Not all IT service providers serving small and medium-sized businesses do things the same way. At the lowest level is the break-and-fix model. When something breaks, the IT support company gets asked to come and fix it, and this has worked for many companies.
But sadly, many are still confused about which service model is the best for their business needs. In this article, we’ll discuss break/fix IT support and how it differs from IT Managed Services.
What is Break/Fix?
Break/Fix IT support has a straightforward process.
When something breaks in your IT, your provider will come to the rescue and fix the issue. Break/fix IT support follows a traditional process model that companies in various industries still use to this day.
One famous example is plumbers.
You somehow forget about them until the day your sink stops working, and when it does, you have to give them a call to fix your sink.
And just like plumbers, IT service providers that offer break/fix support services typically answer emergency calls and sometimes perform on-site visits (depending on the gravity of the situation). They get billed for the total hours spent and tools used to fix the issue.
The goal of this support service is to fix what needs fixing to get the company back up and running as soon as possible. Expect little to no discussion about the state of your IT system in the future as you’re only paying for a one-off service and nothing more. And to be frank, this sounds like a great idea since you will only be paying for the services you need.
I mean, why should you continuously pay for something that’s working okay, right?
Break/fix IT services are paid by the hour. And that’s excluding the charge for consultation, new parts, and the use of specialty tools for a hardware or software issue.
Advantages of Break/Fix IT Support
Businesses who are unable to afford an in-house IT staff or looking to support their small IT department use break/fix services to fix what needs fixing in their systems. But aside from that, the break/fix support model also has these benefits:
When you’re an avid user of the break/fix model, you tend to have more control over your IT needs. So as a business owner/decision maker, you only reach out to your service provider when you want help.
Although this is a straightforward process (beneficial to SMBs), you will have no control over your total costs.
You’ll also have to consider the hours it will take to fix your IT, plus the cost of new parts and tools.
No monthly fees and contracts
Many businesses find monthly fees and contracts a hassle.
I mean, who could blame them?
Why pay a monthly support fee when the system is working, right?
This set-up is typically fine for businesses with a small and straightforward IT system. But it’s a different story if your operations rely heavily on technology.
Disadvantages of Break/Fix IT Support
Break/fix IT Support is excellent and great when issues get resolved quickly.
But what if it doesn’t?
What if your IT issue takes longer than expected to get fixed?
Here are some reasons why that happens:
Unfamiliarity with the IT setup
Because your service provider is unfamiliar with your IT system, they will need to do consultations from time to time. And that will cost extra on top of the hourly rates.
But the costs don't stop there.
Once your IT system gets older or more complex, your repair costs increase.
This problem will lead to unpredictable IT costs, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent this problem from occurring again in the future. Unless you switch to IT Managed Support Services (wherein you can proactively take action against IT problems) you’ll face the same issues and might even create more in the future.
When your IT troubles are unpredictable, so are your break/fix IT support bills.
Knowing that break/fix services charge by the hour (plus consultation fee and additional parts/tools), it would be difficult for you to budget ahead since the service is very unpredictable in terms of severity and pricing. And when it comes down to it, businesses have no choice but to pay the service provider upfront just so they can get back up and running again, which (in the long run) will turn into a big budgeting problem.
Lack of risk mitigation
Break/fix IT support has a downside, especially with security. Since no one is proactively monitoring your system, you won’t know when there’s malware slowly infecting your network. And once it's successful with its task, you’re already at your most vulnerable.
By the time your service provider arrives, you've lost thousands in profit and are about to lose more if the issue isn’t mitigated as soon as possible.
Break/fix vs IT Managed Services
Break/fix IT support is quite common among businesses, and it's especially helpful to those who don’t have sufficient resources to have their own IT department or support their in-house IT team. And although this support service has its own merits, it does come with results that would bring out more problems than you thought.
If you want something that provides proactive solutions and long-term benefits, IT Managed Services is the best choice. This is the model where IT operates in partnership with your business to maximise your investment in IT.
Unlike break/fix IT support, OSIT’s managed support services build you up for success. You will have a dedicated team of IT engineers and a Virtual CIO who will personally take care of your IT, so you don’t have to.
You can read more about that on our Approach to IT page.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.