Comparing Apples To Apples:
The Predominant IT Service Models Explained
Before you can accurately compare the fees, services and deliverables of one IT services company to another, you need to understand the 3 predominant service models most of these companies fit within. Some companies offer a blend of all 3, while others are strict about offering only one service plan. The 3 predominant service models are:
When looking to outsource your IT support, the two service models you are most likely to end up having to choose between are the “managed IT services” and “break-fix” models. Therefore, let’s dive into the pros and cons of these two options, and then the typical fee structure for both.
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.” We couldn’t agree more — and that’s why it’s our sincere belief that the managed IT approach is, by far, the most cost-effective, smartest option for any small business. 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 typically not a good idea for general IT support for one very important, fundamental reason: you’ll ultimately end up paying for a pound of “cure” for problems that could have easily been avoided with an “ounce” of prevention.
Why Regular Monitoring And Maintenance Is Critical
For Today’s Computer Networks
The fact of the matter is, computer networks absolutely, positively need ongoing maintenance and monitoring to stay secure. The ever-increasing dependency we have on IT systems and the data they hold — not to mention the type of data we’re now saving digitally — has given rise to very smart and sophisticated cybercrime organizations and who work around the clock to do one thing: compromise your networks for illegal activities.
In most cases their intent is to access financial information and passwords to rob you (or your clients), create fake identities for credit card fraud, etc. In other cases they may want to use your computer network to send illegal spam, host pirated software, spread viruses, etc. And some do it just for the “fun” of being able to make computer systems inoperable. These criminals work around the clock in teams, constantly finding and inventing new ways to get around your antivirus software and firewalls; that’s why you have to remain ever vigilant against their attacks.
Of course, 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. Then there’s regulatory compliance for any business hosting or touching credit card or financial information, medical records and even client contact information such as e-mail addresses.
Preventing these problems and keeping your systems up and running (which is what managed IT services is all about) is a LOT less expensive and damaging to your organization than waiting until one of these things happens and then paying for emergency IT services to restore your systems to working order (break-fix).
Should You Just Hire A Full-Time IT Manager?
In most cases, it is not cost-effective for companies with under 50 employees to hire a full-time IT person, because you can outsource this function of your business far cheaper and with a lot less work; but you DO want to hire a professional to perform basic maintenance just as you would hire an attorney to handle your legal matters or an accountant to prepare your taxes. And if you truly understand the cost of your TIME and factor in employee productivity, the managed IT services model is considerably less expensive over time than the “break-fix” model.
What To Look For In A Managed IT Services Agreement And What You Should Expect To Pay
Important! Please note that the following price quotes are industry averages based on a recent IT industry survey conducted of over 750 different IT services firms. We are providing this information to give you a general idea of what most IT services firms charge and to help you understand the VAST DIFFERENCES in service contracts that you must be aware of before signing on the dotted line. Please understand that this does NOT reflect our pricing model or approach, which is simply to understand exactly what you want to accomplish FIRST and then customize a solution based on your specific needs, budget and situation.
Hourly Break-Fix Fees: Most IT services companies selling break-fix services charge between $150 and $200 per hour with a one-hour minimum. In most cases, they will give you a discount of 5% to as much as 20% on their hourly rates if you purchase and pay for a block of hours in advance.
If they are 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, I would suggest you demand the following:
If you hire an IT consultant and sign up for a managed IT services contract, here are some things that SHOULD be included (make sure you read your contract to validate this):
The following services may NOT be included and will often be billed separately. This is not necessarily a “scam” or unethical UNLESS the managed IT services company tries to hide these fees when selling you a service agreement. Make sure you review your contract carefully to know what is and is NOT included!
Warning! Gray areas of “all-inclusive” service contracts. In order to truly compare the “cost” of one managed IT services contract to another, you need to make sure you fully understand what IS and ISN’T included AND the “SLA” or “service level agreement” you are signing up for. It’s VERY easy for one IT services provider to appear far less expensive than another UNTIL you look closely at what you are getting.
The following are 21 questions to ask your IT services provider that will clarify exactly what you’re getting for the money. Some of these items may not be that important to you, while others (like response time, adequate insurance and uptime guarantees) may be critical. Make sure you fully understand each of these items before making a decision about who the right provider is for you; then make sure you get this IN WRITING.
21 Service Clarification Questions You Should Ask Your IT Services Firm Before Signing A Contract
Q1: Do they answer their phones live or do you always have to leave a voicemail and wait for someone to call you back?
Our Answer: We answer our phones live from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and give all clients an emergency after-hours number they may call if a problem arises, even on weekends. Why? Because many of the CEOs and executives we support work outside normal hours and find it the most productive time they have. If they cannot access their computer network AND can’t get hold of anyone to help them, it’s incredibly frustrating. You will always reach an ACTUAL employee of DotX when calling us anytime of day.
Q2: Do they offer a written, guaranteed response time to your calls?
Our Answer: We guarantee to have a technician working on a problem within 120 minutes or less of your call. This is written into every service agreement we give to our clients because it’s standard procedure.
Q3: Do they take the time to explain what they are doing and answer your questions in terms that you can understand (not geek-speak), or do they come across as arrogant and make you feel stupid for asking simple questions?
Our Answer: Our technicians are trained to have the “heart of a teacher” and will take time to answer your questions and explain everything in simple terms. Just look at what this client had to say:
"Our firm has been a client of DotX Technologies for well over 10 years. They have always handled our issues in a timely manner. DotX has been great with explaining our deficiencies and the various options to deal with them - ultimately saving us time and money in the long run. Fantastic support staff, knowledgeable, and excellent turnaround time. If you're a business in need of technical support - I couldn't recommend them enough." - Matthew, Law Firm
Q4: Do they consistently (and proactively) offer new ways to improve your network’s performance, or do they wait until you have a problem to make recommendations?
Our Answer: We constantly monitor and have conversations with our clients to look for new ways to help improve their operations, lower costs, increase efficiencies and resolve any problems that may be arising. Our goal with this approach is to help our clients be more profitable, efficient and competitive. We view the client - DotX relationship a Partnership.
Q5: Do they provide detailed invoices that clearly explain what you are paying for?
Our Answer: We provide detailed invoices that show what work was done, why and when, so you never have to guess what you are paying for. We also double-check our invoices for accuracy before they are sent to you. And if you ever have questions, or feel something was billed incorrectly, our team is happy to discuss and make any needed adjustments quickly.
Q6: Do they have adequate insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance to protect YOU?
Our Answer: Here’s something to consider: if THEY cause a problem with your network that causes you to be down for hours or days or to lose data, who’s responsible? Here’s another question to consider: if one of their technicians gets hurt at your office, who’s paying? In this litigious society we live in, you better make darn sure whomever you hire is adequately insured with both liability insurance AND workers’ compensation — and don’t be shy about asking to see their latest insurance policies!
True Story: A few years ago Geek Squad was slapped with multimillion-dollar lawsuits from customers for bad behavior by their technicians. In some cases, their techs where accessing, copying and distributing personal information they gained access to on customers’ PCs and laptops brought in for repairs. In other cases, they lost a client’s laptop (and subsequently all the data on it) and tried to cover it up. Bottom line: make sure the company you are hiring has proper insurance to protect YOU.
Q7: Do they guarantee to complete projects on time and on budget?
Our Answer: All projects are fixed-priced and guaranteed to be completed on time, in writing. This is important because many unethical or incompetent computer guys will only quote “time and materials,” which gives them free rein to nickel-and-dime you as well as take as much time as they want completing a project.
Maintenance Of Your Network:
Q8: Do they insist on remotely monitoring your network 24/7/365 to keep critical security settings, virus definitions and security patches up-to-date and PREVENT problems from turning into downtime, viruses, lost data and other issues?
Our Answer: Yes; our remote network monitoring system watches over your network to constantly look for developing problems, security issues and other problems so we can address them BEFORE they turn into bigger problems.
Q9: Do they provide you with a monthly report that shows the status of every machine on your network so you know for SURE your systems have been secured and updated?
Our Answer: Every month our MSP clients get a detailed report that shows an overall health score of their network and the updates to their antivirus, security settings, patches and other important network checks (like hard-drive space, backups, speed and performance, etc.).
Q10: Is it standard procedure for them to provide you with written network documentation detailing what software licenses you own, critical passwords, user information, hardware inventory, etc., or are they the only person with the “keys to the kingdom”?
Our Answer: All clients have this information available to them at no additional cost. We also perform a quarterly update on this material and make sure certain key people from your organization have this information and know how to use it, giving you complete control over your network.
Side Note: You should NEVER allow an IT person to have that much control over you and your company. If you get the sneaking suspicion that your current IT person is keeping this under their control as a means of job security, get rid of them (and we can help to make sure you don’t suffer ANY ill effects). This is downright unethical and dangerous to your organization, so don’t tolerate it!
Q11: Do they have other technicians on staff who are familiar with your network in case your regular technician goes on vacation or gets sick?
Our Answer: Yes; and since we keep detailed network documentation (basically a blueprint of your computer network) and updates on every client’s account, any of our technicians can pick up where another one has left off.
Q12: When they offer an “all-inclusive” support plan, is it TRULY all-inclusive, or are their “gotchas” hidden in the fine print?
Our Answer: Our “all-inclusive” support plan is just that — all-inclusive. One of the more popular service plans offered by consulting firms today is an “all-inclusive” or “all-you-can-eat” managed services plan. These are actually a good thing because they’ll save you a lot of money in the long run. HOWEVER, make sure you REALLY understand what is and isn’t included. Some things to consider are:
Backups And Disaster Recovery:
Q13: Do they INSIST on monitoring an off-site as well as an on-site backup, or are they letting you rely on outdated tape backups?
Our Answer: We do not allow our clients to use tape backups because tape backups are incredibly unreliable. We make sure all of our clients have current backups, on-site and off-sire if needed or desired.
Q14: Do they INSIST on doing periodic test restores of your backups to make sure the data is not corrupt and could be restored in the event of a disaster?
Our Answer: We perform a monthly check to confirm that a restore from backup for our clients CAN be recovered in the event of an emergency. After all, the WORST time to “test” a backup is when you desperately need it.
Q15: Do they insist on backing up your network BEFORE performing any type of project or upgrade?
Our Answer: We do, and that’s simply as a precaution in case a hardware failure or software glitch causes a major problem. Always have a plan B before proceeding with plan A - just in case!
Q16: If you were to experience a major disaster, do they have a plan for how your data could be restored FAST and/or enable you to work from a remote location?
Our Answer: We will discuss our standard plan and listen to your concerns at any time. We encourage them to do a full disaster recovery plan for their office, but at a minimum, their network will be covered should something happen.
Technical Expertise And Support:
Q17: Is their help-desk U.S.-based or outsourced to an overseas company or third party?
Our Answer: We provide our own in-house help desk and make sure the folks helping you are friendly and helpful. We consider this one of the most important aspects of customer service, plus we feel it’s important to keeping your data secure.
Q18: Do their technicians maintain current vendor certifications and participate in ongoing training — or are they learning on your dime?
Our Answer: Our technicians are required to keep the most up-to-date vendor certifications in all the software we support. Plus, our hiring process is so stringent, 99% of the technicians who apply don’t make it through. (Guess who’s hiring them?)
Q19: Do their technicians arrive on time and dress professionally?
Our Answer: Our technicians are true professionals that you would be proud to have in your office. They dress professionally and show up on time, and if they cannot (for some odd, unforeseen reason), we always notify the client immediately. We believe these are minimum requirements for delivering a professional service.
Q20: Are they familiar with (and can they support) your unique line of business applications?
Our Answer: We own the problems with all lines of business applications for our clients. That doesn’t mean we can fix faulty software — but we WILL be the liaison between you and your vendor to resolve problems you are having and make sure these applications work smoothly for you.
Q21: When something goes wrong with your Internet service, phone systems, printers or other IT services, do they own the problem or do they say, “That’s not our problem to fix”?
Our Answer: We feel WE should own the problem for our clients so they don’t have to try and resolve any of these issues on their own — that’s just plain old good service and something many computer guys won’t do.
A Final Word And Free Assessment Offer To Show You
How To Eliminate System Slowness, Crashes And Viruses And Drastically Lower Your IT Maintenance Costs
We hope you have found this guide helpful in shedding some light on what to look for when hiring a professional firm to outsource your IT support to. As stated in the opening of this report, the purpose in providing this information was to help you make an informed decision and avoid getting burned by incompetent or unethical firms luring you in with cheap prices.
Below you will find information on how to request a FREE IT Optimization Plan for your company as a next step in engaging with us. There is no cost or obligation, and we guarantee you will find this consult to be extremely valuable and eye-opening.
Looking forward to your call!