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Karen Cohen

By: Karen Cohen on January 20, 2023

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Break/Fix Vs. Managed IT Support: 4 Key Differences

Managed Services | IT Support

If you are considering external IT support, you likely are exploring two options: break/fix and managed IT. Each approach has its place, and each does some things better than the other. 

As a managed IT provider, we are often asked which approach is better. 

With 40 years in the IT industry, Kelser has helped hundreds of businesses determine the right technology solution for their organizations. While we specialize in managed IT, we know that isn’t the right solution for everyone. 

In this article, we promise to provide an unbiased look at 4 key differences between break/fix and managed it support.

Once you’ve read this article, you’ll have the information you need to decide which approach will work best for your organization. 

4 Key Differences Between Break/Fix and Managed IT Support 

Both break/fix and managed IT support solutions provide businesses with extra IT resources. Some of the key differences between the two offerings are the approach to service, cost structure, skills, and nature of the relationship.

1. Service Approach

One of the main differences between break/fix and managed IT support is the way each approaches IT service. 

Break/Fix 

Break/Fix IT service is reactive. In other words, when something breaks, you call the provider to come to fix it.

This is an as-needed arrangement that focuses on fixing each issue as it arises. Each issue is handled as a separate incident and is handled in isolation.

Managed IT 

Managed IT is a comprehensive, proactive approach to IT service.

When you sign up with a managed IT provider you enter into a contract that provides for ongoing monitoring and maintenance of your entire IT infrastructure.

This holistic approach focuses on preventing problems throughout the entire technology environment.

2. Cost Structure

The two arrangements have very different cost structures. 

Break/Fix

When working with a break/fix provider, your costs are determined on a per-fix basis.

Some providers may also require a retainer to engage them for on-demand service. Some may allow you to purchase a block of service hours. These arrangements can vary from one provider to another.

Often thought of as a less costly option, that may not actually be the case.

Break/fix IT support cost is unpredictable and the true cost can be difficult to calculate because some costs may be charged to department budgets rather than rolled up as one collective IT expense. 

With break/fix, you often won’t know the full cost of a repair until it is done and it can be difficult to prepare an accurate budget and track the true IT spend for your organization. 

Managed IT

With managed IT support, you pay the same consistent fee every month for a comprehensive suite of ongoing services from a full team of IT experts. 

As the cost of the managed IT staff is shared among customers, this is a much more affordable option than hiring a complete team of in-house IT experts. You get all of the expertise you need for a fraction of the cost of hiring the full complement of experts that every IT network needs.

3. Skills

Different providers may offer different skills as well. 

Break/Fix

Break fix providers typically have employees with the basic skills needed to handle most general repairs. If you are looking for help with an IT project or a new server installation, they may or may not have the staffing expertise to handle those things. 

Break/fix providers also don’t typically have people who can provide strategic advice and guidance about infrastructure improvements you may need to support your business goals.

Managed IT

When you sign an agreement with a managed IT support services provider, you join forces with a team of experts that has the skills to support the complete care of your infrastructure.

The services often include: 

      • infrastructure monitoring and automated maintenance for networks, servers, and workstations 
      • service desk support for users
      • anti-virus and anti-malware solutions
      • incident notification and remediation
      • managed spam filtering and protection
      • email support
      • employee security awareness training
      • license management

Related article: What Is Managed IT Support? (Essential & Premium Services)


Managed IT providers may also include the services of virtual chief information officers (vCIOs) and technical alignment managers (TAMs).

These experts pair their deep technical knowledge with their full understanding of your IT environment to ensure that your technology is aligned with your business goals to yield success. 

With a deep bench of skills, many managed IT providers can handle project needs as well, providing one-stop shopping for all of your IT needs. 

4. Relationship

The relationships with the two types of providers can feel very different.

Break/Fix

Just by the nature of the business arrangement, a relationship with a break/fix provider feels very transactional. The provider fixes broken equipment as needed in return for payment. 

Managed IT

A relationship with a managed IT provider is ongoing, long-term, proactive, and responsive. The provider learns the nuances of your business and your technology infrastructure and provides ongoing care and guidance based on your goals

Where Do You Go From Here? 

Now you have a full understanding of four key differences between break/fix and managed IT support services. We’ve talked about the service approach, cost structure, skills, and relationship attributes of each option.  

Only you can decide which type of IT support service provider is a good fit for your organization.

Some of the variables in your decision could include the degree to which your organization relies on technology, the age of your technology infrastructure, your risk for cyberattacks, and your tolerance for downtime. 

Break/fix providers offer the advantage of operating without a contract. They may be a good fit for small organizations with only a few devices and minimal cybersecurity risk. 

Managed IT providers provide full, ongoing services for your network. For one monthly fee, everything works consistently and there are no expensive surprises. Fewer individual bills, enhanced reliability, ease of use, and comprehensive care can pay dividends for your business.


Related article: What Is Managed IT? What’s Included? What Does It Cost?


As you explore external IT support options, we encourage you to compare several providers. In fact, we take this advice so seriously that we’ve even done some of the legwork for you.

We know from personal experience that one of the first things most consumers do when considering an important purchase is to compare options online. 

We’ve put together this comparison of IT Direct and Kelser based on publicly available information on the internet. Read it and see how our services compare. 

Wondering what businesses are a good match for managed IT? Check out this article to find out if managed IT support is a good solution for small and medium businesses.

Are you concerned about your organization’s ability to respond to the latest cybersecurity threats? Consider investing in employee security awareness training. We provide an honest  cost-benefit analysis of employee security awareness training in this article.  

Or, get the free cybersecurity checklist to understand where your organization has security gaps, learn actions you can take today to keep your data secure, and ensure that your organization follows the latest cybersecurity best practices to protect your business. 

Download Your Cybersecurity Checklist

About Karen Cohen

Karen brings unending curiosity to her role as Kelser's Content Manager. If you have a question, she wants to know the answer.

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