Microsoft EA Encounter

By | 2013/02/20

I’ll start out with a bit of context — I’m a long-time Linux fangirl. In fact, I think some of my original Samba posts are still out on the Internet (the Internet really *is* forever!).

Tux, as originally drawn by Larry Ewing

So, when I started work at my current job and found out we were a 100% Microsoft shop, I tried VERY hard to be unbiased. Microsoft came to my office and provided me with a great overview of all the products we “own” through our Microsoft EA and ECI agreements (very few of which were actually being used, by the way).

As alternative products came up for renewal, if Microsoft had it covered within our EA/ECI, we’d switch over. So, Symantec AV was replaced with Microsoft Forefront, and Websense was switched to Threat Management Gateway. Life was good – we saved approximately $30,000 by replacing these products with Microsoft’s versions.

Then came our true-up process.

Nobody at my company had been through a full Microsoft audit and true-up process before. Dell was our Microsoft adviser and while they did provide some information, it wasn’t enough to fully prepare us for the nightmare of the audit and the shock of the resulting true-up invoice.

Turns out we were adding Microsoft products over the past three years, without considering the implications. The development group added Team Foundation Server and Visual Studio. Users throughout the company added Visio and Project. None of these products were included in our original EA. Additionally, the infrastructure group added SQL and Windows servers without understanding the cost repercussions.

By the time the audit was finished and the dust had settled, we were hit with an invoice that was 1.5X our annual EA payment amount — in addition to our regular annual EA payment. Our original savings did little to offset the huge additional costs. Not ideal.

Here are our lessons-learned. Perhaps this will help you avoid a similar problem:

  • Think LONG and HARD before signing up for a Microsoft EA if your user count is on the low end of their limit (250).
  • Consider Google Apps. I’ve been using Google+ personally and I love it. I think their collaborative tools are far superior to current Microsoft alternatives. Perhaps Microsoft 365 is an improvement, but we don’t have that yet.
  • If you are going with a Microsoft EA (or already have one) understand COMPLETELY what products are included. Sounds obvious, yet we had a surprisingly hard time getting this answer from Dell or Microsoft.
  • Before adding ANY Microsoft product, find out if it’s already covered and if not, what the cost will be later if you add it.
  • Always consider alternatives before adding a Microsoft product. For example, had our development group been given costs up front, I suspect they would have chosen to use Eclipse,¬†Subversion , Jenkins, GitHub, and/or other free/low-cost products.
  • Find out Microsoft’s long-term plans for their products. We learned AFTER switching to Threat Management Gateway that Microsoft does not intend to continue support of this product (after 2014 I think). We’ve already starting converting TMG to Squidguard.
  • Make sure you have a GREAT Microsoft adviser. We now use SHI and they’ve been a tremendous help! You really want to work with someone who thoroughly understands Microsoft licensing, which is not easy to navigate. You also want someone who will be proactive in giving you costs as you add products.

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