What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?


  • Service Provider

    So honest question. I'm not asking about MS or their support offerings or discussing quality. What I'm asking is if you are told or say "I need Microsoft support for my servers", what exactly do you mean? Support is such a broad, amorphous term, we all have different definitions. Having worked in many different companies, each one seems to view the expectations of support totally differently. One thinks that it means that the vendor is your IT department and does everything for you from planning to deployment to management; another thinks it is just the right to submit a bug report and nothing more; and everything in between.

    In another thread, having included Microsoft support for Windows Server was mentioned. But in all my years in IT, I've never crossed paths with a shop that needed Microsoft support. The products work, and if something is broken you can submit a bug report without paying for support. I've known people who've called support but never for something useful and/or they called but didn't actually get any support (but got their money back, at least.)

    In a quarter century of supporting servers, never once with any vendor have I needed vendor support - except once with Ubuntu and they didn't provide it. That's not to say that vendor support is a bad thing, but what does it even mean, exactly? If you are about to spend your company's money on a support contract with an OS vendor, what is the expectation of what that support's value or purpose is?

    Some examples:

    • They will train you on how to use the product.
    • They will deploy and maintain it for you.
    • They will fix things that are broken (presumably will refuse to fix issues in their product that you paid for without this?)
    • They will help you solve problems you couldn't figure out on your own?

    I always find this a little odd because basically OS support almost always seems to imply that we are actually hiring the OS vendor to do our IT jobs for us or we believe that they will intentionally keep their products broken to hold us ransom unless we pay again to get fixed what we already paid for.

    So what does OS vendor support mean to you?


  • Service Provider

    Another important question should be, if you use support to cover IT needs, do you calculate this against the value of the IT staff?

    Example: Our staff earns $80K, instead of $100K. But they require vendor support for the products which is $40K. So they are really costing us $120K because a portion of the IT work is actually being passed to the vendor rather than being done in house.



  • I suppose the same reason people go with RHEL instead of Fedora or CentOS.

    Server support is rarely bought on its own.

    SA server support is an additional benefit of SA, whether used or not. But nobody buys SA for the support. I've never heard of anyone doing that.


  • Service Provider

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    I suppose the same reason people go with RHEL instead of Fedora or CentOS.

    Politics. Literally, only reason I've ever seen. However, RH actually has amazing support and, sadly, undocumented settings. Unlike MS which is famous as the most non-existing support in the industry, RH is famous for having the best - guaranteed resolutions, period.

    But even for RH, the need for it is essentially zero. Companies demand it because someone wants to "pass the buck", and I totally get that. And I should have listed that as a reason - because the company cares about scape goating more than profits. That's not just valid, it's common.

    I've seen RH customer after RH customer state that they were moving to CentOS because while RH support was great, it was literally never needed, ever.


  • Service Provider

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    SA server support is an additional benefit of SA, whether used or not. But nobody buys SA for the support. I've never heard of anyone doing that.

    That makes sense, but this came up with that being a key value to the assumed need to purchase SA in another thread 🙂


  • Service Provider

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Server support is rarely bought on its own.

    Maybe with MS. With other products, it often is. And the question would be equally valid there. If you have Ubuntu, RHEL, Suse... what are the expectations of the support. Presumably the same as with Windows.

    In all those other cases, I love the idea of supporting the vendor since their products are free and support is the only channel to pay them for their work on the products. But that isn't valid with Windows, so the one reason that I normally give for considering it doesn't exist.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Server support is rarely bought on its own.

    Maybe with MS. With other products, it often is. And the question would be equally valid there. If you have Ubuntu, RHEL, Suse... what are the expectations of the support. Presumably the same as with Windows.

    In all those other cases, I love the idea of supporting the vendor since their products are free and support is the only channel to pay them for their work on the products. But that isn't valid with Windows, so the one reason that I normally give for considering it doesn't exist.

    8 meant windows server support via their actual support channel, where it has a high cost per support case.


  • Service Provider

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Server support is rarely bought on its own.

    Maybe with MS. With other products, it often is. And the question would be equally valid there. If you have Ubuntu, RHEL, Suse... what are the expectations of the support. Presumably the same as with Windows.

    In all those other cases, I love the idea of supporting the vendor since their products are free and support is the only channel to pay them for their work on the products. But that isn't valid with Windows, so the one reason that I normally give for considering it doesn't exist.

    8 meant windows server support via their actual support channel, where it has a high cost per support case.

    I'd avoid both. But the advantage to the "pay per incident" is that when things don't get fixed, you don't pay. With SA, you pay either way.



  • I agree that the waters get murky when someone ask for Microsoft Server SUpport, it can be the IT Provider, an MSP, internal IT or Microsoft themselves. In all my years I have contacted Microsoft Support twice, once for a Terminal Server issue with printer redirection that was causing the print service to stop every 10 days. IT was found to be a bug on Microsoft and they rolled out a hotfix on that. The other one was a Failover Cluster that would not start due to an issue with a Domain Controller and using Powershell we got it going.

    That to say that barely Microsoft Phone Support is barely needed and I would just say that it gets even more confusing when saying Support it also means software and security updates from Microsoft.

    To mean OS support means that the OS version is continually being updated and not stalled in development or updating it. Otherwise it is out of support by the OS company therefore I shouldn't be needed to continue using it much longer and embrace the migration or upgrade path.

    I also would say that Software and OS Support are way different so that might be important to clarify. But yeah rarely OS support is needed in my case.



  • As a partner, do you get better support? I had an MSP that "used one of their support incidents" to help with an Exchange 2010 issue, several years ago. They were very meticulous and just kept going and going til they resolved it. It was a couple of hours. As far as other things, I have only dealt with Office 365 support, which was decent. Although, they always say that someone will contact you in less than an hour, but it has never been less than 6 or the next day.



  • @wrx7m said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Although, they always say that someone will contact you in less than an hour, but it has never been less than 6 or the next day

    For me, at least the past 6 months, I've always received a callback within a minute or two of submitting an O365 support ticket, and a quick resolution.

    It's been the best support I've seen ever.



  • @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @wrx7m said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Although, they always say that someone will contact you in less than an hour, but it has never been less than 6 or the next day

    For me, at least the past 6 months, I've always received a callback within a minute or two of submitting an O365 support ticket, and a quick resolution.

    It's been the best support I've seen ever.

    Amazon AWS Support is pretty close to that, they give you a call right after you press submit.


  • Service Provider

    @obsolesce said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @wrx7m said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Although, they always say that someone will contact you in less than an hour, but it has never been less than 6 or the next day

    For me, at least the past 6 months, I've always received a callback within a minute or two of submitting an O365 support ticket, and a quick resolution.

    It's been the best support I've seen ever.

    What kinds of issues? Was it just asking for information? I expect that they really do that. But what about calling for things that require support?



  • Don't think I've ever had to contact windows OS support. I know I've had downed servers due to blue screens and boot loops. But few hours of playing got them working or just as quick to reinstall and restore from backup.

    I know at my current place we've (I had no involvement) had to contact Microsoft for support on Dynamics GP and Dynamics CRM online. Both times I think initial contact was fine but resolve time was long.



  • I've called Microsoft maybe 3 times in my career. One was for an on-prem SharePoint farm issue (User profile sync issue, took 8 hours but Microsoft was able to resolve this one), one was for Windows VSS (onboarded a client with some really funky VSS failing/inconsistent/time out issues like a writer wasn't releasing during backups, which were then failing intermittently... Microsoft was unable to resolve this one even using their own backup software). Not sure what the third one was though.

    The extent of support is software only. If I'm using StorageCraft to backup a server, and backups are failing, Microsoft should be able to load Windows Server Backup on their OS and get backups to succeed. If they can't get it to work and recommend a rebuild, that's a problem for me. A rebuild is something a provider would do because they don't understand every single component of the OS to be able to resolve issues; it might be quicker, sure, but that's not the point here and is a separate discussion.

    The point is, there are times in people's careers where they onboard a client who have systems in a problematic state, or currently supported systems that just break. Microsoft (in this case) should be able to provide any and all support to be able to fix their software (whether it's the OS or applications) without requiring a reinstall. In the cases where Microsoft support was unable to find a resolution in a timely fashion, I had to revert to reinstalling applications and/or the OS.


  • Service Provider

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    If they can't get it to work and recommend a rebuild, that's a problem for me. A rebuild is something a provider would do because they don't understand every single component of the OS to be able to resolve issues; it might be quicker, sure, but that's not the point here and is a separate discussion.

    I've had both Ubuntu support state this - that you didn't just have to rebuild, but with a newer non-LTS build for them to assist (LTS only gets support as far as "upgrade to non-LTS").

    And I've had Apple do the "sorry, it just doesn't work and we aren't allowed to fix it."


  • Service Provider

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    The point is, there are times in people's careers where they onboard a client who have systems in a problematic state, or currently supported systems that just break. Microsoft (in this case) should be able to provide any and all support to be able to fix their software (whether it's the OS or applications) without requiring a reinstall. In the cases where Microsoft support was unable to find a resolution in a timely fashion, I had to revert to reinstalling applications and/or the OS.

    I don't know if I agree there completely. At some point, things can get hosed to a point that they are outside of the operational reasonability of the OS. I mean, let's be failing, at some point any fix IS a reinstall, maybe not in name, but it's the same thing.

    Example - all your files are corrupted and nothing works. What do you do? Replace those files with good ones. What's that called? A reinstall.

    There is a huge gap between "the vendor has a bug" and "the client broke the system."



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    If they can't get it to work and recommend a rebuild, that's a problem for me. A rebuild is something a provider would do because they don't understand every single component of the OS to be able to resolve issues; it might be quicker, sure, but that's not the point here and is a separate discussion.

    I've had both Ubuntu support state this - that you didn't just have to rebuild, but with a newer non-LTS build for them to assist (LTS only gets support as far as "upgrade to non-LTS").

    And I've had Apple do the "sorry, it just doesn't work and we aren't allowed to fix it."

    ...and that is my biggest issue with support. It's okay for a channel partner or provider say "look, we're just not that deep into the architecture to understand how to fix this bizarre issue. We could probably figure it out, sure, but at what cost? It could take us 100 hours to resolve the issue without rebuilding, or spend 2 hours rebuilding -and keep in mind you're on an hourly break fix right now-. It's my recommendation, but ultimately it's your wallet."

    I can swallow that... but a vendor being paid flat rate? Nah. I'm not rebuilding something that can sometimes be a complex build out. You (vendor) are not just an expert, you're the author/architect/engineer/everything. You can fix it and take my money.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    The point is, there are times in people's careers where they onboard a client who have systems in a problematic state, or currently supported systems that just break. Microsoft (in this case) should be able to provide any and all support to be able to fix their software (whether it's the OS or applications) without requiring a reinstall. In the cases where Microsoft support was unable to find a resolution in a timely fashion, I had to revert to reinstalling applications and/or the OS.

    I don't know if I agree there completely. At some point, things can get hosed to a point that they are outside of the operational reasonability of the OS. I mean, let's be failing, at some point any fix IS a reinstall, maybe not in name, but it's the same thing.

    Example - all your files are corrupted and nothing works. What do you do? Replace those files with good ones. What's that called? A reinstall.

    There is a huge gap between "the vendor has a bug" and "the client broke the system."

    I'll agree there are times when a reinstall is required. Too often is it the knee jerk reaction of some vendors (not just Microsoft, but I don't want to get off topic).


  • Service Provider

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    The point is, there are times in people's careers where they onboard a client who have systems in a problematic state, or currently supported systems that just break. Microsoft (in this case) should be able to provide any and all support to be able to fix their software (whether it's the OS or applications) without requiring a reinstall. In the cases where Microsoft support was unable to find a resolution in a timely fashion, I had to revert to reinstalling applications and/or the OS.

    I don't know if I agree there completely. At some point, things can get hosed to a point that they are outside of the operational reasonability of the OS. I mean, let's be failing, at some point any fix IS a reinstall, maybe not in name, but it's the same thing.

    Example - all your files are corrupted and nothing works. What do you do? Replace those files with good ones. What's that called? A reinstall.

    There is a huge gap between "the vendor has a bug" and "the client broke the system."

    I'll agree there are times when a reinstall is required. Too often is it the knee jerk reaction of some vendors (not just Microsoft, but I don't want to get off topic).

    Well there are two perspectives there...

    One is "should a vendor be able to fix things"? And the answer is generally "yes", but within reason.

    Two is "does it make sense to fix something broken when it is cheaper and more reliable to replace it?"

    It feels good to fix things and know that we fixed them. But if it is costly or unreliable, it's generally a bad decision. Think about it with a car. You have an accident, your car is in rough shape. The cost to repair is $10K+. The cost to replace is $9K.

    Which is better?

    Repairing your car is not $10K, it's that or more. You can't be totally certain of the cost to repair until it is repaired. It's a dangerous unknown, what if it is more damaged than expected?

    Also, a repair is not a guarantee. Sure it seems to be working, but is it as good as new? There's been stress and unknown damage. Repairs carry a risk.

    Why pay the same or more to get something lesser with more risk? Better to start fresh with a known good system, and lower risk. Unless the cost to repair is much lower, it's not what the business would want.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @bbigford said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    The point is, there are times in people's careers where they onboard a client who have systems in a problematic state, or currently supported systems that just break. Microsoft (in this case) should be able to provide any and all support to be able to fix their software (whether it's the OS or applications) without requiring a reinstall. In the cases where Microsoft support was unable to find a resolution in a timely fashion, I had to revert to reinstalling applications and/or the OS.

    I don't know if I agree there completely. At some point, things can get hosed to a point that they are outside of the operational reasonability of the OS. I mean, let's be failing, at some point any fix IS a reinstall, maybe not in name, but it's the same thing.

    Example - all your files are corrupted and nothing works. What do you do? Replace those files with good ones. What's that called? A reinstall.

    There is a huge gap between "the vendor has a bug" and "the client broke the system."

    I'll agree there are times when a reinstall is required. Too often is it the knee jerk reaction of some vendors (not just Microsoft, but I don't want to get off topic).

    Well there are two perspectives there...

    One is "should a vendor be able to fix things"? And the answer is generally "yes", but within reason.

    Two is "does it make sense to fix something broken when it is cheaper and more reliable to replace it?"

    It feels good to fix things and know that we fixed them. But if it is costly or unreliable, it's generally a bad decision. Think about it with a car. You have an accident, your car is in rough shape. The cost to repair is $10K+. The cost to replace is $9K.

    Which is better?

    Repairing your car is not $10K, it's that or more. You can't be totally certain of the cost to repair until it is repaired. It's a dangerous unknown, what if it is more damaged than expected?

    Also, a repair is not a guarantee. Sure it seems to be working, but is it as good as new? There's been stress and unknown damage. Repairs carry a risk.

    Why pay the same or more to get something lesser with more risk? Better to start fresh with a known good system, and lower risk. Unless the cost to repair is much lower, it's not what the business would want.

    I agree with both perspectives.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    I've known people who've called support but never for something useful and/or they called but didn't actually get any support (but got their money back, at least.)

    If you've never known someone to get something useful from MS support, well you can't say that anymore.

    They helped me solve a driver issue that came from Windows update. I opened a case at 11 PM, had to pay the fee - later refunded because MS caused problem - and they spent the next 8 hour on the phone with me resolving my server won't boot - won't load AD issue.

    This was an issue I could not solve on my own, at least not in 8 hours.

    Now in typing this - I suppose what I should have done was restored the system from backup, frankly that wasn't something I considered until typing this out. Though restoring would have been a pain to say the least - this was pre that customer having virtualization, and they didn't have an image based backup solution.


  • Service Provider

    @dashrender said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    I've known people who've called support but never for something useful and/or they called but didn't actually get any support (but got their money back, at least.)

    If you've never known someone to get something useful from MS support, well you can't say that anymore.

    They helped me solve a driver issue that came from Windows update. I opened a case at 11 PM, had to pay the fee - later refunded because MS caused problem - and they spent the next 8 hour on the phone with me resolving my server won't boot - won't load AD issue.

    This was an issue I could not solve on my own, at least not in 8 hours.

    Now in typing this - I suppose what I should have done was restored the system from backup, frankly that wasn't something I considered until typing this out. Though restoring would have been a pain to say the least - this was pre that customer having virtualization, and they didn't have an image based backup solution.

    One problem that comes up is defining if support is useful. Did they fix something broken with the OS that IT could not have fixed? That's useful to me. Did they just do IT's job at higher cost? That's not useful to me.



  • @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @dashrender said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    I've known people who've called support but never for something useful and/or they called but didn't actually get any support (but got their money back, at least.)

    If you've never known someone to get something useful from MS support, well you can't say that anymore.

    They helped me solve a driver issue that came from Windows update. I opened a case at 11 PM, had to pay the fee - later refunded because MS caused problem - and they spent the next 8 hour on the phone with me resolving my server won't boot - won't load AD issue.

    This was an issue I could not solve on my own, at least not in 8 hours.

    Now in typing this - I suppose what I should have done was restored the system from backup, frankly that wasn't something I considered until typing this out. Though restoring would have been a pain to say the least - this was pre that customer having virtualization, and they didn't have an image based backup solution.

    One problem that comes up is defining if support is useful. Did they fix something broken with the OS that IT could not have fixed? That's useful to me. Did they just do IT's job at higher cost? That's not useful to me.

    Useful to you vs useful to most SMB... It was more than 10 years ago.. I just don't recall. I can definitely tell you that only an expert in AD could have fixed the issue, no matter who they worked for.


  • Service Provider

    @dashrender said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @dashrender said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    I've known people who've called support but never for something useful and/or they called but didn't actually get any support (but got their money back, at least.)

    If you've never known someone to get something useful from MS support, well you can't say that anymore.

    They helped me solve a driver issue that came from Windows update. I opened a case at 11 PM, had to pay the fee - later refunded because MS caused problem - and they spent the next 8 hour on the phone with me resolving my server won't boot - won't load AD issue.

    This was an issue I could not solve on my own, at least not in 8 hours.

    Now in typing this - I suppose what I should have done was restored the system from backup, frankly that wasn't something I considered until typing this out. Though restoring would have been a pain to say the least - this was pre that customer having virtualization, and they didn't have an image based backup solution.

    One problem that comes up is defining if support is useful. Did they fix something broken with the OS that IT could not have fixed? That's useful to me. Did they just do IT's job at higher cost? That's not useful to me.

    Useful to you vs useful to most SMB...

    Don't use the "Scott is special" pass. That's not a thing. The question is... was Microsoft supporting stuff that was Microsoft's job to fix, or were they operating as the IT being outsourced?

    One is support, one is outsourcing to the vendor. It's not "supporting the product" but "operating the product", which is a different animal.



  • I used MS support today for a SharePoint issue.

    I received a call back within a minute or two, and a super fast resolution.

    It turned out the issue existed because there is a setting in three separate places that do the same thing, and they all have to be set the same... who knew?

    They got it resolved faster than the time it took me to not find the answer on Google.


  • Vendor

    @scottalanmiller said in What Is Expected of Microsoft Server Support?:

    Did they fix something broken with the OS that IT could not have fixed?

    There are some quirky poorly documented things that are sometimes need to be done with ESEUTIL, and repairing from corruption, or failed log replays on Exchange and SQL. In theory it's not always Microsofts fault (caused by storage layer issues).

    The other issue is driver issues for IO devices. In theory this should be transative (supported by teh OEM who agree's to support your OS). That said OEM's often don't support the free OS's because they don't have joint engineering commitements to fix issues on them.

    RedHat has hard commitments from Avago/Broadcom to fix a driver HBA issue if they find it. Having a Server that has a supported OS means they have Avago's commitment to spend hundreds of thousands of engineering time to fix an issue. Redhat will possibly work to mitigate it from their side if possible. Missing the OS vendor in this conversation/effort can make things move slower or stall. Avago and other component manufactoreres will refuse support calls from a customer who bought the device through an OEM so without the OEM listing your OS as supported you are kinda screwed.

    (A long time ago) I saw a case where a I/O device had outright buggy silicon, and a driver and OS side workaround was needed to resolve it. This is all the more fun as how the I/O device engineering teams work is they generally refuse to work with a customer directly and require the OS vendor escalate the issue to them.