The Difference Between Managed IT Services and Break/Fix Services
Managed IT and break/fix services play vital roles in the world of IT business support. Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular face the choice of picking between break/fix and managed IT, looking to complement the capacities of what IT resources and personnel they do have in place.
Consider managed IT and break/fix cousins in the information technology family tree — both share the goal of addressing key IT concerns such as system repairs, installations and upgrades across hardware, software and networking platforms. Both resolve issues quickly and compliantly. Yet there are fundamental differences between how managed IT services and break/fix IT services perform these functions as well as what clients can realistically expect when working with each.
What Are Break/Fix IT Services?
As the name implies, break/fix IT services only interact with your business when IT problems strike. Break/fix vendors send a professional IT technician to your location to analyze and determine system issues, then provide on-premise remedies. Businesses are charged for the services rendered during their appointment. Break/fix IT services do not carry contracts or subscriptions with ongoing fees built into them.
This ad-hoc approach to network, hardware and software servicing means organizations get the IT services it needs only when it needs them. Little, if any, pre-emptive or continuous support comes with hiring a break/fix technician, though some may provide suggestions or instructions on how to avoid system problems in the future.
Break/fix technicians charge by the hour. They may also charge for initial or post-servicing consultation plus specialty tools and parts needed to fix software or hardware.
Common situations where break/fix services are required include:
- Hardware upgrades or installation
- Peripheral equipment installation
- Network repairs
- Initiating new privacy or defense software
- General IT contractor training or education services
What Are the Advantages of Break/Fix IT Services?
The transactional nature of break/fix IT services does come with its own range of benefits:
- Fee-for-service model: The case-by-case format of break/fix IT means businesses only pay for services actually rendered. No monthly contracts or subscriptions, plus no ongoing or additional fees tacked onto bills. Break/fix IT also means organizations don’t have to undergo the process of contract procurement — researching, vetting, hiring and maintaining a contract agreement with a third-party managed service provider (MSP) who may raise rates or offer unnecessarily complex servicing agreements.
- Autonomy: Organizations with break/fix IT services allow their IT staff to resolve the majority of system glitches or issues on their own, if time and expertise allow. Depending on the dynamics of the IT department, this can be a satisfying and empowering responsibility. Plus, SMBs with a relatively simple IT ecosystem may not require the technical depth — and subsequent expenses — associated with full MSP partnerships.
- Privacy: Data privacy and network security are larger enterprise concerns than ever. With cybersecurity incidents on the rise and growing increasingly complex, many organizations seek cost-effective solutions to tighten IT oversight across web-based, cloud-based or on-premise software, as well as the collaborative hardware and equipment interconnecting them. In fact, over two-thirds of SMBs reported a cybersecurity incident in the past two years, from phishing schemes targeting employees or data-breaching malware to entire system compromises. Those incidents resulted in nearly half of SMBs losing productivity, while over a third lost critical business applications or had to halt business operations altogether. For some organizations, the need for privacy and diligence outweighs the defenses provided by a potential MSP, which could expose them to further breaches or threats. This privacy mindset pushes many companies to stick with an ad-hoc break/fix servicer.
- Simplicity: Businesses with a break/fix servicing mindset keep the vast majority of IT operations in-house. They get to determine when, where, why and how often they allow outside parties into internal systems and software, using a straightforward service that mirrors other service repair models, such as fixing a car. This transactional nature can be appealing for organizations that value simplicity or only have the resources on-hand to manage short-term technical difficulties.
- Control: The straightforward autonomy and emphasis on in-house management gives organizations a heightened sense of IT control. Businesses make all final calls on the reach and access external parties have with their networks, which increases their sense of IT ownership.
What Are the Disadvantages of Break/Fix IT Services?
Like any significant business decision, break/fix IT services are not without drawbacks, particularly in the following areas:
- Budget uncertainty: Break/fix services provide no way for organizations to predict certain IT expenditures. Since break/fix IT management relies on case-by-case transactions when problems actually arise, businesses cannot budget ahead of time. In both the short and long term, break/fix carries far less predictability and far more pricing variability, as different system repairs or malfunctions carry different price tags. Organizations facing problems have no choice but to pay what the technician charges, creating a more precarious budgeting situation.
- Familiarity: Companies that hire outside IT technicians rely on that technician’s knowledge and skill to identify and fix network issues. What’s more, the expediency at which they can do so plays a significant role in their final billings. IT specialists who don’t have a background or familiarity with your particular system will take longer to find and fix its associated problem. Your business ends up footing the higher bill.
- Reactive, not proactive: Break/fix IT services are built around reactive responses, not proactive or ongoing solutions. In fact, the entire fee-for-service model courts little external incentive for technicians or break/fix services to provide lasting system solutions. Repeat problems bring in repeat business, as companies who choose break/fix IT providers opt for short-term convenience over long-term system sustainability.
- Repeat billings: Organizations facing the same hardware or software issues will get billed every time those issues strike, whether it’s the first incident or the fifth. These repeat billings are an essential part of the cost analysis organizations need to consider when determining the differences between managed IT and break/fix services.
- Risk mitigation: Overall, organizations roll the dice more when opting to hire a break/fix IT technician continually. They rely on these experts to address problems holistically and act in their best interests, fixing the occasional network problem — and hoping they stay occasional — rather than solving problems before they arise.
What Are Managed IT Services?
Managed IT services are outsourced third-party service providers (SP) that assume shared responsibility for a company’s entire IT ecosystem.
Rather than opt for situational assistance, managed IT creates a holistic, ongoing relationship between a company and the IT servicer. MSPs predominantly work off-premise, using their own network of systems and trained personnel to actively monitor and address IT problems as they’re identified — which is often well before they become system failures back at the buyer’s place of business.
Managed IT service providers establish service level agreement (SLA) contracts with their clients. SLAs provide pre-established terms and conditions for the scope of MSP work, meaning for a flat, typically monthly fee, MSP customers will receive:
- 24/7 network monitoring and security
- System maintenance
- Software updates, patches
- Live helpdesk support
- General IT system administrative management
What Are the Advantages of Managed IT Services?
Managed IT services carry distinct benefits for businesses seeking a proactive, not reactive, IT environment. The in-depth yet overarching tech services mean clients experience the following advantages with managed IT:
- Predictable payments: The subscription-based model of MSPs provides budget certainty. Clients pay set monthly fees in increments that are typically much smaller than break/fix billings. These monthly fees result in predictive payments which create consistent revenue streams for MSPs as well as steady expense lines within the client’s budget.
- Stability: MSPs have the incentive to keep their clients’ IT environment as smooth, secure and stable as possible straight from a contract’s procurement. Indeed, their own productivity and profitability rely on it. This retains customers and maintains the MSP’s overall reputation as well as reduces their own employee labor and streamlines operations to be more cost-effective and efficient. The end result is servers, computers, laptops, mobile devices and holistic networks more actively protected and cared for at a flat, monthly rate, stabilizing all activities.
- Shared ownership: Remote managing and monitoring (RMM) software allows the MSP to provide off-premise services to their clients. Shared ownership means true, around-the-clock services guarded against data hacks, firewall breaches, distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, possible phishing schemes and additional top cybersecurity threats facing today’s organizations. What’s more, MSP teams are comprised of expert technicians who grow familiar with your specific network, server and hardware needs. Their interests align with yours, as does their fluency in all technical matters related to running your everyday operations.
- Streamlined servicing: It’s in an MSP’s best interest to keep their own internal processes and service deliverables as repetitive as possible. By matching consistent employee best practices with top-tier industry technology like professional service automation (PSA) equipment products, all monitoring and defense activities can be streamlined to be more efficient and cost-effective. MSPs save time and money in their own right and can, therefore, better serve individual clients.
- Peace of mind: Managed IT services’ 24/7 model takes a proactive and comprehensive approach to enterprise IT management. From more secure cloud deployments and third-party app protection to reducing human errors and using network cybersecurity as a solution, MSP clients are guaranteed 360-degree support. MSP helpdesks are available whenever clients require assistance. Clients can rest easier, knowing their IT investments are always taken care of.
What Are the Disadvantages of Managed IT Services?
Managed IT services are not without their own list of general outsourced cybersecurity considerations for all organizations to weigh:
- Loss of full control: Managed IT services may trigger alarms in leadership unfamiliar or uncomfortable with outsourced involvement in some of their most expensive and essential business assets — IT infrastructure. Just as break/fix services give organizations a tighter sense of control over network access and permissions, managed IT services trade that feeling of autonomous control for additional oversight. For some, the loss of complete, in-house IT agency may be challenging.
- Initial set-up costs: Managed IT services will carry higher up-front expenses than a break/fix model. Often, this is due to the fact MSPs will charge early set-up fees to integrate its off-premise hardware, software, server and network monitoring technology with your on-premise equipment.
- Payment regardless of usage: The subscription basis for managed IT services means organizations must pay regardless of services rendered that month. MSPs have a clear advantage in diagnosing glitches before they expand into major system failures. Yet if no such glitches arise over the long term, companies can be left with the impression their subscription is ineffectual.
- Contract management: For many new or small businesses, initial MSP contract procurement may be resource intensive and impractical. They may not have an appropriate level of IT infrastructure in place to secure most MSP contracts — or remain altogether unfamiliar about what goes into an MSP contract and relationship. These expectations must be negotiated clearly and explicitly from the earliest conversations to keep all parties satisfied.
- Trust: At the end of the day, an MSP has a window into a client’s complete IT architecture. That means all devices, all programs and all server operations. It takes trust and transparency for the buyer-MSP relationship to operate smoothly, with both parties feeling mutually validated.
How Are IT Managed Services Different From Break/Fix Services?
At their core, managed IT services and break/fix services compare and contrast along the following principles:
- Cost: Managed services court steady, stable subscriptions and fees, whereas break/fix services are variable. While the frequency of break/fix billings should be less, their totals tend to far exceed the monthly servicing fees — and likely the lifetime cost — of an MSP — especially after a major IT infrastructure meltdown.
- Payment structure: Break/fix technicians charge by the hour in fee-for-service transactions. Organizations learn technician prices through quotes and industry averages, but don’t know the exact total until the technician completes their patch and sends their invoice. In contrast, managed IT services charge flat monthly rates, giving businesses predictive billings.
- Agency: Both managed IT and break/fix services provide businesses a form of agency. With MSPs, dual IT infrastructure ownership can free a company to focus on core, growth-oriented domains rather than daily system monitoring. On the other hand, break/fix services keep the day-to-day IT workings of organizations under wraps, managed only by them.
- Stability: Managed IT services are built to provide more overall system visibility and stability. Break/fix models only provide reactive patching or product-specific services.
- Risk: Organizations that opt for break/fix models trade long-term security and stability for short-term monetary savings. They bank their IT systems will remain intact, perfectly functioning, or that issues will be so minor, they’ll cost less than even a baseline MSP subscription. Managed IT contracts don’t take that gamble, preferring a risk-mitigation strategy before any problems strike.
- Helpdesk functions: Managed IT service providers will have 24/7 monitorization and communications portals for clients to interface with. Break/fix services have no such helpdesk.
- Client scope: Small- to medium-sized businesses with simple IT infrastructure may only require an “a la carte-style” MSP service packages at their current scale — or simply opt to go at it alone, choosing to handle the additional risk internally. However, larger organizations or those with remote employees will likely need outsourced help for their more extensive networks.
Break/Fix or Managed IT? You Decide
Ultimately, each business must determine for itself which is right for its operations and its staff. There is no “one-size-fits-all” IT management solution — only organization-specific improvements.
To find out if an MSP or a break/fix model is more appropriate for your organization, try the following:
- Survey employees to get their opinions on current IT security and monitor workloads and capacities.
- Compare your organization to others of similar size and scope in your industry. Which do they use?
- Analyze your business’ overall risk tolerance.
- Weigh how each option could contribute to or detract from strategic enterprise goals.
Contact Consolidated Technologies, Inc. for Modern-Day Managed IT Solutions
Take the leap in better protecting your company’s critical assets with managed IT services powered by Consolidated Technologies, Inc. We bring together IT experts and best-in-class products to provide powerful solutions to SMBs in the New York Metro area. We are continually innovating and preparing for the next generation of technological advances, so you can rest easy knowing we’ll manage your systems with the most current solutions available.