Working Against Each Other: Break vs. Fix

Working Against Each Other: Break vs. Fix

When you were a kid, did you have a bicycle? If you did I’m sure you can recall the thrill of zooming away from home, feeling the wind in your face as well as the freedom of personal mobility. But all that freedom ended when you got a flat tire. If you were handy, you repaired the innertube yourself. You popped off the tire, found the leak and patched it with glue and a piece of rubber. In no time you were back on the road, off to find your next adventure.

 

These days, you run a small business that’s doing pretty well. Everything runs smoothly, that is until a server crashes or your network goes down. You’re still following the patching approach with the technical issues around the office, trying to repair things as they happen. And, yes, that strategy may work for a while, but just like that innertube, your business won’t run if it has too many leaks.

 

SMBs have many reasons why they let the technical portion of their business exist on the Break/Fix model. But is it really the safest way to ensure that your business keeps running? Maybe, up to a certain point of growth. But there will come a time when the breaks are outnumbering the fixes and your budget gets out of control. So, what are the other options? Let’s explore five reasons why small businesses are timid about signing contracts for Managed IT Services, as well as offer a few solutions:

 

COST

Of course, the first reason is always cost. Some business owners find it difficult to see the logic behind paying a monthly fee whether they use the service or not. But they need to understand that they are using the service every day, through overnight software updates, constant SPAM filtering, and 24/7 system monitoring. And when something does break, it gets fixed as soon as possible.

 

TRUST

It’s scary to sign up with an entity you don’t know. Your business workstations and network are what keeps you in business, so it’s not easy to trust it to an unknown service provider. The best bet, of course, is to get recommendations from friends or other business owners. And it’s easy to do a quick Google or Yelp search and read some reviews before you make your decision.

 

BUDGET

I know you’re probably thinking that Budget is the same thing as Cost, and they do go hand-in-hand, but the difference is that a Budget is something you can plan for. Unexpected Costs are what you’re trying to avoid. With a Managed Services Provider, you can budget the cost month to month, year to year. You can factor it into each yearly budget which will help you plan for company growth and expansion. On the flip side, if you’re still operating under the Break/Fix model, you can really rack up some unexpected bills quickly. Bunch together too many of these surprises and your plans for growth may just go down the drain.

 

URGENCY

When something in your office stops working, you must get it fixed and up and running as quickly as possible. Downtime is money lost! If you don't have a regular IT person you usually call, then you're searching the internet for whoever is available. You're hoping to get the best Tech you can, but in all reality, there is a very good chance you'll get an average Tech, or maybe even someone new to the industry. Then there's the Cost issue again. In the heat of the moment, you're willing to pay whatever it costs to get up and running. But a few weeks later, when you get the bill, it's much more than you thought you had agreed to. Things like drive time, off-hour calls, and even parts can inflate that bill. 

 

Needless to say, with a Managed Services Agreement all those things are covered. You’ll also get well-trained and certified Techs who are familiar with your business. And since they are contracted with you they will make repairing your business a priority.

 

CONTRACTS

Signing a long-term contract for Managed Services is very much like a leap of faith. You want to be sure that you’re making the best decision for your company, and long-term contracts may seem counterproductive to those plans. What happens if you’re unhappy with the service? If you’re in a HaaS (Hardware as a Service) agreement, who owns the equipment if you terminate the contract? These are scary thoughts. Your business might falter if you make the wrong decision.

 

But the good news is that you can negotiate all of these things, and more before you sign a contract. Make sure to ask if there is a way to get out of a contract if you’re not happy with the service. Ask about the ownership of any hardware or software you’re concerned about. And, most of all, don’t sign with anyone who you’re not sure about. Use your best business intuition to judge if the fit is right for you.

  

As a small business, it makes sense to start with a Break/Fix model of IT repairs and maintenance. But as you grow it makes good business sense to contract out services and get those worries off your plate. A good MSP will actually become your Business Partner and help you with Growth. Look at it as a Force Multiplier: your monthly investment gives you your time back, opening the doors for increased productivity and more potential growth. Let the MSP worry about risk mitigation and cybersecurity updates and you can go back to doing what you do best; running your business. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have someone fix those flats for you when you were a kid?

Don’t Get Nickel and Dimed to Death

Don’t Get Nickel and Dimed to Death

As a business owner, you need to decide what level of IT support is right for you. Small businesses frequently operate under the “break-fix” model. Break-fix is exactly what it sounds like: you run your business normally until something breaks, then you pay an IT support company to fix it. Large corporations usually have an in-house IT department to take care of their computers, servers, networks and phones. Then's there's the middle ground. Managed Services offers a monthly service agreement to handle all of your IT support, but not all managed services is created equal - don't get nickel and dimed. 

Break-Fix Model 

While the break-fix model appears the simplest out of the gate, it ends up costing more than you think. The ‘breaks’ cost you more because you're stuck with unexpected hardware and software costs, and the ‘fixes’ cost you a lot more due to downtime, outages, and lost potential revenue. At some point, you’ll get tired of your CFO running into your office with a stack of bills from all of last month’s fixes. 

In-House IT 

You’ll then probably ask yourself, why don’t I hire a full-time IT person to take care of my needs? Well, that is certainly an option, but when you take a deep look into the ROI you’ll notice a huge gap between hiring one person vs. contracting with a fully staffed company. Let’s break down the costs. 

We’ll keep the math simple and say that a full-time IT person will run around $50,000 a year, starting salary. That’s $24.50 an hour, Monday through Friday at 8 hours a day. The actual cost will be a whole lot more! Your new hire will need a desk, a computer, a laptop (for remote work), maybe a gas card or car if you have more than one office, a cellphone and high-speed internet access. And they’ll also cost you vacation time, sick time, holiday pay and probably a lot of overtime. At the end of the year, you’re probably close to paying out twice their base salary. And you’re still basically operating under the break-fix scenario because that individual is not available to do everything you need 24/7. 

Managed Services 

There are really two lists of services to consider when it comes to Managed Services. 

Permission to Play Services 

A good list includes the following permission to play services: 

  • Remote Support 

  • Remote Desktop Sharing Assistance 

  • Onsite Support, as needed 

  • Help Desk Phone Support 

  • Office & Mobile Phone Support 

  • Network Administration 

  • BDR (Backup Disaster Recovery) 

  • Software & Security Updates 

  • SPAM control 

Real Managed Services Providers Also Include 

Good Managed Services providers go above and beyond this list to include: 

  • Parts Replacement 

  • Vendor Management 

  • Technology Consulting 

Managed Services Costs 

If you've looked at hiring a Managed Services Provider before, you may have experienced sticker shock when they quoted you the price of their monthly service agreement, especially if it included all of the above at a flat rate. However, if you examine the benefits of a monthly agreement you’ll see that it will work well with your business plans and help take your company to the next level without unexpected costs of break-fix or the added costs of hiring a staff person. 

There's A Problem in the Industry Today 

However, there’s a problem in the IT support industry today. When offering Managed Services, some people say they’ll cover everything with a ‘flat rate.’ Then, they end up sending you a bill at the end of the month for drive time, after-hours service, or parts. They may have promised you a clear-cut agreement, but then nickel and dimed you to death with a pile of invoices. Doesn't sound much different than a break-fix arrangement at that point does it? With Managed Services you should be able to budget for a set monthly rate. As you look for a Managed Services provider make sure you ask about the things that are not included in this 'flat-rate,' so that you know if you're about to be nickel and dimed or if you're working with a quality Managed Services provider. 

Are You at Risk?

Are You at Risk?

We’ve talked about some of the more common threats that all businesses need to be careful of, but how dangerous is the web and how much of a risk is the current landscape?  

Today we'll talk about a few of the most widespread threats that need your attention.

Windows 7 End of Life

When it first came out, Windows 7 was very popular and it still is. Now, when we say popular, that isn't an exaggeration. According to some estimates, nearly 70% of all PCs are still running Windows 7! When support officially ends in just a few short months, that's going to leave a lot of people open to attacks. 

In case you weren't aware, the single largest reason for upgrading is security related. So, when Microsoft stops updating security on these systems, it’s just a matter of time before your system becomes an easy target for hackers.

Marriott's Data Breach

Don't think hackers only target little old ladies on 15-year-old computers. It appears that Marriott Hotels, one of the largest chains in the world, is going to be fined the equivalent of $123 million for a breach that exposed the private information of over 332 million customers. Even though it can be argued that the hotel chain was the victim, they are the ones who are responsible for what happens on their servers.

What makes this even scarier is that while the company spends quite a bit on their security, they still didn't detect the breach for nearly four years. This goes to show that the amount spent on a security system doesn't mean anything unless it is well implemented and monitored.

LockerGoga 

This year, one of the biggest trends in ransomware is the targeting of specific industries. Why is this so scary? Well, the most dangerous enemy is someone who knows how to hit you where it hurts most. In the case of LockerGoga, this particular software is designed to cripple manufacturing firms, specifically, by causing their automation systems to go offline. This disruption is key to the firm's efficiency. As of this writing, LockerGoga has already affected industrial manufacturing facilities in two continents, nearly shutting down production completely. And it also seems that hackers are upping the ante, demanding ransoms in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Heartless Hackers 

While not excusable, it's still understandable why someone would want to hack business: money. But if you're a medical or charitable organization, you should be fine, right? Not so fast! For reasons that are not always clear, this year has been especially difficult for data breaches in this sector. In Europe and Asia, tens of thousands of records have been compromised for organizations range from charities for abused children to HIV clinics. Here in the US, at least 145,000 individuals who were seeking treatment for addictions at various facilities had their information stolen from a single server in April. One would think that even hackers would have some sense of decency, but as the saying goes, "There's no honor among thieves."

Your Staff is your Biggest Risk

We all know that Hackers and other criminals are working hard, finding ways to break into your business. But their job gets more difficult if your employees are trained in the dangers of cybersecurity. Employees who open the wrong attachments on emails cause about 70% of all malware infections. Up to 50% of your sensitive data, along with your client's data, can be breached through your employee's smartphones, tablets, and laptops. And don't get me started on poor password management.

 Not Even Your Donuts Are Safe

Earlier this year, Dunkin Donuts experienced its second hack in six months. In this case, the information wasn’t that sensitive — mostly related to their DD Perks program — but it just goes to show that very little information can be considered untouchable. What is odd about this particular instance is that the information went right onto the Dark Web for the highest bidder to purchase. This may not seem like a problem until you read between the lines. This information contained usernames and passwords, which wouldn't matter unless someone really wanted that free cup of coffee you earned. However, since many of us reuse the same username and passwords for various accounts, it could be just a matter of finding out what other services you use — or even which bank you do business with — before the thieves gain access to your most critical information.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a safe world. It seems that at every corner someone is trying to breach computer systems to mine any tiny morsel of value. The most important lesson we can learn is to not let your guard down. As a business owner or someone who works within an organization, don’t feel that there’s something special about you or your system that would make you invulnerable or unattractive to a potential data pirate. As long as there is a single penny to be made, it seems that someone is willing and able to jump at it.

Invest in the best cybersecurity you can get. Don’t be the next company to have your data sold on the Dark Web.