Microsoft has responded to user pressure and revamped its Custom Support Agreement programme, which provides support for legacy products.
The changes will give organisations more time to migrate to newer platforms, but users will still pay heavily for extended Custom Support coverage.
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The new support policy comes as Microsoft prepares for a major revamp of its desktop and server software with the release of Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange 2007 later this year.
Microsoft said, “Some large organisations face challenges such as regulatory compliance restrictions and financial constraints, which make migration and porting of applications more difficult.”
Under the new programme, users will pay for the support they need on a per-device basis. In the past, users had to pay a large flat fee for site-wide support.
Microsoft is also adding problem resolution support for legacy products to the new programme, and it will release security hot-fixes for vulnerabilities labelled as “critical” or “important” by the Microsoft Security Response Center.
David Bradshaw, principal analyst at Ovum, said many users were finding themselves unable to keep up-to-date with new releases of Microsoft products, and firms were often opting to stay on older, established software releases.
Bradshaw said, “Lots of people are still using Windows 2000 as it is very stable,” even though mainstream support ended in June 2005. Bradshaw said the dilemma for users was whether to upgrade to a new version, run the older software unsupported and risk a security breach, or pay a higher premium for Microsoft support.
Ray Titcombe, chairman of the Strategic Supplier Relationships Group, a consortium of 11 user-focused organisations, welcomed the new programme. “It relieves the pressure on upgrading,” he said, adding that the change showed that Microsoft was finally recognising that users were now much more relaxed about running legacy systems and unsupported software.
Although pricing will be specific to a user’s installation, Microsoft said it expected the lowest pricing level “to begin in the tens of thousands of dollars”.
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