What Is A Break/Fix IT Provider? The Pros & Cons
When business leaders like you consider hiring an external IT provider, it's important to know your options.
At Kelser, we want to provide all of the information you need to make the best IT decision for your organization.
In this article, I’ll honestly explain the advantages and disadvantages of working with a break/fix provider. In the interest of full disclosure, I work for Kelser Corporation, a managed IT provider. But in this article, I’m going to put that aside and honestly evaluate the pros and cons of break/fix IT solutions..
You may wonder why I’m writing this article that provides you with information about what some people might consider our competition. The answer is simple: you need an honest assessment of the pros and cons of all of your options to choose the right provider for your organization.
What Is A Break/Fix Provider?
A break/fix provider is a traditional, reactive approach to IT service. When something breaks, the provider comes and fixes it, so you can get back to business. This is typically a pay-as-you-go option for service.
The goal of break/fix is to reduce costs and decrease downtime by getting quick service to resolve issues.
Who Provides Break/Fix Services?
Some of the more common break/fix service providers are:
- independent IT professionals and consultants (sometimes referred to as “computer repair” people)
- electronics and office supply retailers (like Best Buy and Staples)
- smaller IT firms and consultants (local providers)
- larger IT firms and consultants (national providers)
Your experience may vary between the different types of companies that provide break/fix services. For example, you’ll likely have a different walk-in experience with an smaller, independent IT professional or retailer than you would with a nationwide IT firm.
On the flip side, retailers and larger IT firms likely have more immediate access to hardware and deeper discounts due to their relationships with vendors. Those larger firms may also ask that you sign a contract with them or be a customer before dropping by or calling for repairs.
What Services Do Break/Fix Providers Offer?
Typical services offered by break/fix providers or under break/fix agreements include:
- hardware configuration
- hardware installation
- peripheral setup
- software configuration
- virus/malware scanning and removal
- data recovery
What Do Break/Fix Services Cost?
Break/fix service costs vary depending on the services you need, how many devices you have, how often you need support, and the type of service company you select.
Retailers list their service packages at $30-400 per device per year for break/fix coverage with separate fees for things like additional service hours or on-site visits, and hardware replacement.
Smaller break/fix providers will likely base their price on similar factors including:
- number of devices covered or being worked on
- type of service being provided
- hardware (as needed)
- number of hours the repair or service takes
- on-site vs. remote repair
- software and licensing costs
Though some break/fix service providers may charge a small retainer fee (like the retailer in the example above), it’s more likely that with a small, local provider, you’ll pay only when work is performed and not in between..
What Are The Advantages Of Working With A Break/Fix Provider?
Among the advantages of working with are break/fix provider are the following:
Depending on the provider you choose, with many break/fix service providers, you are more likely to pay only for what you need, when you need it. This can be a distinct advantage for small and medium-sized businesses who have limited resources.
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. This differentiation may make a difference for some organizations.
When something breaks, you make a call and someone comes to fix it. This is a fairly straightforward approach to service.
Working with a break/fix provider offers a less-expensive solution than hiring an internal IT expert. This is another reason break/fix is an attractive option for small and medium-sized businesses.
With a break/fix provider, you gain additional resources to support your infrastructure without adding to your staff. This frees up any internal IT staff you might have to work on other things and not get called off their daily work to respond to emergencies.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Working With A Break/Fix Provider?
As with all things in life, there are disadvantages of relying on a break/fix provider as well. Here are some of them:
Break/fix IT service is inherently reactive. You won't find long-term, strategic guidance and planning support with a break/fix provider.
While we mentioned that hiring a break/fix IT service provider is less expensive than adding to your internal staff, the cost of this service model is also unpredictable.
Depending on the age and complexity of your infrastructure and devices, you may end up needing a lot of service and never knowing when something will go wrong.
When things break, you need them fixed immediately and may not have a full understanding of the cost of the fix until after the work is done.
When you work with a break/fix provider, you likely won’t know the skills and experience of the person coming to your site. You may also not know how soon they will get there, whether they will have what the job requires, and if they will provide a temporary or permanent solution.
And, as we’ve mentioned above, you most likely won’t know the cost of the service until after the fact.
Break/fix service providers often send different people each time you need service, so there may be a learning curve involved every time you make a service request. This could result in fixes taking longer.
The security of your network is imperative. A break/fix provider may be able to help restore service if you are hacked, but at that point the damage is already done. Break/fix providers do not typically offer the proactive cybersecurity services your IT environment needs.
Who Might Be A Good Fit For Break/Fix Services?
Break/fix arrangements work well for some businesses. It may be right for you if your company:
- Can tolerate some level of downtime
- Can absorb unexpected capital expense hits
- Has a comfortable handle on the rest of your IT environment
- Doesn’t have complex technology in your environment
- Doesn't want to sign an ongoing agreement for a length of time
- Doesn’t have significant contractual or regulatory compliance requirements
For example, if you own a small business that uses a single office desktop, break/fix services may be your best option.
What’s The Bottom Line When It Comes To IT Service?
After reading this article, you have a comprehensive understanding of break/fix IT service. You know what a break/fix provider is, the kinds of organizations that offer break/fix services, what services are included, what it costs, and the advantages and the disadvantages.
This information will help you confidently decide whether a break/fix solution will work for you.
Related article: Break/Fix Vs. Managed IT: Cost, Reliability, Security, Productivity
If you are seriously considering working with an external IT support provider, we encourage you to explore several options. Consider not only for the type of service that would be best for your organization, but also which provider would be the right fit.
In fact, we take this advice so seriously that we've done some of the legwork for you. Check out this article that compares Walker and Kelser. Visit our learning center to see more comparison and general IT-related articles.
If you prefer to talk with a person, click the button below, fill out the 2-question form, and one of our IT experts will reach out to you within 24 hours to explore your technology needs and talk about whether managed IT is a good fit for you. (And, don't worry, we won't bombard you with emails and phone calls or sell your information.)