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The IT Department You Wish You Had

There are a variety of approaches to providing technical support to small and medium businesses, but the two common models are ‘Break-Fix’ and ‘Managed Services’. But what are these two different approaches and why should you care?

 Break-fix is pretty straightforward; something breaks, and then someone fixes it. This is the most common approach taken by small businesses. It has worked for many firms for a long time.

The other model is referred to by some variation of “managed services”. This one is different from break-fix in that computers are managed pro-actively, to check for potential warning signs before they can cause problems. Managed services may or may not include items like anti-virus, backups and disaster prevention, status and health reports, or things like a help desk that you can call, to name a few. This method has been in use with large enterprises for a long time, but has only begun to gain popularity among smaller firms over the past couple years.

Why Should I Care?

One of the most misunderstood factors of running a business that relies heavily on technology is downtime. The big difference between break-fix and Managed Services comes when you calculate the cost of downtime. Downtime is arguably the single biggest IT expense a small or mid-sized company can face. And a managed service program can help to greatly minimize the amount of time you are without your computers.

Think of it in terms of your car. If you do all the regularly scheduled maintenance on your car, it’ll last longer. Do the tire rotations, oil and lube, whatever, tere’s a better chance that your mechanic will come to you and say “everything looks okay, but we noticed this issue that you’ll need to address soon”. You know about things before they happen. You get preventative maintenance. Or you can wait until you’re stuck at the side of the road with a growing puddle of oil under your car while you hang around for the tow truck.

Your computer is the same. With managed services, someone is proactively looking after the health of your computers. And if there’s a major problem pending, you have the ability to schedule a time to do the required fix or repair, instead of reacting to the problem when things break.

Which One is Better?

You need to look at your tolerance for pain, and your ability to work productively without your computers. The more you rely on your computers, the more that managed services make sense, since you can minimize unexpected downtime.

How long do you want your computer to last? Following the car repair analogy, we all know that a well maintained car will last longer than one that only sees the mechanic when things break. So it is with computers too. You may have a redundancy plan in place with a few different computers sitting around as a backup plan, or perhaps you use hosted / cloud based services. In this case you may find that break-fix is easier for you and makes more sense. If one computer breaks, you can switch to another while the other is fixed.

So ask yourself the questions about your tolerance for problems, and do the math to calculate your cost of downtime. And then decide if managed services are right for you.