What Is Break/Fix? Pros, Cons and Why It’s Declining in Popularity

Until a decade ago, IT service providers supported their clients using primarily a break/fix model. When called, they traveled to their client’s location and fixed broken machines, networking issues and other IT problems. However, with the advent of technology, break/fix is slowly losing popularity to managed services. But why? Does it really deserve to take the back seat, or can its relevance still be found in modern IT?

In this blog, we’ll discuss the advantages of a break/fix model and why this classic IT strategy is slowly fading away.

What is break/fix?

Break/fix IT is defined as the reactive model of hiring IT service providers to perform one-time services and pay them only for the work done plus the cost of parts.

Under this model, a business calls an IT service provider whenever there is downtime due to a system breakdown, network disruption or hardware failure. The technician then comes to the client’s location to fix issues and bills the customer an hourly rate plus the cost of parts. There is no continuous support or maintenance work involved in this model. IT support teams are called out for services on an “as-needed” basis.

What is a break/fix issue?

Break-fix issues refer to a situation where a device, system or network stops functioning correctly and requires a repair or replacement. These issues can occur for various reasons, including virus attacks, hardware failures, software malfunctioning or user errors, and technicians can usually fix them during a one-time visit.

What is an example of break/fix?

Imagine your network is down, and you must deliver invoices to your clients. What would you do? You would immediately call an IT guy to get your network up and running quickly. Here, you are making use of a break/fix service.

Break/fix IT services usually involve emergency calls and the associated on-site visits, including virus removal, hardware repairs, new installations, software upgrades, component replacements and more. Once the services are performed, and everything’s back to order, the break/fix technician bills the customer.

There’s no discussion of strategy or maintenance of an organization’s IT infrastructure. This purely transactional approach to software, hardware and network service means organizations get exactly what they need to keep things running. This once sounded ideal from a customer perspective. Why pay for IT when everything’s working? You don’t pay for plumbing when the faucets are fine, right?

Advantages of the break/fix model

The break/fix model gives businesses certain advantages, although these benefits may also be the subject of debate. Let’s take a look at some of them.

  • No monthly subscription or contract: Small businesses not overly reliant on technology or with just a few technology users may want to avoid budgeting a monthly IT cost or entering into a contract with an MSP. They may not understand the true value of IT and are looking to save on fixed costs as much as possible. Break/fix is the best option here. It’s for this reason that the break/fix model is popular among especially non-technical end users. However, for businesses relying on higher IT requirements every day, break/fix could be a real gamble.
  • Complete control of IT needs: Businesses here have the privilege to decide where to spend their IT budget, so they feel more in control. However, this idea of intelligent expenditure is an illusion since they have little or no control over what they are paying for or how the break/fix vendor is fixing their IT issues.
  • A convenient business option for IT service providers: Break/fix is an easy business approach for IT service providers since they need to charge only the hourly rates and for parts instead of creating and managing monthly or yearly contracts. Additionally, there is no overhead in maintaining business-client relationships as these are usually one-time services, requiring only quality fixes to maintain a good reputation in the market.

Challenges with the break/fix model

Undoubtedly, there are drawbacks to the break/fix model and many businesses find the cons outnumber its pros.

  • No SLA: Break/fix services often lack a robust service level agreement (SLA). The response and repair time depends on a service provider’s current availability and workload, posing risks for organizations that rely on their IT infrastructure to carry out their everyday operations. A significant downtime can damage the brand’s reputation and revenue. Moreover, businesses must act immediately during a cyberattack or data breach. Depending on a break/fix service provider in such scenarios might cost a fortune.
  • Unpredictable costs: Since work is billed hourly, businesses choose quick, short-term fixes over long-lasting, intensive solutions. Likewise, break/fix IT service providers repeatedly provide temporary fixes instead of a long-term solution since they earn more significant revenue with more callouts — every issue is handled case-by-case, leading to invoices with unpredictable costs.
  • Hidden threats: Often, minor IT issues can cause severe damage and revenue loss if left unattended for a long time. With no one monitoring IT systems for underlying problems and looming cyberattacks, companies are in for severe downtime and costly repairs.
  • Increased downtime: Due to the “as-needed” nature of the break/fix model, technicians who come in to repair your system will have little or no familiarity with your IT infrastructure. They will take time to get acquainted before detecting and fixing issues. This way, the downtime will increase, and you will pay more based on the time consumed.

What is the difference between break/fix and managed services?

While break/fix once served as the standard IT service delivery model, it has now seen better days. IT infrastructures have become complex, requiring businesses to manage and maintain more endpoints and deal with greater IT concerns. Break/fix fails to address these problems, leaving businesses searching for better options.

Enter managed services, where technicians continuously monitor and manage all endpoints within your IT ecosystem and ensure hassle-free operations. This model adopts a proactive approach to preventing IT issues from happening in the future and provides maximum uptime. Additionally, services are billed on a subscription basis, where businesses pay a fixed monthly or yearly amount as agreed in their SLA.

Here are some of the key differences between break/fix and managed services:

Break/fix servicesManaged services
Focuses on fixing only current issues. Underlying issues go unnoticed until there is a significant downtime or system breakdown.Maintains and monitors entire IT ecosystem constantly to ensure smooth IT operations.
Businesses are billed for the work done plus the cost of parts.Businesses pay a fixed monthly/yearly fee.
Doesn’t follow any SLA. So, the response and repair time can be uncertain.Managed service providers follow a pre-defined SLA, ensuring issues are addressed within a fixed timeframe.
No fixed revenue stream for service providers.A fixed revenue stream for service providers.
Works reactively to fix IT issuesWorks proactively to prevent IT issues
Applicable for businesses with small IT needs, fewer technology users or limited IT budget.Ideal for businesses with heavy database users, large number of endpoints to manage or complex network systems.

Why is break/fix declining in popularity?

Since new technologies continue to disrupt the break/fix operating model, more and more organizations choose managed service providers (MSPs) to take care of their IT. As per the Kaseya Global MSP Benchmark survey, 51% of technicians reported break/fix is one of their most time-consuming activities.

Additionally, most businesses believe that the break/fix model inherently creates perverse incentives where MSPs see commercial gain from waiting to fix IT issues when requested than proactively preventing them from occurring in the future.

Why are managed services thriving?

Managed services are focused on continuous IT management and productivity improvement. They provide a proactive approach to IT services and also offer a subscription-based payment system. Managed services are designed to optimize business performance, ensure scalability and future-proof digital IT operations through:

  • Endpoint monitoring and management: Monitor and manage on-prem, hybrid and cloud infrastructure.
  • Help desk: Instantly remediate IT tickets to protect networks and ensure hassle-free IT operations.
  • Security: Secure devices with AM/AV protection, patch management and security reporting.
  • Backup and disaster recovery: Perform regular data backups and quick recovery during downtime.

Transition from break/fix to managed services with Kaseya

If you are a break/fix service provider losing customers to managed services, now is the time to enter an MSP business and take the bigger slice of the lucrative IT services market.

When it comes to a successful MSP business, efficient IT management is the key. Offer a best-in-class managed service to your customers with Kaseya VSA.

Kaseya VSA is a revolutionary remote management and monitoring service engineered for MSPs to deliver high customer satisfaction. VSA automates most IT processes and helps you manage the entire IT infrastructure from a single console. It integrates seamlessly with other applications and automates workflows between different tools, eliminating human errors and tech inefficiencies.

Want to learn more about VSA and see it in action? Schedule a demo now.

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