Why Break/Fix IT Management Fails
May 26, 2022
When it comes to finding IT support to help your organization meet its goals, there are so many different options and methods for delivering that support that it can be hard to keep up with it all. Managed IT services can play a key role in helping small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) get the IT resources they need to keep up in today’s tech-driven world.
One model for delivering IT support that is still surprisingly common is the break/fix IT management model. While this form of IT service delivery can be incredibly affordable, it’s rarely the best fit for any business.
Let’s take a look at break/fix IT support, what it is, what the problems with it are, and how a more proactive approach to IT can benefit your organization.
What Is Break/Fix IT Management?
Break/fix IT management could be considered the ultimate expression of the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Under a break/fix model, your IT support provider doesn’t act until after they receive a report that something is wrong. This may sometimes be referred to as an “as-needed IT support” or a “reactive model IT” service.
When sold as part of a third-party service, this ad-hoc IT management strategy is often charged by the hour instead of a set periodic retainer fee. So, the major benefit of this model is that, in a typical month, break/fix IT costs are lower than a more proactive IT management strategy—at least, so long as nothing goes wrong.
You aren’t paying for someone to sit down, review all of your IT assets, come up with a long-term IT strategy, provide preventative maintenance, or perform other routine tasks. Instead, the IT support only kicks in if you ask them to do something about an IT failure or have some other specific project in mind.
However, when done with an internal IT team, the cost benefits of break/fix IT management disappear almost entirely. When your own internal IT team is waiting for IT failures or specific project requests to make changes or perform basic maintenance, you get all the expense of having an internal team with only a portion of the benefit.
The Perils of Break/Fix IT Support
If you look up “Is break/fix IT dying” or a similar search, you’ll find dozens of articles declaring that not only is this IT service model dead, but organizations that provide it are dooming themselves along with their clients.
What are the dangers of relying on break/fix IT support over taking a more thoughtful and proactive approach to IT management? A few of the potential problems you might encounter with such a reactive IT support strategy include:
1. Increased IT Downtime
The most common problem with break/fix IT is that, inevitably, something will break. Once something breaks, it’s up to you to notice the problem and reach out to your IT support provider. This creates an inherent delay in fixing IT issues that crop up.
Additionally, when you employ a break/fix IT strategy, you end up skipping on important preventative maintenance, system updates, and upgrades that help prevent downtime in the first place. This increases the risk of experiencing unplanned downtime and IT outages.
In short, with a break/fix strategy, not only are you more likely to experience IT downtime—it will take longer to address an outage because of the communications lag between your organization and your IT support vendor.
Here’s the thing: IT downtime is expensive. According to Atlassian, the average cost of IT downtime ranges from $5,600/minute to nearly $9,000/minute—though most SMBs have it a bit easier at $137-$427/minute. So, if your systems are down for a whole day, that would cost anywhere from $197,280 to $12,960,000 depending on the size of your organization and the nature of the downtime.
2. Increased IT Budget Volatility
A break/fix IT strategy is supposed to help you reduce IT costs. However, the practice of waiting for something to break and then looking for IT specialist labor on an hourly basis can actually be more expensive than simply hiring a more proactive, fully-managed IT service provider on a retainer basis.
Hourly rates for IT technicians vary depending on their experience, location, and other variables. A rate between $100 and $300 per hour per tech would be reasonable. Let’s say you have a major IT failure that takes several business days of labor to fix—about 36 hours spread across three days and two different software engineers to diagnose the issue and apply an appropriate fix. That’s 72 hours of downtime at a low rate of $137/minute and 36 hours of labor billed at a median rate of $150/hr.
The labor would cost you $5,400 in this case. This might not be a lot to an established business with a healthy budget, but it could be a major drain on a company that’s already faced with strict financial challenges. Yet, even that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of all that IT downtime!
A more proactive approach to IT that minimizes your risk of unplanned downtime could actually save you a lot of money in the long run. At the very least, having a managed IT service with a predictable monthly cost is certainly easier to account for in the budget than the random expense of bringing on a team of IT engineers every time something needs fixing.
3. A Lack of Cohesion in Your IT Strategy
Break/fix support is an inherently ad hoc method of dealing with IT issues. In essence, you make fixes and additions to your IT infrastructure and assets as you identify problems. This can create a few problems as your IT loses cohesiveness:
- Increased IT Complexity. Technology is already incredibly complicated. However, an ad hoc strategy of using whatever tools are handy to fix an immediate problem without any forethought put into what your IT infrastructure and resources will look like in the future can create a monstrous patchwork of solutions and tools. This makes managing your IT much more difficult as the IT manager has to account for a chaotic mishmash of IT assets to even begin to identify the root cause of an issue.
- IT Security Vulnerabilities. Randomly adding new software, hardware, and interfaces could create program conflicts and security vulnerabilities because of how they interact with other assets in your IT network. For example, say you add a new server to your network—but it doesn’t use the same architecture as your older legacy servers. You update the new server to have multi-factor authentication and other security measures, but the old servers still use obsolete security tools because they aren’t compatible with the same security solutions. The old servers could become a vulnerable point for hackers to get into—despite you thinking that you’re protected because the new servers have the latest security. This is sometimes referred to as an “uneven attack surface” in cybersecurity circles.
- Poor User Experience (UX) for Your IT Resources. User experience is a major factor in IT adoption and use. You could have the best programs for executing tasks on the planet, but if the interface and UX for it are horrible, nobody’s going to want to use them. Having an ad hoc IT infrastructure where countless different assets are stitched together without rhyme or reason can make for an extremely clunky and dissatisfying UX. If your users are your employees, then this means you’ll lose out on the productivity benefits of the software or hardware as your employees avoid using the solution. If your users are your customers, then you might lose your customers to competitors who provide a better UX.
How to Make IT Management More Proactive (and Less Stressful)
You should never be left wondering “Am I going to see a major IT failure today?” However, that’s where a break/fix IT strategy leaves you. With this reactive rather than proactive approach to IT, you always have to wonder if there will be some kind of problem that you need to get fixed.
This can create a level of stress that, frankly, you shouldn’t have to deal with. Thankfully, there is a better way: fully managed IT services from a reliable IT service provider.
With a fully-managed IT service, you can have your managed service provider (MSP) help you create a holistic strategy for your IT infrastructure and assets—identifying obsolete assets that need to be removed or updated, checking for major security flaws that need addressing, and finding ways to optimize your IT to improve performance, stability, and user experience.
Instead of worrying about if you’re going to need to account for a major IT expenditure, why not switch to a predictable monthly IT cost that removes the volatility from your budget planning?
Need help now? IT Proactive is here for you!