break/fix model

Contributor(s): Spencer Smith

For IT services companies, break/fix is a method of providing IT support to customers. Break/fix services are generally fee-based and rely on a customer contacting the IT services company when repairs and upgrades are needed.

While break/fix usually works on a time-and-materials basis, in which the contractor charges an hourly rate plus the cost of parts, there are some exceptions. For example, a break/fix company might offer discrete services, such as virus removal, at a flat rate instead of an hourly rate, usually because the contractor has a clear idea of the time involved.

Break/fix is sometimes distinguished from managed IT services, an approach in which IT service companies take responsibility for customers' IT systems and provide monitoring and management. Whereas break/fix companies resolve their customers' IT issues only when support is required, managed service providers (MSPs) focus on preventing potential IT issues from disrupting business operations and use service-level agreement (SLA) contracts to guarantee the monitoring and management of customer IT systems at a flat fee.

In the IT services industry, the break/fix service model has received criticism for being a "reactive" method for caring for customers' IT systems. Some argue that the model inherently creates a situation where break/fix companies will see greater financial gain from fixing customers' IT issues than from taking preemptive measures to prevent issues from occurring in the first place. The managed services model therefore is seen by many as a superior IT support model, because MSPs proactively monitor and manage customers' IT systems and offer a billing structure that customers can control through SLAs.

While in the past, break/fix was a prevalent model for providing IT support, many IT services companies have since transitioned to the managed services model. However, numerous MSPs continue to offer and derive a portion of their annual revenue from break/fix services.

This was last updated in June 2015

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