One of the huge benefits of being a Microsoft Small Business Specialist qualified partner is the fact you are given access to Working-Day 4-hour Response Managed Newsgroups (or “Online Technical Communities” as they are now known) where you can post technical queries of a Break-Fix nature (no Consultancy questions I’m afraid – that’s what your local user group and peers are there for!) to a threaded newsgroup and get a fast response to those issues from Microsoft MVP’s.
As a rule of thumb, any technical issue that I’ve worked on for more than an hour, or I’m getting in any way frustrated with, I will look for a second opinion on – this might be by asking colleagues, peers, or in many cases, posting a message to the Managed Newsgroups asking for direction. It’s pointless banging your head against a wall when there are resources to help you climb over that wall instead!
Access to the Online Technical Communities is simple. Visit the Microsoft Partner Portal – go to the “Support and Security” tab, then under “Online Assisted Support” view the “Online Technical Community” page. Or simply visit https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/supportsecurity/technicalsupport/onlinesupport/40047250
Access to the Newsgroups is easy enough through a Web Interface – but for those old-skool who prefer to read their newsgroups via NNTP using Outlook Express or a similar newsgroup reader, this is possible too.
That said, whilst the Help Pages on the Partner Portal tell you NNTP access is possible, the instructions they give are truly vague – so in the spirit of making life easier for my peers (and to be honest, for the next time I need to setup a Workstation with NNTP access myself and have forgotten how to…) here’s how you do it:-
- Visit https://partner.microsoft.com/UK/40029086 and log in with your SBSC affiliated Live.com ID.
- Make a note of the latest security code for access to the Managed Newsgroups.
- Click the “Enter the Community” button and follow the sign-up instructions if necessary.
- Once logged in, update your Profile by clicking the icon in the top right hand corner.
- Visit https://members.microsoft.com/communities/nntpmgmt/default.aspx and follow the prompts to create yourself a NNTP newsgroup username and password. You can use this URL in future to reset your password if lost (although if you’re in the habit of losing passwords then why aren’t you using KeePass?)
- Fire up Outlook Express and add privatenews.microsoft.com as a new NNTP server, telling OE that you want to logon to this server using the credentials privatenewsyourID and password.
- Let Outlook Express download the latest newsgroups – voila, you’re ready to rock’n'roll!
The SBSC Managed Newsgroups are named “microsoft.private.sbsc.” – so use these groups for postings questions and don’t get confused by the microsoft.directaccess groups also listed with similar titles – whilst these are monitored by MVP’s, they don’t have the same 4-hour SBSC response time.
So next time you’re getting frustrated with an Microsoft Product related issue – why not consider using some of the free Support options you have available to you?