Building an Office 365 Practice

We’re proud to be working in conjunction with Ingram Micro to deliver a series of webinars aimed at small and medium business (SMB) partners who want to start or grow their Microsoft Cloud practice.  You can view each webinar live by registering through Ingram’s Learn smart website or you can view the recordings below.

Webinar 1: Office 365 from the ground to the cloud – the basics

Covering the initial information that every partner needs to start selling Office 365.

Webinar 2: Making money from selling Microsoft Cloud services

This webinar will detail the route to becoming a cloud partner, benefits to be aware of and ways to sell Office 365.

Webinar 3: Building your Office 365 practice

We look at targeting the most likely customers, objection handling and promotions.

Webinar 4: How to demonstrate Office 365 compellingly

This webinar will provide resources and demonstrations for partners to create effective pitches that sell Office.

Webinar 5: Cross-selling and upselling opportunities

Leverage Office 365 to increase the deal size whilst giving the customer value.

Webinar 6: Office 365 Fasttrack – how it can help you sell and deploy solutions

The Fasttrack program is a three-stage framework for rapidly piloting Office 365 and then moving that pilot into deployment.

Webinar 7: Broaden your cloud sale with Windows Azure and Windows Intune

The webinar will cover what Intune and Azure are and how partners can use them in their accounts.

Webinar 8: Preparing for exam 74-325 – Administering Office 365 for Small Business

The newest Office 365 is designed specifically for technical professionals within partners who sell Office 365 solutions to small and medium businesses. This webinar will provide details of resources and the content required to take the exam.

Cloud Essentials – Where Has It Gone?

Registered Microsoft partners who wanted to sell Office 365 and Windows Intune could join the Cloud Essentials program last year.  A large benefit of this was the internal use rights (IUR) for Office 365 and Dynamics CRM.  Cloud Essentials partners would receive 250 seats of E3 to run their company as well as 100 seats of Dynamics CRM.  It’s unlikely that a partner would use that many but the value of those seats alone totalled just under £96,000 per year.

Cloud Essentials no longer exists after February 2014 but what replaces it and how can you obtain IUR for cloud technologies?

I’m assuming you’re familiar with Cloud Essentials but if you’re not, feel free to email us and I’ll be happy to complete the picture.  Briefly, Cloud Essentials was the step required for small and medium business (SMB) partners to receive commission on cloud sales when a customer paid for those cloud services directly with Microsoft.  This step is no longer needed and every registered partner is now ready and enabled to sell cloud and earn fees.  So that’s a real positive.  There is a second tier called Cloud Accelerate which still exists until autumn and offers additional commission tiers for partners as they sell more cloud seats.  There is also Cloud Deployment which is specifically for partners selling cloud to larger enterprises and Azure Circle for partners with an Azure practice.  The following shows the roadmap for the Cloud programs and if you want to flourish as a Microsoft Cloud partner, you are encouraged to gain a competency.

Microsoft Advisor Programs


The internal use rights have become harder to obtain but this is a good thing.  Previously pretty much anyone could have obtained these IUR for free just be registering and taking a short multiple choice test.  That’s not what we need from a partner community; we want professional and dedicated partners in the industry; not thousands that just sign up for free software.  Partners must now gain a competency or subscribe to the Action Pack to enjoy IUR.

As a guide, Gold competency partners will receive 100 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 60 seats of CRM Online.  Silver competency partners will receive 25 seats of Office 365 and Windows Intune and 15 seats of CRM Online.  Action Pack partners will receive 5 seats of Office 365 with the ability to earn 5 more seats once they complete an O365 sale of 25 seats.  They will also receive 5 seats of Windows Intune and can receive 5 seats of CRM Online once they sell a CRM Online subscription or 50 seats or Office 365.

All three levels will receive the added benefit of a $100 monthly Azure credit.

Partners will still have on-premises server licenses for development, testing, demonstration use and for internal training.  You can find out more by reading the Cloud IUR document and the MPN IUR page.

Handy Resources for Customers

I don’t know about you but my favourites list is longer than {insert your favourite tabloid celebrity here}’s list of ex-partners.  I’m trying to apply some minimalism and fit the most useful on this postcard which we’ll keep up to date.  Feel free to suggest any links you find useful and would like to share.

Update February 6th 2015 – handy list of Microsoft Azure Resources

Handy resource reference card

Office 365 Selector Tool for Partners

If you sell Microsoft Office 365, take a look at where you’ll find a brand new Office 365 Plan Selector Tool.  The Excel-based tool recommends the appropriate Office 365 Plan based on your answers to your customer’s technology and productivity needs.

Partners new to the business will find this a bit limited and you’ll very quickly know the most appropriate plans for your customer after a few scenarios.  However this could be useful as a customer-facing tool in those initial sales discussions.  It does quote in US$ and link to the US Microsoft Office 365 pages – I’ve posted a comment to the developers to request an option to localise the tool.  This is the direct link to the tool.

My ulterior motive for this recommendation is to highlight Microsoft’s Ready To Go marketing site.  Half of Microsoft staff are sales and marketing and not enough partners utilise the resources that come out of this massive marketing machine.

Office 365 selector Screenshot

SQL Server 2014 Licensing Changes

When we talk to customers and partners about licensing, it’s lovely to see the light come on in people’s eye when they see that Microsoft licensing is not really that tricky.  Then we move onto SQL Server which always proves the exception to the rule.  To be fair SQL Server 2012 did simplify things somewhat and we’re glad to say now SQL Server 2014 has been released (1st April) the licensing stays unchanged for the most part.

Just two subtle changes.

One for high availability scenarios and the other for multiplexing with SQL Server Business Intelligence edition.

Passive Fail-Over

The rights to install and run a passive fail-over SQL Server have now moved to be a Software Assurance Benefit.  over servers terms will move to the Software Assurance (SA) Benefits section of the PUR and thus only applies to SQL Server licences covered with SA.

Before you grumble about reduced rights, let’s examine why Microsoft did this.  The passive server is considered ‘warm’ in that there’s no work offloaded from the primary server; it’s not clustered or load-balancing.  During a fail-over event the passive server becomes active and the licence is re-assigned.  If you don’t have Software Assurance (SA) on the SQL Server licence, the licence has to remain assigned to the newly active server for a period of at least 90 days.  This is a bit of an issue for customers; having the SQL workload remaining on the secondary server for so long before they could fail back to the primary active server.  Now the right to fail-over is granted through SA, customers can combine this with another SA benefit, Licence Mobility within a Server Farm, which allows customers to reassign licences between servers at will.  So moving the fail-over right to become an SA benefit just neatens up the flexibility to manage high availability SQL environments for both planned and unplanned downtime.

Batch Processing with Business Intelligence Edition

The second licensing update is just for SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence Edition.  Microsoft are relaxing the multiplexing policy so it no longer requires a CAL for users or devices that access the BI server via a batch process.  It’s a common question: if you have a middle-tier application being accessed by lots of users and the middle-tier application is connecting to SQL for reporting for example, do all the users and devices need CALs? Typically, yes they did.  This is called multiplexing.

It caught many customers out so this licensing change goes some way to addressing the issue by enabling batch processing of data into SQL Server 2014 Business Intelligence edition without requiring CALs for the data sources supplying the data.  Batch Processing for this purpose is defined as an activity that allows a group of tasks occurring at different times to be processed all at the same time.

This only applies to SQL BI Edition.  All access to SQL 2014 Standard edition in the Server + CAL (Client Access Licence) model remain with all server access requiring a CAL.

SQL Server 2014 BI Multiplexing

Are there any other licensing changes in SQL Server 2014?

No.  There’s no impact to the Disaster Recovery SA benefit, which applies broadly across Server products that are covered with active SA.  Customers will still retain the benefit of installing and making available a cold SQL Server in a disaster recovery location.

The warm backup is the one we’ve described; active-passive.

And for active-active clusters there are no changes; full licensing applies to all server nodes in this type of configuration just like it has in the past.

How to utilise your SA Training Vouchers

If you have a volume licensing agreement with Microsoft you may have Software Assurance Training Vouchers as an included benefit.  Many customers let these lapse.  So here’s a brief guide on how to use them to fund training or demonstration days.

Verify Eligibility

Customers receive a number of training days based on the amount of their qualifying software licenses that are covered by Software Assurance.  Visit the Volume Licensing Service Centre (VLSC) or contact us to check your SA benefits.


Your benefits manager will go to the VLSC web site to activate the organisation’s SA training voucher benefit.  The benefit only has to be activated one time and the entire number of training days allotted to the organisation will be activated for use.

Create & Assign

In the SA Benefit Summary page, click Training Vouchers then click Create Training Voucher and assign the vouchers to employees by entering the employee name, corporate e-mail address and number of days the voucher is worth.  The training voucher will be electronically sent to the work e-mail address that you entered.


Contact us to schedule your course and provide the code found in the voucher confirmation email.

Video on using SATV

Watch an informative Video demonstrating how to Activate, Create, Assign and Schedule Training.

Microsoft Presales Technical Accreditation for Small Business

We are running a series of evening events for Microsoft called Technights.  These are across the UK and offer a great chance to meet and discuss with Microsoft representatives as well as other partners.  We’ll cover Windows 8.1, Office 365, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Azure and Windows Intune in a format which encourages questions and discussion.  The event also prepares you to take the new Small Business Presales Technical Assessment.

See here for details of the schedule and how to register.

You can also download the content below.

PST Small Business v1

How to Buy Windows Azure

Update August 2014 – Azure is now also available through the Open licensing programs in blocks of $100 monetary commitments.  Think of it like a mobile phone top-up.  The customer buys as many $100 blocks as they want and then have 12 months to use that balance across any Azure service that is available on the pay-as-you-go rates.

Windows Azure is a bit of an unsung hero in my opinion; it’s a $1 billion business for Microsoft and yet I’m still greeted by a lot of blank faces and frowns of uncertainty when I ask if people are selling or using Azure services.

As this is a licensing blog, I’m not going to describe Windows Azure but I will point you to the blog of Steve Plank, an Azure technology evangelist at Microsoft.  His words of wisdom can be found on and he has a great cartoon-style way of explaining things. One of his explanations I reference a lot is how Azure virtual machines can be beneficial to customers with legacy applications.

Virtual machines, storage (great for disaster recovery solutions) and compute are three of the easiest services or commodities to understand and to licence and I’ll come back to these a little later.

How do I buy/licence Windows Azure?

Windows Azure is an ever-growing bundle of distinct cloud services, over 60 currently, which customers can use across Microsoft’s network of global datacentres. Each one of those services has its own cost and each one has its own usage-metre so typically you pay for consumption. Any solution you deploy on Azure is going to consume a mix of these services, each charged at their own price and unit. For example storage is pence per gigabyte per month; compute power is per compute size per minute and so on. This model is very similar to a mobile phone bill where you have a number of different charges accruing to your total monthly bill such as landline calls, premium rates, roaming services, data and texts. Luckily the idea of different usage meters and pricing does not affect the licensing.

Windows Azure Services

Figure 1: (right) Windows Azure comprises over 60 services, each with its own usage-metre & price. (Left) Any solution you deploy utilises a combination of these services.

Customers purchase Azure services through two primary licensing vehicles; Microsoft Online Subscription Program (MOSP) or through an Enterprise VL Program.

MOSP is buying directly from Microsoft. Anyone can visit and sign up for the services. There’s a choice of pay-as-you-go (PAYG), also known as consumption, or to sign up and purchase a commitment offer.

With the consumption model you are typically paying the highest prices for Windows Azure services (I say typically because there are rare exceptions). High-volume discounts (graduated pricing) do apply though (an example is shown below in the table).

Graduated pricing example for Azure storage


With the commitment model, you commit to pay a set, monthly amount and Microsoft reflect your commitment by offering a discount of 20-32% off the published PAYG consumption rates. The commitment plans do not have graduated pricing; they are based on a discount according to the level of commitment made (the minimum is currently £300 per month). Monetary Commitment is used like a debit card; you add in the same amount each month and your Azure usage draws down on the balance. Customers have a choice of making a 6 or 12 month commitment with the 12 month attracting a further 2.5% discount over a 6 month commitment. If you pay up front for the whole 6 or 12 months you’ll attract an additional 2.5% discount.

Should you exceed your monthly commitment amount, the overage (yes that is a real word) is charged at the published consumption rates. Overage is also not eligible for graduated pricing discounts (that is, it will be billed at base price tier regardless of volume). Again, this is a similar model to mobile phones, just in this case you’re purchase database, storage or compute.

When I say discount, I refer to the discount on the service price when compared to the PAYG base rates. You could think of it as a bonus; you’re getting more service for your money. For example, under the standard PAYG rates, the geo-redundant storage price for 5TB / month with graduated pricing would be £0.061 per GB for the first TB and £0.051 per GB for the next 4TB. However, under the commitment model, all 5TB of storage would be billed at the base rate of £0.061 /GB per month prior to the application of the volume discount.

Unlike Amazon Web Services (AWS), this discount is across the board so you could commit £10,000 on compute and you’ll get at least 23% discount on storage services. Unused commitment funds can roll over between months but can’t role over to another term so it’s often wise to choose a 12 months commitment term as it gives more time to use the funds.

Purchasing through an Enterprise program (EA) will usually deliver the best prices; significantly lower than the PAYG rates. Microsoft also recently committed to match the AWS published price for three key commodities: compute, storage and bandwidth and from March 2014 prices will drop for Block Blobs Storage and Disks/Page Blobs Storage to match AWS prices.  And EA customers will gain an additional 27-36% discount off those matched prices. So that’s a huge benefit and you can be confident about your workloads being cheaper to run than on AWS.

Similar to how an EA allows you to commit upfront for expected units of Windows Server and then grow throughout the year, you can also commit upfront for expected use of Windows Azure and then grow throughout the year without paying a penalty. If you use more services than your commitment, you’ll get the same discount rates on that overuse; no extra paperwork to sign and no penalties for going over (other than the possibility of being billed quarterly rather than at the end of the year for the overuse if it exceeds 150% of your commitment amount). There are some great offers you can utilize too including funded engagement days to help you deploy but these need to be addressed through your reseller.

Scenarios are always good to illustrate points so let’s go through an example and for the mathematically challenged like myself, we’ll have a nice neat customer who commits $100,000 per year for the three year EA term. So they pay Microsoft $100,000 at the start of year 1 but the customer only spends $75,000 in year one. Because this customer signed up for a three-year deal at $100,000 per year they’ll automatically be billed for year 2 at $100,000. They can change their commitment level at each anniversary either up or down by contacting their reseller but if they do nothing their commitment stays the same.

Importantly, and this is why Microsoft offer those engagements, if the customer doesn’t consume their entire commitment in a year, the remainder is lost. This isn’t a penalty or a way of earning more money; it becomes very difficult for Microsoft to pay partners or talk to Wall Street if there’s uncertainty about having to refund money. It’s called a commitment because it is a commitment. So the customer forfeits the unused $25,000.

Let’s say the customer goes over their commitment and spends $140,000. They will have received several notifications by this point to keep them aware and the customer will simply get a bill at the end of the period for $40K and the commitment would be renewed for next year at the $100K level unless they contacted their reseller to change it.

So if a customer had committed £100,000 but went on to spend £1,000,000 in a quarter, Microsoft would happily say yes. And the only penalties are that they might be billed quarterly for the overuse and they may have obtained a better discount level by increasing their commitment prior to the overuse.

A customer with an existing EA could add as little as 1 x Azure Monetary Commitment SKU which is $100 per month, resulting in $1200 per year. While this is not recommended, it is programmatically possible.

An alternative way of purchasing Azure Services through an Enterprise program is through the Server and Cloud Enrolment (SCE). SCE came into being in late 2013 and makes it easy to combine your on-premises server and cloud commitments to Microsoft. If you want to learn about SCE in more depth please view the previous blog or Microsoft’s September 2013 recorded spotlight call.

In the SCE agreement, you make an install base commitment to one or more on-premises products such as Windows Server or SQL Server and this provides your EA discount level. If you make an on-premises commitment you can start using Azure services without needing to make an upfront monetary commitment in Azure. The prices you’ll pay are determined by your EA level discount and because you’ve made an on-premises agreement, Microsoft will add another 5% discount on top. So it’s possible to gain a maximum of around 41% off the Azure published PAYG prices through SCE.

If you only want Azure through an Enterprise program and don’t wish to make one of the on-premises commitments you can sign up for an Azure-only SCE. So perhaps this is ideal for an ecommerce organisation who are going to utilize a great deal of cloud services but don’t have the on-premises minimums for the other components of the SCE. In this situation you do make an upfront monetary commitment and working with your reseller, you can gain the equivalent of an EA price level based on your yearly Azure spend.

In terms of an example, a customer might commit to $200,000 so they get an EA on just Azure and also fall into level B pricing (attracting a 30% discount) because of that commitment. They do not however gain the additional 5% discount that a customer would get if they’d signed up for one or more of the other SCE pools; core infrastructure, app plat or developer.

For resources: the Pricing Overview for Windows Azure in Enterprise Programs provides information on how Windows Azure is priced and billed for customers that purchase it through enterprise licensing programs; the Windows Azure Training Kit includes technical presentations and hands-on labs to help you learn how to use Azure features and services; you just can’t beat a Girls Aloud poster on the wall but this Azure one comes a close second and way ahead of a One Direction poster; we’re also happy to announce a new free ebook Introducing Windows Azure for IT Professionals.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot more detail so if you want to know more about Windows Azure licensing, training or services, please do get in touch with us.

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

I’ve been working for and with Microsoft since 1991.  I’ve been in the toilet with Bill Gates and in a card game with Steve Ballmer (me: “I’ll raise £10”, Steve: “I’ll raise a small Caribbean island”).  They are synonymous with Microsoft.  Now the Microsoft King is dead; long live the Microsoft King.  Well, not dead, just leaving.  Bill Gates has also relinquished his role as chairman of the company he co-founded back in the seventies.

So who are the new CEO and chairman?

Satya Nadella is now leading the company as CEO and John W. Thompson replaces Bill as chairman.  You can read all about Satya on Microsoft’s news page but John seems to have slipped in discretely.  I had to read Wikipedia to find out about him.

Undoubtedly, Microsoft is changing to reflect a higher degree of devices and services.  Satya has experience running Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise division so brings a great foundation to grow this.  Office 365 and Windows Azure are already successful cloud offerings but Microsoft has historically just dipped its toe in hardware (outside of the Xbox of course).  Yes, there are the Surface devices.  Yes, there’s the acquisition of Nokia.  I’m excited to see what is next.

Satya Nadella

I’m open-minded but I must admit, the official photo of Satya in a casual hoodie reminded me of politicians trying to look cool by donning baseball caps.