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In-Depth

Microsoft Partner Network Cost: How Much To Join the MPN? (Updated)

WEB EXCLUSIVE: The short answer? It depends. For most U.S. solution providers, the MPN costs between $0 and $5,260. We break down the perks of six cost levels so you can determine where your firm will get the most bang for its buck.

[Ed.'s Note: This article has been updated from earlier versions to reflect recent changes in Microsoft's MPN pricing tiers.]

One thing many would-be Microsoft resellers or solution providers wonder when they think about joining the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is how much it will cost to join. It's a simple question with a unique answer for each of the hundreds of thousands of existing members of the program, once you count all the soft costs of signing up (such as training and certifications), time spent on program administration, fees for specialty programs and other investments.

But there is a short answer: The MPN costs $0, $475, $1,490, $1,850, $3,800 or $5,260 to join, depending on how deeply an outfit wants to engage in Microsoft's program. (All figures are average prices in U.S. dollars. Actual rates vary by country or other factors and aren't just dependent on exchange rates.)

In February, Microsoft changed some of the pillars of its prices for partners to participate in the MPN. Here are some of the key prices for U.S. partners under the latest structure and details of what those fees include. Click on the links below to jump directly to a price level:


$5,260 -- Gold Competency
Attaining one of 26 Microsoft competencies is Microsoft's suggested path for partners to differentiate themselves. Each competency comes in a silver or gold level. A gold competency is the MPN's top tier for non-alliance partners. A partner pays only for the first gold competency; every one thereafter comes at no additional charge. If a partner had earned and paid for a silver competency first, then the partner only pays the difference to get to the $5,260 ($3,410).

There are other investments beyond the base price to get to the gold competency level. The company has to employ or contract with four Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) who don't count toward any other competency. The exception here is the Midmarket Solution Provider competency, which only requires three unique MCPs for gold. (The Small Business competency, which only requires two, has its own special price -- see below.) Two people must also pass a business-focused competency assessment. The gold level also requires a partner to make and hit a minimum revenue commitment and get references from five customers.

The Microsoft Dynamics-based competencies, ERP and CRM, have slightly more stringent requirements -- including the need to have six MCPs.

Benefits for all gold competency partners are 50 Partner Advisory Hours, up to 100 internal-use software licenses per product, 10 Visual Studio Premium with MSDN subscriptions, the highest search rankings in Microsoft directories, the gold competency logo and eligibility for upper tiers of solution-based sales incentives.

For a much deeper discussion and analysis of the cost of competencies, see "What's the True Price of a Microsoft Competency?" [Back to price list.]


$3,800 -- Small Business Gold Competency
The one broad market gold competency with a different price tag than the others is the Small Business Gold Competency. To acknowledge that many of its best partners serving small businesses are themselves small businesses, Microsoft kept the Small Business Gold Competency at 2010 rates even as it raised the rest of the gold competency registration prices on Nov. 19, 2011. It's also a nod to the much smaller outlay some of those partners are used to paying. Prior to the introduction of the competency, the best way for a partner to signal their expertise in small business solutions was the Small Business Specialist designation, which could be had for about the cost of an Action Pack. Benefits are similar to other gold competency benefits in terms of internal use rights (IUR) and MSDN subscriptions, but some requirements are also lower. The main one? Only two unique MCPs are required for this gold competency, compared with four MCPs in most other gold competencies. [Back to price list.]


$1,850 -- Silver Competency
The next tier down in the MPN is a silver competency. It costs $1,850, an amount that has not changed since Microsoft introduced the MPN.

In addition to the registration fee, a Microsoft partner company has to employ or contract with two MCPs. An employee or contractor must pass a Microsoft Licensing overview assessment and an employee or contractor has to pass a sales and marketing competency assessment. The partner company also has to put in the time to chase down three customer references. As with the gold competency, whether a partner company earns one silver competency or dozens, it never costs more than the initial $1,850 a year. Benefits include 20 Partner Advisory Hours, up to 25 IUR per product, five Visual Studio Premium with MSDN subscriptions, higher search rankings, licensing-related sales incentives and the silver competency logo for use on outbound marketing materials.

Unlike with the gold competency, the Midmarket Solution Provider competency has the same requirement on MCPs as other competencies. See the next section for the Small Business silver competency, which is a special case.

For a much deeper discussion and analysis of the cost of competencies, see "What's the True Price of a Microsoft Competency?" [Back to price list.]

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$1,490 -- Small Business Silver Competency
A dedicated competency for Small Business had been a popular cause among partners for years, but one of the implications of its creation in 2012 was a price increase. While small business-focused partners were able to join the Small Business Specialist Community for little more than the cost of an Action Pack, competency fees are generally much higher. In a nod to that challenge for smaller partners, Microsoft created an introductory rate of $999 that cut the silver competency fee almost in half for the Small Business competency. That introductory fee was extended several times over a few years, but Microsoft finally let it expire. The Small Business Silver Competency now runs $1,490. While the registration cost is different, the benefits are similar to other silver competencies. [Back to price list.]


$475 -- Microsoft Action Pack Subscription
Probably the best bargain in the old Microsoft Partner Program (MSPP) was the Microsoft Action Pack Subscription (MAPS). The program survived with some modifications when the MSPP turned into the MPN and remains a great deal in spite of a substantial price increase in February 2014.

The subscription covers IURs for most of Microsoft's client and server software and some developer tools. The licenses in the Action Pack are enough to equip a partner's 10-person office with the full suite of Microsoft software to experiment with every day and demonstrate to clients. New to the Action Pack are five seats of several cloud products, including Office 365, Dynamics CRM Online and Windows Intune, along with some Azure credits. Subscribers can double their Office 365 seat count by selling some seats of the product. The subscription also comes with three Visual Studio Professional licenses and five seats of Visual Studio Online Basic. All software in the Action Pack is provided via digital delivery.

Other benefits include a standard listing in the Microsoft Pinpoint partner directory, five partner advisory hours with a first cloud sale and up to 10 business critical phone support incidents.

As for requirements, the partner must prove that it sells more than 75 percent of its products and services to customers outside of the company, and one professional must pass a technical assessment. [Back to price list.]


Free -- Microsoft Partner Network, Redmond Channel Partner Magazine

Microsoft Partner Network Community
It's free to join the Microsoft Partner Network Community, the most basic level of the MPN. All that's required to join at this level is for a company to fill out a short company profile and agree to Microsoft's terms. Benefits include access to Microsoft partner newsletters, eligibility for technical and business training, five seats of Visual Studio Online Basic, the ability to get Microsoft financing for customers and listings in Microsoft's Pinpoint partner directory.

Redmond Channel Partner Magazine
We'd be remiss not to mention that if you join the MPN, one of the best resources you can sign up for is also free -- Redmond Channel Partner magazine. We're independent of Microsoft and give you news, information and tips in your mailbox each month and online every day. Subscribe here. (End self-serving, but true, RCP plug.) [Back to price list.]

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