Choosing the Right Cloud Technical Support Plan

Here’s a quick review of some of the differences within support tiers from leading IaaS providers.

Andrew Froehlich, President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

December 7, 2020

4 Min Read
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It's 8:00 p.m. on a Friday, and services operating in your public IaaS cloud have suddenly started acting up. Customer complaints are piling up and your top administrators have no idea what the problem is. You need help. The question is, do you have the right cloud technical support plan in place?

It's these types of situations where CIOs know that cloud service support plans prove to be invaluable. However, many organizations that have eased their production environment into cloud computing may not be aware that their technical support plan no longer meets their needs. Before your team gets stuck trying to fix a problem without the right level of cloud provider technical assistance, let's review some of the differences among support tiers from leading IaaS providers.

Basic (free) support tiers:

All three of the top IaaS cloud platforms -- AWS, Azure, and GCP -- offer customers basic support at no additional cost. Benefits of this support tier include a billing/subscription management portal, basic health-check status information, access to online documentation and the ability to collaborate with others through a community-driven forum. It's clear that this support tier should only be used for test, demonstration and proof-of-concept purposes. There is no way to open trouble tickets or request any sort of configuration/architecture assistance.

Developer support tiers:

Moving up one support tier notch, we have support plans that the service providers tout as being optimal for developer purposes. While dev environments are obviously not production, the type of application testing/debugging that takes place in these settings can impact operations if delays occur. That’s why this support tier provides the ability to open support cases and receive support during business hours. However, keep in mind that response times for this plan ranges between 8 and 24 hours depending on the severity of the issue.

Two additional benefits of the developer tier include third-party software support and basic architecture advice. From a third-party software perspective, the cloud provider can assist customers with basic software implementation and configuration guidance for many enterprise-grade applications. This includes interoperability and troubleshooting assistance when the application is not running properly within the cloud infrastructure.

Architecture support allows the customer to work with their provider who can help them design a virtual computing environment that meets the organizations current and future needs. While this type of support is conducted at a relatively high level, many customers appreciate the ability to tap into the skillset of service provider administrators who have seen which architectures work best in specific business use-case scenarios.

Business support tiers:

The third tier is where we begin approaching what a small or mid-sized business might feel comfortable with in terms of technical assistance responses time for production workloads in the cloud. AWS, Google and Microsoft call this support tier Business, Production and Standard, respectively. Added benefits over lower lever support tiers focus solely on the ability to quickly access technical support and guaranteed response time SLA’s. This tier includes 24x7 phone/email access to technical support, and response times that vary by severity impact. This support tier is a good option for businesses that have business-critical applications in generic, cookie-cutter cloud environments. The response times for major outages will be addressed by the service provider within one hour or less and even issues that pose minimal production impact will be addressed within an 8-hour period.

Enterprise support tiers:

For large organizations with mission-critical cloud deployments, businesses should investigate the top technical support tier offered by their provider(s). With this support tier, you’re mostly paying for significantly decreased response time SLAs. With response times as low as 15 minutes, this gives administrators peace of mind that their provider will be immediately available to assist with troubleshooting major service outages. In cases where outages lasting minutes or seconds translates into thousands of dollars of lost revenue, these support tiers significantly reduce the risk of long-term disruptions.

The three largest IaaS providers offer plenty of additional incentives beyond improved SLAs to lure businesses into the most expensive technical support tier. Depending on the complexity of your cloud environment and staff interest, your organization may or may not find value. These benefits include in-depth architectural/health review sessions, support and guidance for API operations and online training documentation/videos.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of all, however, is the fact that the cloud provider will assign your business a named technical account manager. This manager will be the business’s main point of contact for all technical issues. The benefit here is that the manager can help customers navigate support cases, so they reach the appropriate support teams in a timely manner. That way, technical incidents accidently don’t fall into the wrong queue or are set with the incorrect severity level. For mission-critical apps, being assigned a technical support manager often proves to be invaluable.


Follow up with these articles on cloud strategy and management:

Deloitte on Cloud, the Edge, and Enterprise Expectations

Ways to Help CIOs and CFOs Calculate Cloud Costs and ROI  

Is Your Cloud Strategy Ready to Hyperscale?


About the Author(s)

Andrew Froehlich

President & Lead Network Architect, West Gate Networks

Andrew has well over a decade of enterprise networking under his belt through his consulting practice, which specializes in enterprise network architectures and datacenter build-outs and prior experience at organizations such as State Farm Insurance, United Airlines and the University of Chicago Medical Center. Having lived and worked in South East Asia for nearly three years, Andrew possesses a unique international business and technology perspective. When he's not consulting, Andrew enjoys writing technical blogs and is the author of two Cisco certification study guides published by Sybex.

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