In the pursuit of increased productivity, businesses are expanding their use of new technologies at a rapid pace. Nowadays, staying on top of every IT process that requires regular support and maintenance is a full-time job in and of itself . Luckily, there are a number of different professional IT support services that can help–but how do you tell them apart?
When choosing the IT support service that is best suited to the needs of your business, it helps to know all of the available options. Below, we’ll walk you through the three most common types of outsourced IT providers–break-fix, project oriented, and managed services–to get a better sense of what each one brings to the table.
1. Break-Fix IT Provider
Like the name implies, break-fix IT service providers are there to fix problems as they arise on an on-call basis. For the most part, these will be one-and-done services like repairing a broken server or removing a computer virus. One of the benefits of break-fix is that your company won’t have to enter into an extended contract with an IT service provider. This is great for highly technical business owners who know exactly what services they need, but may not have the time to do the work themselves. From a customer’s perspective, there are still quite a few instances where break-fix is the best option:
- A small franchise or agency of a larger organization, where the parent organization makes most decisions about technology but the local owner is still responsible for day to day operations; branched insurance agencies are a good example of this type of business.
- A startup business that needs to spend their money on their core business to grow.
- A business may want to outsource minor IT work to a break-fix service in order to keep their internal IT department from becoming bogged down with non-critical assignments.
The business model of break-fix IT has come under fire in recent years for its reactive approach to problem-solving. Because break-fix IT companies are only paid when something goes wrong, they have a vested interest in suggesting solutions that put more money into their pockets rather than what is best for the customer. For example, a break-fix IT specialist might be called in to remove a computer virus from an employee’s laptop, whereupon they notice that all of the businesses’ computers are running inadequate anti-virus software. Rather than tell the business owner about the underlying security risk, they decide to keep the information under their hats, ensuring a steady stream of future work.
2. Project-Oriented IT Provider
Even companies with minimal IT needs will from time to time have a decent sized technology project that requires outside help. Project-oriented IT providers specialize in one-time services like setting up a new network, migrating old software solutions to new cloud-based solutions, or switching from a traditional phone service to a VoIP system.
Project-oriented IT providers and break-fix IT providers are similar in that they both focus on handling one specific project, rather than providing ongoing IT support. However, the scope of the projects that project-oriented IT services perform are generally much larger than those of break-fix companies.
Even if your business already has an in-house IT department, recruiting a project-oriented IT service is a great way to make sure that you aren’t spreading your resources too thin. Your current IT staff is probably capable of setting up a new network, but seeking outside help can expedite the process and ensures that your IT employees can stay on top of day-to-day operations. Hiring a project-oriented IT service is also a great opportunity to bring in a team that has an area of expertise that you don’t have internally.
3. Managed Service IT Provider
Managed service providers (MSPs), unlike both break-fix and project-oriented IT providers, will manage and monitor a business’ IT infrastructure for a predetermined monthly fee. These companies perform regular server maintenance, manage network security, update business software, monitor system performance, provide support desk services, as well as any other tasks necessary to keep your business running smoothly. In many cases these providers are going to include software such as anti-virus, anti-malware, spam filtering, desktop remote control software, and other tools in their monthly price. Most MSPs are also going to give you a response time guarantee, which you won’t get from a break-fix or project based company.
Now, not all MSPs are alike. There are three main kinds of managed service providers, with each playing a specific role dependent on a company’s size and technology needs. In Part II of this series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the different MSPs to see what sets them apart, and which one is best suited for your company’s needs.
Which one is best for you?
If you’re a fresh start up company, funds are limited and you’re likely running in the red. A break-fix solution mixed with projects where necessary is probably your best bet to limit costs as much as possible. If you’re a larger organization with an existing IT team, project based providers can be an excellent way to bring in expertise on a specific issue or upgrade path when needed. For all other companies struggling with their internal IT or lacking proper technology management outright, a managed service provider can be a highly cost effective alternative – especially those offering project based services on-top of their monthly support. No matter which one you choose, we strongly suggest that you select a provider who isn’t trying to juggle break-fix services with the responsibility of being your companies IT department; they truly are two different business models entirely.