal shared support agreement.
Azure agreements. Verify that your spend is charged against Unified Support correctly. You should be paying only for the last year of your spending. Pro Tip: For example, a 5-year agreement should be charged 20% per year, not the entire 5-year amount at one time or the amount consumed in any particular year.
Double charging. Ensure that the Microsoft products under your current EA are not double-counted. For example, if you have old Office licenses under a Select agreement or licenses from a merger superseded by your M365 suite, ensure they are not counted twice. Pro Tip: If you have any true-up orders, ensure you are not incorrectly charged for the subsequent support. The cost of true-ups includes licenses and Software Assurance, and it should not be included at 100% of the spend in the Unified Support calculation.
User vs Server calculations. Clarify for M365 E5/E3 licenses what percentage is allocated toward User costs vs Server costs, which are up to 25% higher. Pro Tip: The license split is 75% / 25%, respectively. If those allocations are incorrect, they can considerably impact costs.
Discounts. Microsoft offers discounted Unified Support rates for enterprise customers buying large and multi-year Azure contracts. Verify your cloud support rates align with the other public cloud support rates from Amazon and Google. Pro Tip: Benchmarking information is key to any negotiation. Make sure it is from a reputable source and can be validated.
Market alternatives to Microsoft Unified Support
Some IT service providers and Microsoft partners have started offering alternative packages to Microsoft Unified Support. They often provide extra perks in addition to a more transparent pricing model.
Interestingly, their offers do not contradict Microsoft's policies as they would often provide you with first-line support while escalating more complex cases to Microsoft via the Advanced Support for Microsoft Partners package, which they pay for themselves.
We recommend you consider such alternatives and use them as leverage during negotiations with Microsoft.
Frequently asked questions about Microsoft Unified Support
Is Microsoft Unified Support priced the same as Premier Support?
No, Microsoft Premier Support had a per-hour pricing model based on consumption. Unified Support cost is based on your licensing and cloud spending.
Is the Year-1 cost of Unified Support the same as Year-2 & Year-3?
The cost is based on actual spending, so expect year-2 & year-3 costs to increase.
What are Microsoft severity levels?
Severity 1 is for mission-critical issues, followed by severity levels A, B, and C.
Is the cost of Unified Support the same across all products?
Microsoft prices Unified Support based on product pools, with each product pool having a different percentage: Modern Workspace, Business Apps, On-premises User and On-premises Server.
What is a DSE?
DSE stands for Designated Support Engineering.
What is Flex Allowance?
Flex Allowance is a flexible portion of your base package list price that may be applied towards purchasing Proactive services, Enhanced services and Solutions, Proactive credits or Custom Proactive Services when purchasing the services.
Talk to a Microsoft negotiations expert
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