Should SMBs procure Microsoft 365 through a partner or direct from Microsoft?

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One thing many entrepreneurs likely noticed during the gift-giving rituals of the recent holiday season was a shift towards digital-only gifting. Current Year children happily receive product codes for ephemeral digital gifts rather than unwrapping physical items. Young kids also like the empowering nature of a digital gift because of those gifts’ inherent “do it yourself” ethos. Kids get product codes they type into a webpage that typically unlock access to subscription-based digital content delivered from the cloud. These digital gifts are much like the Microsoft 365 cloud-based apps and services upon which so many small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) rely to enable hybrid working environments.

Amaxra consultants are keenly aware how Microsoft 365 Business subscriptions can be procured by SMBs directly from the Microsoft website, just like a DIY digital holiday gift. As your business prepares for the challenges of a new year, it’s valuable for IT decision makers to understand why some SMBs choose to purchase Microsoft 365 Business directly versus the numerous advantages to procuring Microsoft 365 from a Microsoft Partner such as Amaxra.

Purchasing Microsoft 365 Business directly from Microsoft

When a business chooses to purchase a Microsoft 365 subscription directly from Microsoft, everything related to the purchase is under the control of the SMB’s internal IT department. That means the process of creating a new cloud-based Microsoft 365 Business tenant from assigning who in the SMB’s organization will make payments to Microsoft, to the specific number of Microsoft 365 users or “seats” in the organization, usernames assigned for each seat, et cetera, all falls under your IT department’s control. Buying direct provides the SMB with the highest level of granularity when it comes to options for control over who uses Microsoft 365 in your organization.

While some businesses—often those in highly-regulated industries such as finance and healthcare—like the idea of tight control over their Microsoft 365 in theory, many IT decision makers at SMBs have already spotted a major downside in practice: support and scalability. Buying directly from Microsoft allows an authorized IT manager at the SMB to contact support using the Need Help button in the Microsoft 365 Admin Panel. The support from this method is delivered from a Microsoft technician between fifteen minutes to an hour after the initial request, usually via email or a phone call. Some SMBs are fine using this method when it comes to billing inquiries and simple technical support issues. But what if your SMB doesn’t have an internal IT department staffed 24/7 with multiple full-time employees? What if your SMB’s IT staff is just that one person in the office who built their own gaming PC?

For the SMB choosing the DIY-direct option for Microsoft 365 must understand the level of support direct from Microsoft is limited by scale. It’s no secret that very big companies have both a large internal IT staff and a large budget to spend on “premier support” with a dedicated Microsoft account manager on call. Because there are far more SMBs in the world than there are big mega-corporations, Microsoft must realistically scale their support to cover both types of organizations, resulting in varying levels of support. That’s why the SMB buying Microsoft 365 Business direct from Microsoft could wait an hour before someone at Microsoft responds to their support request—and sometimes that response could be “we’ve identified the issue and are working on a resolution for you but don’t have an estimated time for completion.” This is not a criticism of Microsoft, because their level of support is always quite good. It is, of course, scaled to provide SMBs with a realistic level of service for the price paid.

The benefit of purchasing Microsoft solutions from a partner

When you purchase a Microsoft 365 subscription from an authorized partner of Microsoft such as Amaxra, the partner provides the sales, support, and technical expertise you need to help you set up and maintain your SMB’s subscription. When you procure Microsoft 365 subscriptions from a partner, the partner becomes your SMB’s single point of contact for all things related to the deployment and support of your Microsoft 365 tenant. The partner assigns seats to users (and in the case of Amaxra, sets up each seat with multi-factor authentication for enhanced security), answers your questions, and escalates severe issues directly to Microsoft on your SMB’s behalf—usually with a significantly faster response time than direct customers.

As previously stated, a Microsoft Partner will provide your SMB with a higher level of support and technical expertise. This is because a Microsoft Partner must be rigorously tested and certified by Microsoft to attain the “partner” designation. For almost a decade, Amaxra has been certified as a Gold-level Microsoft Partner. Gold Certified Partners represent the highest level of competence with Microsoft technologies and have the closest working relationship with Microsoft. Amaxra’s Gold-level status is attained by our expertise in cloud-based productivity and collaboration (e.g., Microsoft 365, Microsoft Teams, and Microsoft Dynamics 365) and specific SMB solutions. This is important because fewer than 3% of Microsoft Partners ever achieve a Gold level certification, and less than 1% receive multiple Gold certifications, which places Amaxra above 99% of Microsoft Partners.

Will it cost more when buying Microsoft 365 from a partner?

What some IT decision makers at SMBs are shocked to learn is that they usually pay a similar “direct” per-seat price for their Microsoft 365 when purchased through a partner like Amaxra. It seems counterintuitive that cost of procuring Microsoft 365 through a partner with all that enhanced, consultative set up and support would be delivered at roughly the same price as direct, doesn’t it? Of course, not all partners will provide the same level of quick and high-quality service for the money paid, but that’s also why it’s important to choose a Gold-level partner.

When you procure Microsoft 365 through a Gold-level Microsoft Partner such as Amaxra, your SMB has access to consultants that understand your environment, know what you need, and how to deliver it.