Break/Fix vs. Managed IT: Cost, Reliability, Security, Productivity
All responsible businesses keep a tight watch on their finances. Let’s face it, the bottom line is what makes or breaks a company, right? Well, yes….and, no.
Cost is definitely an important component of any buying decision, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). But, as a business leader, you realize that reputation, accessibility, and reliability are also important.
As consumers ourselves, we know that sometimes it pays to spend a little more. Whether you are investing in quality appliances, a good steak, or a comprehensive gym membership, sometimes paying a little more makes sense; it all depends on your priorities.
Often, those investments are hard to quantify in tangible terms. So, how do you know when paying more makes sense?
In my 25 years in the IT industry, I’ve seen this exact conundrum play out. In this article, I’ll focus on the complicated IT support decision that faces organizations confronted with budgetary constraints, cyber threats, infrastructure concerns, and technical challenges.
As manager, engineering services at Kelser Corporation, a managed services provider (MSP), I obviously have a bias about whether break/fix or MSPs are better for your business.
But, having been in other jobs where I’ve relied on IT support of both kinds, I understand the delicate balance between your IT needs and your cost concerns. I also know that different solutions can be right for different organizations.
After reading this article, you will understand why it’s important to consider not only the cost that hits your budget, but also the intangible costs, benefits, and disadvantages when deciding how to best support your IT infrastructure needs.
What Is Break/Fix?
Break/fix solutions are a pay as you go solution to IT issues. When something breaks, you pay someone to come and fix the problem.
What Is Managed IT?
As a strategic partner in your business, a managed IT provider takes the time to get to know the unique IT demands of your business and the intricacies of your IT infrastructure. Due to the breadth of the technical experts on staff, an MSP can not only get to the root causes of IT issues, but also can provide strategic long- and short-term advice to optimize the performance of your IT network.
As with any business decision, there are several factors to consider when deciding which IT solution is right for your business. Let's walk through some of those factors.
Cost is an important, tangible consideration and is usually top of mind for SMB leaders.
When business and IT leaders compare the price of break/fix services vs. managed IT cost, it can be difficult to compare apples to apples. Some of the cost considerations are about whether you pay for services on demand (break/fix) or pay a constant rate on a regular basis (MSP).
Depending on the age and complexity of your IT environment, your tolerance for not getting things fixed immediately, and your industry security requirements, one option may be better for you. But, let’s get to the very real, very valid monetary consideration.
In different organizations, break/fix expenses hit budgets differently. They may all be aggregated at a top level or may hit individual department budgets. It may or may not be easy to roll up these figures to get a sense of the overall organization cost.
In addition, some break/fix costs (hardware, devices) may be a capital expense, while others (like software or security issues) may be classified as an operating expense. Somewhere in there, there is a bottom line, but it isn’t always easy to find.
Most people assume that since they only pay when something is not working, break/fix is cheaper than working with an MSP; that may or may not be the full story.
Ongoing IT support and partnership is the hallmark of MSP relationships. And, in the same way that regular attention and maintenance preserve the life and safety of your car, ongoing IT support from an MSP can positively impact the health and security of your IT infrastructure.
When you work with an MSP, you share a vision and understanding about where your IT infrastructure is headed and you have a reliable and predictable monthly cost that will get you there.
Businesses today rely on a reliable IT infrastructure to be competitive for employees and to interact with customers. When there’s a glitch, business demands require you to get back up and running as quickly as possible to minimize downtime for your important constituents.
Break/fix providers are reactionary. The very nature of their business model is to come when called and get you running again. The trouble is, you may or may not know how soon they will get there, whether they will have what the job requires, and if the solution will be temporary or permanent.
Your MSP partner is an extension of your business.
They work with you to proactively optimize and manage your IT infrastructure so that it operates in the best way possible to meet your business needs. MSPs often work behind the scenes (or on-site as needed) to anticipate and mitigate problems before your users ever see them.
It is in the best business of an MSP to respond quickly and effectively the first time and to position your business for continuous operation.
With the cyber threat landscape changing daily, and more information than ever changing hands electronically, the security of your network is imperative.
When it comes to cyber security (or football), the best offense is usually a strong defense. A break/fix provider may be able to come and help restore service if you are hacked, but at that point, the damage is done.
There are no guarantees in life, but when it comes to cyber security, MSPs have the expertise to constantly monitor for and prevent cyber attacks before they happen. They can help you implement policies and procedures so that employees are aware of what is and is not allowed on company devices.
And, if a breach does happen, your MSP will have you covered with solid solutions including reliable and timely backups that can be used to quickly get you back to business as usual.
Your IT infrastructure is a hidden, but crucial element of productivity. Whether it’s supply chain management or operations, your IT needs to be ready, available, and efficient.
As we’ve noted earlier, the nature of a break/fix IT provider is to respond when a crisis strikes. Because a break/fix provider is not typically familiar with the intricacies of your IT infrastructure, fixes can be delayed.
An MSP approaches your infrastructure as if it were their own. They work with you to intimately understand your infrastructure before any issue arises, facilitating a quick response when needed.
They can build in layers to fortify your IT infrastructure. Whether it’s multifactor authentication, firewall updates, or ensuring the security of your remote workforce, your MSP looks for gaps and makes recommendations for plugging them.
And, they do this proactively, minimizing the likelihood that your network will suffer a paralyzing glitch that will result in downtime and significantly impact productivity.
Other “hidden costs” of an unreliable IT network include poor customer experience, worker frustration, slow response time, and damage to your organization’s reputation. And there are more that we haven’t mentioned!
Ready For What's Next?
In this article, we’ve talked about many potential costs of your IT support solution, ranging from your bottom line to employee satisfaction, from your organization’s reputation to customer dissatisfaction.
While break/fix providers offer the advantage of operating without a contract, they also leave you operating without a safety net. If you have a small organization with only a few devices, though, they could be a good fit for you.
Once an MSP gets the necessary hardware and software in place to support your IT environment optimally, there is a fixed cost, everything works consistently, and there are no expensive surprises. Fewer individual bills, less interaction with IT providers, reliability, and ease of use add up to a strategic partnership that pays dividends for your business.
Having said all that, I know that managed IT isn't the right solution for every organization. If you are wondering if managed IT is a good solution for your SMB check out this article: Are IT Managed Services A Good Solution For Small And Medium Businesses?