Information technology can be an amazing asset or necessary evil for every organization. Larger companies can build a team of resources with a mix of skill sets tailored to support the organization’s mission critical systems. Unfortunately, for smaller organizations it is impossible to invest heavily in a team of IT talent. Many times IT becomes the responsibility of the person who can spell “PC” or who likes to tinker with all things technological. Rarely are we talking about an expert systems engineer.

So, these organizations typically turn to an outsourced technology solutions provider. These firms exist to help smaller businesses overcome the technology obstacles that challenge them every day. No one can afford to have their system down, security breached, backups fail or end users being unproductive. But, not all service providers and approaches are the same.

In fact, today there are a couple of alternatives. The first is the traditional ‘Break-Fix’ model. In more recent years, many IT service providers have moved to a Managed Services model. Let’s take a look at both.

Break-Fix Model

Break-Fix was the original form of outsourced IT developed many years ago as PCs and networks became the standard in small and mid-sized organizations. As the name implies, this model was and still is pretty straightforward – something breaks (a problem occurs), you call your IT services company, they send someone to take a look at the problem, and they fix it. You get an invoice for the time spent fixing the problem.

Many small companies still subscribe to this Break-Fix model because they think it saves them money. They try to save money by doing IT themselves (usually poorly or at the expense of their regular role). They also think they are paying only for what they use. Unfortunately there are problems with this model:

  • It’s not win-win. The client has a problem so they are frustrated (it’s broken). The IT company is happy because it means they are generating revenue.
  • It’s inefficient. The IT company is billing by the hour. There is no incentive for them to work quickly or even get to the root cause of the problem (after all, if it breaks again next week they get to come back out and bill more hours).
  • It’s reactive. The IT company waits for something to break and then jumps into action. There is nothing done proactively to help avoid downtime, breakdowns are unpredictable, and so are the client’s IT expenditures.
  • Limited IT Talent. Because the IT company cannot predict their revenue stream from Break-Fix client work it is more difficult for them to invest in the necessary resources to deliver high level service to their clients.

Managed Services Model

As you can predict, the Managed Services model involves a more proactive approach involving tools, technology, and processes designed to prevent issues from causing system to go down. In this model a potential issue is identified through monitoring tools or system administrative procedures, the IT services company diagnoses the issue and resolves it before it causes an outage.

As opposed to the Break-Fix model, there are many advantages to Managed Services:

  • It’s win-win. The IT company spends their time keeping things fully operational and reducing downtime. This creates a happy client and also helps the IT company manage their staffing requirements.
  • It’s efficient. As noted above, the IT company wants to keep things running smoothly so that they are not called out on unplanned issues. Additional hours on site fixing problems hurt efficiency.
  • It’s proactive. The tools and procedures are put in place to alert the IT company and the company of impending problems giving everyone the opportunity to fix the issue before it creates downtime. It includes more preventive care of the IT systems.
  • Depth and breadth of IT talent. Managed Services IT companies can plan their staffing needs including having adequate help desk resources, as well as experienced engineers required to keep client systems running in top form.

This model is usually based on a monthly fee based on the number of users or devices. That fee will include unlimited monitoring, management and support of all IT systems. No matter how many hours are spent, the monthly fee does not change. Paying a monthly fee for access to a team of IT professionals will get you and your employees out of the IT business, it will reduce unproductive downtime, and let you and your team focus on running your business.

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