Microsoft Adds Support, Gets Personal on Portal

By Dan Muse | Posted January 25, 2006
What's the best way for you to communicate with Microsoft? According to Doug Leland, general manager for small business at Microsoft, the Microsoft Small Business Center has been "the key component for communicating with small businesses." He added Microsoft's goal is to "build on that foundation and to offer more in-depth training and technical support."

Last year around this time, the company gave its small business portal a significant makeover. Earlier this week, it rolled out Microsoft Small Business +, which adds a suite of both free and fee-based support and online training services.

Small businesses, which are typically short on time, lacking in IT resources and careful about spending money, now have three ways to get to help from Microsoft.


Microsoft Small Business +
Recognizing that support is a key small business demand, Microsoft offers a range of free and fee-based help options in Small Business +
(Click to view larger image)

The Small Business Help Desk is designed to provide self-help. That is, you can get answers to common support questions, find the latest service packs for your products and watch Webcasts delivered by Microsoft support experts, according to the company.

The second option is Small Business Quick Advice, which provides free real-time access to live-chat help to provide answers to a broad range of questions ranging from basic troubleshooting to how-to questions. However, the accent is on the words "simple" and "general," according Microsoft's Web site. Beyond that you have to pay.

For more detailed assistance (which Microsoft says likely takes more than 20 minutes of chat time), you can pay to chat with a Helpdesk Expert. The Small Business Expert Help option is designed to address technical issues such as networking or server problems and are offered through one of three support packages:

The Bronze package costs $149 a year and provides unlimited chat-based general questions and six chat-based technical support incidents.

The Silver package costs $299 a year and offers unlimited chat-based general questions and unlimited chat-based technical support incidents.

The Gold package costs $499 a year and provides unlimited chat-based general questions, unlimited chat-based technical support incidents and three technical support phone calls.

Leland said that new Small Business + members receive a 45-day free trial of the unlimited live-chat advanced-support offerings.


Microsoft Small Business +
In the new-look Small Business Center, Microsoft hopes to personalize your experience after you fill out a registration form.
(Click to view larger image)

The revamped site also offers free training. For example, software training is designed to show you how to use features in Microsoft software such as Office 2003 and Windows XP. Topics include formatting documents in Microsoft Word, organizing your files in Windows XP, manipulating data in Excel, creating an Access database and more.

Microsoft is also offering free business training on topics such as how to identify and contact your best customers, build customers, understand and track your company's cash flow and develop a sales plan.

Microsoft's also hope to personalize the Small Business + experience. After you  register to join, some offerings will be tailored to your type of business and your role in that business.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel, EarthWeb's Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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