Milestone's New Support Take 2

Author: Brian Rhodes, Published on Apr 22, 2012

Controversy swelled around our recent report about Milestone's 'unprecedented' support charges. Now, as the plan is implemented, Milestone has clarified their approach, providing IPVM with additional details on this new support structure including more free options. In this note, we examine free vs paid options, digging into details and grey areas.

Phone Support

Depending on the phone request's complexity, some issues will be free but others will require payment.

A tier of free call support termed 'Help Desk Phone Support' will be available for basic requests on a first-come, first serve basis. Examples of "Help Desk Phone Support" questions are:

  • "How do I add a camera?"
  • "Why am I unable to see cameras in Smart Client, even when I see previews in the Management Application?"

Complex and in-depth technical issues will require paid phone support. Examples of issues requiring this paid tier of support are:

  • "Recorded video is not accessible"
  • "Network or Storage array overload"

We asked Milestone how they determined what phone requests require payment versus those that do not. They responded, "Milestone has an internal decision tree process that will identify support issues that are determined to be software related (ie. a bug or anomaly)."

Milestone acknowledged 'grey areas' in determining what is free vs paid. One example is a recent LinkedIn discussion where a Milestone system has been crashing repeatedly for months. Milestone noted, "We are actively communicating and supporting this user. This issues outcome has not yet been determined. If it turns out to be a 'grey area issue' meaning that it may or may not be related to an issue with our software then in these circumstances we will error on the side of free.

Web Support

A support portal will be created to facilitate online support requests. Milestone has stated that all issues, regardless of complexity, will be free using web support. The requester explain uses the web portal to describe their issue. Then, Milestone support will review the issue and respond electronically with a response.

Additionally, Milestone says they are building out a Knowledgebase of common support requests. Currently, 55 articles are online with plans to release another ~250 in the near future.

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However, it is important to note that response times for all 'free support' services will not be prioritized or be given committed response times. Opting for the 'no cost' resources means that Milestone will address the request in order received and response time is subject to request volumes.

Limitations on Free Support

Milestone noted that free support options are answered via 'best efforts'. For instance, while Milestone noted that average hold time for free support is targeted for 3 minutes, they noted that, "some callers may experience much longer wait times depending on the time of day and day of week. The [paid] call path includes a prioritized call cue ensuring that callers can receive a much quicker route to support."

However, Milestone emphasized that they "are not liquidating the value of free technical support – the web form submission of any type of request assures this." Of course, web requests may take days to resolve a problem, depending on the complexity of issue, when the request is sent, etc.

Paid Support

For these more complex requests and issues requiring guaranteed response times, premium paid support services will be available. Two tiers of paid support will be available: Technical and Premium. Technical provides faster response during business hours and for more complex issues. By contrast, the higher cost 'Premium' tier delivers 24/7 guaranteed response availability.

The chart below provides pricing information for both tiers:

Tickets are to be purchased through the Milestone Web Portal, and will be valid for 12 months from date of purchase.

Paid support requests will be place into a priority queue that aims to reduce hold time versus 'free' requests. Milestone clarified this detail by stating: "This provides a prioritized call route and committed response times. Prioritized call routes and committed response times are new and enhanced offerings."

If multiple issues are raised during a call, Milestone says, "they will be entered as separate cases (just like we have always done even before). The caller can decide which cases they want to prioritize with a ticket (committed response times) and which issue they are content to have addressed with best efforts. The reason we isolate one issue to one support case is to clearly identify the problem and ultimate resolution. Otherwise, the problem may not be clear and effective trouble shooting is compromised."

End User Access to Support

While the original report said no end users would receive access to support, Milestone clarified their position to allow the potential for a limited number of 'qualified' end users to access:

"This is currently a work in process. Milestone believes that the majority of end users are best supported by a qualified system integrator. Milestone is a strong advocate of the channel and we feel strongly that our end users need a qualified system integrator relationship.

We do however recognize that some end users while procuring via the channel desire to self integrate and therefore require access to technical support directly from Milestone instead of via the channel partner. We are currently working on a qualification process for self-integrators to access technical support directly.

All end users can access our freely available self-help tools online and as mentioned above these self-help tools will continue to expand over time."

Device Pack Access Restrictions

Device Pack access has been restricted. Previously, Device Packs were freely available to all users, regardless of version. Now, users will only be allowed to upgrade device packs for their current version or for the following one unless they buy a Software Upgrade Plan (SUP). For example, if a user is at Milestone XProtect Enterprise 7.x, they can get device pack updates until 8.x but not after Version 9 is released. This will limit device pack updates for no more than 2 years after purchasing without paying for a SUP.

Our Analysis

Relative to our original report, we see two major improvements:

  • Some technical support calls we be free.
  • 24/7 phone support is now available.

The latter is fairly novel - a modest one time cost for 24/7 support only when needed. The former helps continue traditional phone support.

However, we see two major problems:

  • Significant grey areas remain including: What phone call topics require payment? How long will integrators remain on hold for free support? Will end users be able to get support?
  • The restriction in device pack availability makes ongoing payments much more important.

The grey areas have great potential to cause tension and frustration. Plus, depending on how lenient or not Milestone is on these decisions, increased cost is likely. Finally, if you have been using Milestone and not paying for ongoing software licensing, you will have to carefully rethink this with the new restrictions.

Milestone asked that if anyone has questions on the details of the program to contact them directly. If after contacting them you still have problems, feel free to contact us or post a discussion in our group and we will help facilitate.

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