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When we purchase a new car, most of us follow the manufacturer or dealership’s recommended maintenance. Vehicles require oil changes, brake inspections, tire changes, and a host of other services to ensure they remain reliable and, most importantly, safe for us and others on the road. It’s commonplace to follow a preventative maintenance plan with vehicles, but business owners are often more reactive with their technology. A managed IT approach is by far the smartest, most cost-effective option for businesses.
Why “Break-Fix” is entirely in a consultant’s favour, not yours
Under a “break-fix” model there is a fundamental conflict of interest between you and your IT firm: they have no incentive to resolve problems quickly because they are paid by the hour. As a result, the risk of unforeseen circumstances, scope creep, and learning curve inefficiencies shift onto your business. All responsibility to secure your network from hackers or clean up the mess after a breach is passed onto you. You may encounter challenges with insurance companies if your IT security was not implemented effectively.
The break-fix model is inefficient in terms of time management, budgeting, and forecasting. An organization may go months without engaging a provider then, all of a sudden, receive a monster invoice after a busy period. You may find yourself needing to oversee the work taking place to ensure the hourly billing is appropriate. Let’s talk about managed IT services now.
Should you just hire a full time IT Manager?
In most cases, it is not cost effective for companies with under 100 employees to hire a full-time IT person. This is because you can outsource this function of your business far cheaper and with a lot less work. That said, it is critical to hire a professional to perform basic maintenance just as you would hire a lawyer to handle your legal matters or an accountant to prepare your taxes. When you do an analysis to break down the cost of your team and that of other key resources and factor in employee productivity, the managed IT services model is considerably less expensive over time then the “break-fix” model.
Why regular monitoring and maintenance is critical for today’s computer networks
Computer networks need ongoing maintenance and monitoring to stay secure. The ever-increasing dependency we have on IT systems and the data they hold has given rise to very smart and sophisticated cybercrime organizations who work around the clock to do one thing: compromise your networks for illegal activities.
Whether to access financial information and passwords or use your network to send illegal spam, host pirated software, or spread viruses, these bad actors are constantly finding new ways to circumvent your antivirus and firewalls. That is - if you have them turned on and correctly configured.
Other considerations include natural disasters such as fires, floods, and pandemics. In addition, an often-overlooked risk is rogue employees. Any of these scenarios can completely destroy your IT infrastructure. Finally, regulatory compliance is increasing for any business hosting or processing credit card or financial information, medical records, and even client contact information.
Preventing these problems and keeping systems up and running is significantly less expensive and damaging to your business than waiting until one of these things happens.
What to look for in a hourly vs. managed IT service agreement and what you should expect to pay
There are thousands of IT providers, from one-technician shops to large international players. The following pricing guidelines are presented using data from a recent IT industry survey of over 750 different firms. Pricing, engagement options, and what is included in each offering can vary widely.
Hourly break-fix fees:
Most IT companies selling break-fix services charge between $60 - $200 per hour with a one-hour minimum. You can expect to receive a discount ranging from 5% - 20% based on the block of hours purchased.
If you are looking to engage an hourly break-fix IT provider, we recommend covering the following points with your provider:
Managed IT Services fees:
- Detailed definition of success criteria: Make sure you detail your expectations in performance, workflow, costs, security, access, etc. This will go a long way in avoiding miscommunications and additional fees later in the process.
- Fixed budget and time frame for completion: Agreeing to this upfront aligns your agenda with your consultant’s. Be cautious when presented with a loose estimate that allows the company to bill you for unforeseen circumstances. While issues do arise from time to time, ensure you are protected from add-on features where costs can escalate quickly. Mature IT organizations have tools and processes to deliver projects on budget.
- Detailed plan: Have you ever given an IT provider the go-ahead on a project but you are unsure when they will start, what exactly they need to do, and when you can expect completion? A professional IT organization will take care of everything and deliver a detailed plan in advance.
Many firms will quote a monthly fee based on the number of devices they need to maintain, backup and support. We recommend covering the following points with your provider:
- Network monitoring and patching.
What is patching? It’s the act of managing and installing updates from various software and technology providers. When many people think of patching, they look at Microsoft Windows updates, anti-virus updates, and other third-party software updates.
- Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) updates and monitoring.
What is this all about? Traditionally a business has leveraged antivirus products to guard against threats. With attacks becoming more sophisticated and damaging, the popularity of Endpoint detection and response has grown. EDR tools and services ensure that managed devices are protected with next-generation products and monitored for any sign of breach, with the capability to roll back or restore from before the attack.
- Firewall updates and monitoring: Your firewall is another layer in your security protection strategy and it’s vital it is properly configured and maintained. Think of your firewall as the castle walls for your business: it keeps enemies out, friendlies can gain access through open areas, and is only effective if maintained and upgraded when needed.
- Advanced backups (with regular proof of restore): Ensure that in time of need, backups will be valid and usable. Ask about the procedure: where your backups will be, the number of copies, how long they are retained for, and how often they are tested.
- Spam filter installation and updates: We all hate spam! Anti-spam filtering traps it before it gets to an inbox. Quarantined mail can be released or permanently blacklisted.
- Remote support: Many IT service providers have a different rate for remote vs. onsite support. Typical items you can expect with many remote support package includes the following:
- Hardware support: computers can encounter issues with faulty parts or connectivity issues. It is important to know that your devices will be remediated should an issue emerge.
- Software support: providers can help with some productivity tools such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Workspace. Where they encounter software issues they can liaise with the vendor and help clients get answers in a timely manner.
You should also review items that may not be included in the monthly engagement plan and budget if you require them.
- New hardware (servers, workstations, networking equipment, printers etc.)
- Software licenses (Microsoft Office/Google Workspace/Abode etc.)
- On-site support
- Vendor support
- Cybersecurity training for company staff
- Project fees (examples: migration to the cloud, network upgrade, implement remote access solution).
- Remote access solution (setup, licensing and support may be out of scope for a monthly services agreement).
As you consider working with an IT provider it is important to have a clear sense of what you can expect each month and the scope of the agreement. It is challenging as costs and inclusions/exclusions are often bundled. As you are conducting your review, be sure to not only look at the monthly cost but also the value you expect to get. You might find one provider is more expensive but will save hours of internal staff’s time, ultimately resulting in increased productivity and employee engagement.
If you have questions about what we’ve discussed or your business is at a point where an IT Partner could help your business, please contact [email protected]
or call us on 587-318-1635 or you can use our contact form.
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