Data is what keeps our businesses running. It can take many forms depending on what type of business you have. But the fact is, if you lose access to your business data, you may very well lose your business. How can you best protect your businesses data? The first step is ensuring that you have the right type of IT support and service.
In the beginning, you may well be able to manage your own IT support, especially with a small company. But, as your company grows, so do your IT needs. You have more data to protect. And the impact of downtime – resulting from anything from a crashed hard drive, a downloaded virus or a bungled upgrade – becomes more serious. You may realize that you can’t do it all on your own. But, where to start? The best way to make an informed decision for your company is to better understand your options.
3 Main Types of IT Support Service Models
- Time and Materials. Another name for this is “break-fix”. You pay an agreed-upon hourly rate for a technician to “fix” your problem when something “breaks.” Under this model, you might be able to negotiate a discount based on buying a block of hours. The scope of work may be simply to resolve a specific problem such as removing a virus. Or it may encompass a large project like a computer network upgrade with a specific end date.
- Managed IT Services. This is a model where the IT services company takes the role of your “IT department.” They install and support all the devices and PCs that connect to your server(s). They also offer phone and on-site support, antivirus, security, backup and a host of other services to monitor and maintain the health, speed, performance and security of your computer network.
- Software Vendor-Supplied IT Services. Many software companies will offer IT support for their customers in the form of a help desk or remote support. Usually this costs extra. However, these are typically scaled-back services. In addition, they will only troubleshoot their specific application. They won’t help fix your computer network and all the applications and devices connected to it. If have a problem with something other than their software, they can’t help you. Often they will refer you to “your IT department.” While it’s often a good idea to buy some basic-level support package with a critical software application you use, this is not enough to provide the full IT services and support most businesses need to stay up and running.
When looking to outsource your IT support the two service models you will likely end up choosing between are the “managed IT services” and “break-fix” models. Let’s look at both of these in more detail.
Why Regular Monitoring and Maintenance is Critical For Today’s Computer Networks
Computer networks absolutely, positively need ongoing maintenance and monitoring to stay secure. The ever-increasing dependency we have on IT systems has given rise to smart cybercrime organizations. They may work to gain access to financial information, spread viruses, or steal passwords.
This doesn’t even take into consideration other common “disasters” such as rogue employees, lost devices, hardware failures (which are the #1 reason for data loss), fire and natural disasters and a host of other issues that can interrupt or outright destroy your IT infrastructure and the data it holds.
Preventing these problems and keeping your systems up and running is a LOT less expensive and damaging to your organization than paying for emergency IT services to restore your systems to working order with “break-fix.” And, that’s what managed services is all about!
Managed IT Services Vs. Break-Fix: Which is The Better, More Cost-Effective Option?
You’ve probably heard the famous Benjamin Franklin quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is why Managed IT Services are often the best option. The only time we would recommend a “time and materials” approach is when you already have a competent IT person or team proactively managing your computer network and simply have a specific IT project to complete that your current in-house IT team doesn’t have the time or expertise to implement (such as a network upgrade, installing a backup solution, etc.). Outside of that specific scenario, the “break-fix” approach is usually not a good idea for general IT support. You’ll ultimately end up paying for a pound of “cure” for problems that could have easily been avoided with an “ounce” of prevention.
4 Main Problems with “Break-Fix”
- Conflict of Interest: Under a “break-fix” model, there is a fundamental conflict of interest between you and your IT firm. You want your problems resolved as quickly as possible. But, the longer it takes to fix your problem, the more the IT firm makes. The more problems you have, the more they profit.
- Less qualified staff work may work on your problem: Another concern is that the IT consultant can assign a junior (lower-paid) technician to work on your problem. They may take two to three times as long to resolve an issue that a more senior (and more expensive) technician may have resolved in a fraction of the time. This leads to larger bills for you and your company.
- You have to keep track of time: You will have to have keep track of hours worked to make sure you aren’t over billed.
- Budgeting is difficult: Since you have no idea what problems you may run into, you don’t know how much your IT expenses will be. One month they may be zero, and then next month they could be thousands.
Should I Just Hire A Full-Time IT Manager?
For some companies, this is a viable solution. If you have under 100 employees, it’s usually not cost-effective to hire a full-time IT person. You can outsource this function of your business far cheaper and with a lot less work. IT managers earned a median salary of $127,640 in 2014, or $61.37 per hour, according to BLS data. But managed services costs are typically a fraction of that cost.
Not to mention that with managed services you have access to a full IT team. If you only have one IT person, and that person is sick or get tied up with a lengthy task, then you don’t have anyone else around to support you.
So, What’s this IT Support Going to Cost?
Hourly Break-Fix Fees
Most IT services companies selling break-fix services charge between $100 and $250 per hour. Typically they will require a one hour minimum. Of course, all of this is determined by the certifications of the engineer. Often, they will give you a discount of 5% – 20% on their hourly rates if you pay for a block of hours in advance.
If a company is quoting a project, the fees range widely based on the scope of work outlined. If you are hiring an IT consulting firm for a project, you should request the following:
- A very detailed scope of work that specifies what “success” is. Make sure you detail what your expectations are in performance, work flow, costs, security, access, etc. The more detailed you can be, the better. Detailing your expectations up front will go a long way in avoiding miscommunications and additional fees later on to give you what you REALLY wanted.
- A fixed budget and time frame for completion. Agreeing to this up front aligns both your agenda and the consultant’s. Be very wary of loose estimates that allow the consulting firm to bill you for “unforeseen” circumstances. The bottom line is this: it is your IT consulting firm’s responsibility to be able to accurately assess your situation and quote a project based on their experience. You should not have to pick up the tab for a consultant underestimating a job or for their inefficiencies. A true professional knows how to take into consideration those contingencies and bill accordingly.
Managed IT Services
Most managed IT services firms will quote you a MONTHLY fee based on the number of devices they need to maintain, back up and support. In Austin, Texas that fee is somewhere in the range of $ 250 to $500 per server, $ 75 to $125 per desktop and approximately $10 per smartphone or mobile device.
If you hire an IT consultant and sign up for a managed IT services contract, here are some things that SHOULD be included:
- Security patches applied weekly, if not daily, for urgent and emerging threats
- Antivirus updates and monitoring
- Firewall updates and monitoring
- Backup monitoring and test restores
- Spam-filter installation and updates
- Spyware detection and removal
- Monitoring disk space on workstations and servers
- Monitoring hardware for signs of failure
- Optimizing systems for maximum speed
Other possible add-ons include things such as hardware, adding new devices or servers to your network, or on-site support.
What Should I Do Now?
By now you understand a little more about the choices. But, which option is best really depends on what your IT and data needs. If you think that HST Managed Services might be a good fit for your company, please give us a call.
You’ve spent a lifetime working hard to get where you are. You earned every penny and every client. Why risk losing it all? Get the facts and be certain your business, your reputation and your data are protected. Call us at 512-900-9478 or you can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.