Understanding different IT service models: Break/fix versus managed services

Understanding different IT service models: Break/fix versus managed services

As small and midsize businesses get larger, one of the main issues they have to address is building and managing an increasingly complex IT environment. For these businesses, working with an IT service provider can remove the pressure of managing IT for themselves. However, deciding to work with an IT service provider is only one part of the equation. The business must then decide which kind of service provider they wish to work with, and this can often be a confusing decision to make.

The two main varieties of IT service providers are managed services providers and break/fix providers. This series of blog posts will compare the two options, helping you arrive at an educated decision regarding which one would be the best choice for your business. We'll start with a look at what the two terms mean, before delving deeper to look at the pros and cons of each.

About break/fix IT services

A break/fix IT service provider follows a business model that involves implementing an IT environment on behalf of a company, but not providing any ongoing maintenance or management activities thereafter. As the name suggests, a break/fix service provider only returns to work on an IT infrastructure when their clients report a specific issue that needs to be addressed. Clients typically don't pay for break/fix services on a regular basis, but instead pay only as services are rendered.

Break/fix was the standard model for IT services for many years, particularly among small and midsize businesses. However, the advent of managed services changed this.

About managed services

Like a break/fix IT service provider, a managed service provider (MSP) is a company that helps their clients deploy an IT infrastructure, but this is where the similarities between the two end. Managed service providers take a much more proactive approach to IT services, providing maintenance and management services on an ongoing basis, rather than waiting until something goes wrong to come in and fix it.

Typically, clients pay for managed services on a monthly basis, which should cover the cost of any issues that need to be fixed within the IT infrastructure. In fact, one of the main selling points of managed services is the potential to identify these issues in advance and prevent them from even occurring in the first place. Managed services first gained traction in enterprise settings, as these larger companies tend to have very high standards for IT uptime and performance, and don't mind dedicating a portion of their monthly budget to ensuring that they meet those standards. However, within the last couple of years, managed service providers have also started to gear their services toward small and midsize businesses.

The verdict

There are pros and cons to each of these options, so it's impossible to say that one or the other is the best option in every situation. However, managed services will usually be the right choice for the majority of businesses that are considering IT services, since taking a proactive approach to avoid problems before they occur will usually be a much better use of a business' limited IT budget.

Check back soon for the next post in this series, where we'll examine the pros and cons of both of these options in more detail. Over the next two posts, the inherent advantages managed services can offer should start to become clear.

- Jim

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