Kharmela Mindanao

By: Kharmela Mindanao on September 22nd, 2021

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MSP vs. A Break-fix Model (Who Benefits?) [Updated in 2021]

Managed IT Services

Are you struggling to choose the right IT company for you? In this article, you can discover the differences between managed IT vs. break-fix IT, and follow a checklist to determine the right IT company for you.


Editor's note: This post was originally published on December 28, 2020, and has been revised for clarity and comprehensiveness.

Are you frustrated with repeated IT problems only professionals can solve? If you are, you are probably ready to transition from a Break-fix model of IT maintenance to a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) model.

But before transitioning to an MSP, you need to know what you’re in for. Here at Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS), we have had many conversations with fast-growing businesses transitioning from break-fix to managed IT services. However, we’ve also had conversations with companies that have thrived under the break-fix arrangement since the beginning and do not need to change the status quo.

Because we’ve seen both sides of the coin, we’ve compiled a key list of information you need to know about Break-fix IT companies versus Managed IT Service Providers. We’ve also included the qualities of companies that benefit the most from a break-fix model or an MSP model.

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to distinguish the differences between the two, and most importantly, will be able to determine what’s best for your business.

The Break-fix Model: Important Facts

Technician Fixing a Broken Computer

As the name suggests: no break, no fix. The break-fix model is project-based. Only when something is broken, then it's attended to or repaired. Break-fix companies are all about solving problems as they appear and allowing company operations to continue afterward.

For example, your company just bought business-grade network equipment for the first time. However, you failed to realize the differences between business-grade and consumer-grade network equipment and need help setting everything up.

This is the time the break-fix technicians are called: to solve an issue you can’t manage yourself.

Essentially, the term “break-fix” refers to the fee-for-service method of providing information technology (IT) services to businesses.

Using this method, an IT solutions provider performs services as needed and bills the customer only for the work done. The service may include repairs, upgrades, or installation of systems, components, peripheral equipment, networking, or software.

The Managed IT Service Provider Model: Important Facts

MSP Maintenance

If the break-fix model focuses on fixing problems, the managed IT service model does its best to ensure that there isn’t a problem to fix. This business model focuses on preventive, proactive, and real-time maintenance; it doesn’t look at a single issue in the IT infrastructure but rather the IT infrastructure as a whole.

Another way of looking at these models is viewing your IT problem like a broken bone. When a bone is accidentally broken, the ER doctor fixes it and provides a cast for protection and healing. This ER doctor is an example of a break-fix company.

But after the cast has been removed, therapy and rehabilitation begin with the supervision of the rehab doctor. They focus on making sure you recover properly and are armed with the correct tools and knowledge to prevent another broken bone. The role of a rehab doctor is equivalent to the role of a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP).

This is why MSPs take a hard stance on free projects and don’t do one-off projects with no contracts: it doesn’t fit with their goal of preventative maintenance.

Hiring an MSP is equivalent to availing of a postpaid phone plan instead of a prepaid plan. It’s not just a one-and-done service. It’s a recurring expense discussed during onboarding, as an MSP's goal is to prevent regular issues and company downtime.

Which Model is Best for Your Company?

MSP fixing computers

Each business model is apt for specific business scenarios. If you’re wondering which model is best for your business, take a look at the characteristics of businesses that get the use out of each model:

Qualities of Businesses that Use Break-fix Companies

  • Not overly reliant on technology
  • IT issues are not recurring.
  • Simple IT necessities in the company (i.e., tech is only used for emails or printing).
  • Limited budget for technology.
  • Minimal technology users.

Here’s an example scenario where it would be beneficial for you to continue working with break-fix companies.

Let’s say your company only requires employees to go online to check emails and browse competitor websites. Or maybe your company has a minimal number of users who need to meet online and barely has any workstations to maintain.

These are good situations for your business to stick with the break-fix model. After all, emails and basic browsing don’t require much preventative maintenance. Plus, only paying out when you need service will save you money.

Qualities of Businesses that Use Managed IT Service Providers (MSPs)

  • Aiming to minimize manual tasks & the mental burden of managing IT
  • Prioritizes investment in holistic, 24/7 IT management
  • Heavy database users
  • Information-dependent and technology-driven
  • Multiple users of technology in their company

Maybe your business checks all of these boxes. Most businesses that see growth start to fall into the trap of being overwhelmed with their technology or have experienced technology fail on them enough times to want other people to manage their IT infrastructure for them.

When the stress of managing your IT starts getting in the way of running your business, that’s a good sign for you to start considering an MSP. Partnering with an MSP is a simple way to increase your team’s security, networking, and communication capabilities but requires investment in both time and money.

About to choose between an MSP and a Break-fix company?

Before committing to any companies, make sure you remember these key points:

  • Break-fix companies focus on fixing a problem while MSPs focus on preventing a problem.
  • Both models benefit companies; it all depends on what you need.
  • Break-fix companies are less expensive upfront, while MSPs are an investment.

If you’re still not sure about which kind of model is best for you, we understand. Our clients at Intelligent Technical Solutions (ITS) also want a thorough understanding of the pros and cons of an idea before committing to it. If you also want more information about break-fix companies and MSPs, try reading this article: Managed IT vs. Break-fix IT vs. In-house IT (Pros & Cons).New call-to-action