A Lose-Lose Situation
MSP services need to be cohesively reliable in a perpetual way, and a break-fix service can’t really do that. The reason is simple: break-fix service offers clients a low cost for a low service return. Basically, until something breaks, the client floats. But with computer systems, it’s not a matter of “if” something will go haywire— it’s a matter of “when.” And when something goes out under a break-fix contract, it costs more to repair while additionally requiring more time.
Think of it like this: if you have a mechanical issue with your vehicle that goes unchecked, will it get better or worse with time? The likelihood is it will get worse. Take an oil change, for example. You can run your vehicle a good 50,000 miles without an oil change— depending on the car. Of course, this may result in an engine seizure which totals the vehicle. In fact, that is likely. The engine’s cost is more than the cost of an oil change; just like replacing a server is more costly than maintaining one. With that in mind, there are several disadvantages to break-fix services which deserve close examination. These include:
- Damaged network and client reputation
- Unpredictable streams of revenue
- Unpredictable service delivery
- Client relationship damage
Network and Client Reputation
MSP services offered under a break-fix model will give you a bad reputation because you’re only going to get a call when something goes wrong. In a sort of Pavlovian way, this will mean your clients will begin subconsciously associating your services with negativity. You’re never called unless something goes wrong, so how can you blame them? Soon, they consciously begin do disdain your service provision. They will very much dislike communicating with you and your partnership may be of less value.
When it comes to the network of the client you’re managing, should you not be in a position of continuous monitoring and maintenance, then the service of that network will decline. Even if the declination in service isn’t your fault, but the fault of clients who use their network incorrectly, you’re still going to be held responsible. Even if you advise clients that break-fix service probably isn’t the best idea, and they go for it anyway, your securing of that sale is likely to backhand your MSP in the long-run. Furthermore, clients interfacing with other clients will have an impetus to undersell your MSP by word-of-mouth. This can make it difficult to acquire new clients.
If you’re paid by the hour on a per-incident basis, your actual earnings every month will be difficult to properly quantify. You’ll have to look at yearly averages to get a more realistic idea of your buying and selling abilities. The month-to-month will fluctuate wildly. Also, if you do happen to have a good year, a good month, or a good week, with break-fix this invariably means your clients just had a very difficult experience. When you do well, it’s because they’re not doing good.
Unpredictable Service Delivery
This is implied by the revenue section, but it’s easy to see how true such unpredictability is: you never know when you’re going to be needed. It could be two in the morning on a Sunday. Unless, of course, you’ve written weekends out of the agreement with the client, in which case there is a possibility they’ll spend as much as two and a half days in downtime.
You’re probably only going to have a few good interactions with your clients under a break-fix service relationship. After you’ve sold them on it, you won’t hear from them again until an emergency comes along; then they have to pay you and that’s not good for anybody.
A Better Way of Operation
MSP services that reject the break-fix model in place of a proactive service agreement will:
- Preserve their relationship with their clients
- Secure regularly predictable revenue
- Secure predictable service delivery
- Increase positive reputation pertaining to network maintenance and client support
When you can catch problems before they start, you extend the life of computer systems and reduce service delivery lag. Your business is sustainable, clients are happy, and everybody wins.