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Break/fix IT: What is it, and what are its flaws?

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Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) often have limited resources when it comes to resolving IT. Most SMBs do not have the tools and expertise to fix IT problems themselves, forcing them to rely on an outside provider, such as a managed service provider (MSP) or a break/fix IT technician. Of the two options, the break/fix IT model is often perceived as the more economic and efficient choice, as costs are incurred only when a problem arrises. Unfortunately, break/fix IT comes with serious flaws that you need to consider.   

What is break/fix IT?

The break/fix IT model is a form of IT support that operates on a reactive “as-needed” basis. Whenever a device malfunctions or a network falters, businesses reach out to their IT services provider, who responds to fix the problem, similar to calling on a plumber whenever you need to have a leaky pipe fixed.

A break/fix IT support provider employs various measures to restore normal network operations, including component replacement and installation, hardware repairs, network management, and troubleshooting. Outside of technical issues, a break/fix IT provider is typically uninvolved in daily IT needs, leaving the responsibility of ensuring uptime and business continuity to the business’s internal IT department.

For many years, the break/fix model was considered the reasonable option, as there was little need for any other service approach. That changed with the widespread digitization of workplaces and markets. While digitization sped up workflow, it also exponentially increased market demand, which increased the impact of downtime on a business’s profits and productivity. Despite the delays inherent to the break/fix model — such as the wait time for a provider to respond, which can prolong downtime — many SMBs still opt for the break/fix approach. This is because the pay-as-needed payment structure offers SMBs supposed cost savings in the short term.

Advantages of break/fix:

Besides the short-term savings advantage of break/fix IT, there are other benefits to this type of IT support, including:

  • No monthly subscription: Small businesses with minimal technology needs or a limited number of technology users may find that the break/fix model is a more cost-effective option than entering into a contract with an MSP. This is because break/fix services are only paid for when they are needed.
  • IT budget control: Businesses that choose the break/fix model have complete control over their IT spending. They can decide when and how much to spend on IT services, without locking themselves into a contract with an MSP.

Flaws of break/fix IT

Ultimately, the break/fix IT model comes with several major flaws that for many businesses far outweigh its supposed advantages, including:

  • Long-term costs: Paying for multiple service calls and repetitive repairs can accumulate into sizable long-term expenditures. In addition, opting for the break/fix option may mean savings in the short term but at the risk of greater expenses in the long term. This is because IT problems are rarely predictable, as the frequency and severity of technical issues can vary drastically from month to month.
  • Downtime: Break/fix providers often lack robust service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee minimal operational time, resulting in uncertain response and repair times. This can lead to extensive and unpredictable downtime that threatens brand reputation, business relevance, and revenue due to loss of productivity and customer frustration.
  • Inconsistent service quality: The reactive nature of the break/fix IT model can mean inconsistent IT support, because the quality of service with which a provider addresses one problem may not be the same with a different problem.  
  • Short-term solutions: If your business focuses too much on immediate issue resolution instead of proactive IT management involving scheduled upgrades, you may be exposing it to cybersecurity risks that target outdated vulnerabilities. Moreover, break/fix providers rarely employ preventative measures — such as constant monitoring of client systems — increasing the likelihood of future problems.
  • Compliance issues: Depending on the industry of your SMB, you need to ensure your IT and data security measures comply with industry standards. Break/fix providers are not equipped to assist you in meeting such standards. 

Learn more about the differences between break/fix and managed services IT by contacting predictiveIT to speak with one of our experts.