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IT Support – Break-Fix or Managed Services?

Deciding which type of IT Support firm to hire is a big decision. We review the pros and cons of Break-Fix and Managed Services so that you can pick the best option for your organization.

Break-Fix IT Support

Do you only want to pay IT support when you have problems or need to make changes? This arrangement is called Break-Fix. You contact a Break-Fix  IT company when you need help. Then they perform defined tasks, and you don’t hear from them until you need them again. The IT support firms focused on Break-Fix are typically small firms, usually with 1-10 employees at the most. As computer networks have grown more complicated, medium-large IT support firms have migrated away from Break-Fix.

Break-Fix Pros:

  1. Inexpensive – with Break-Fix you have no fixed monthly costs. The only time you get a big bill is when you need a lot of assistance.
  2. Relationships – because these firms have very few employees, there are usually only one or two who know your network. You get to know them very well!
  3. Breadth of Services – these firms are small, so they often take on tasks that are outside of their core expertise. Most techies think they can figure out anything.

Break-fix Cons:

  1. Response time – these firms are small and don’t know when they’ll be getting a call from their clients. Their business is reactive, so sometimes they have extra hands, and sometimes they don’t have enough.
  2. Network Performance/Downtime – Break-Fix firms get paid to fix things, so their focus isn’t on preventing problems. In other words, there isn’t an incentive to maintain your IT and keep it running.
  3. Documentation – these firms are not paid to document your network, so records and reporting may suffer.
  4. Unpredictable Bills – because Break-Fix firms only invoices you when you have problems, you’re never sure when or how much your bills will be.

Managed Services IT Support

Would you rather pay a fixed monthly fee based on the number of employees or devices (computers, laptops, tablets, etc.)? This type of agreement is called Managed Services. It typically includes support (remote and sometimes onsite), backups, security, and regular maintenance. In this scenario, you have an ongoing relationship with your IT provider. They should maintain documentation about your network and should give you some level of priority based on your contract.

Managed Services Pros:

  1. Budgeting – your monthly expenses are predictable, and Managed Services firms should also help you budget for upgrades and other projects.
  2. Service Level Agreement – a managed services contract should come with a Service Level Agreement, or SLA, that sets expectations for response time.
  3. Network Performance – Managed Services firms are incented to perform preventative maintenance and avoid problems – they get paid the same even if you have network problems! So things generally run better.
  4. Breadth of Services – Managed Services firms usually have enough staff to have tiers (Level 1/2/3) and areas (Microsoft 365 migrations, firewall, cloud, etc.) of expertise. They’re also often well-run businesses who identify those areas they DON’T support and referral partners for extra services such as web design or cabling.
  5. Documentation – these firms usually spend time upfront documenting your network so that multiple engineers can work with you. So if your favorite tech “Bob” is busy, someone else can step in.

Managed Services Cons:

  1. Contract – Managed Services firms spend a lot of time and resources on onboarding – documenting your network and making sure that things are correctly set up. This onboarding process means that you usually either pay an upfront fee or agree to a multi-year contract.
  2. Size of Firm – large companies have acquired some Managed Service Providers, and this can impact the way that they work with you.

Bottom Line

Which is better? Of course, it depends. If you’re a small business with five staff, you may not be in a position to afford a Managed Services firm, which typically costs between $50-$200/employee/month. If you’re a health care firm or government contractor, you have regulations such as HIPAA and CMMC to pay attention to and may be better off with a Managed Services firm that brings this capability. And sometimes, a hybrid arrangement works well. You might have an internal Director of Administration who helps to set strategy and coordinate with your staff and a Managed Services firm that provides IT support. Some businesses elect the opposite – they hire a lower-level IT Tech to provide essentially Break-Fix support, but also contract with a Managed Services firm to provide guidance and broad expertise.

We’ve reviewed this debate with many prospects and clients over the years, and we’re glad to discuss your particular situation and which scenario might be best for you.

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