Managed Service Providers vs. Break-Fix: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Computer / IT Support - Keyboard with a wrench

Executive Summary

  • Every small business will have to face IT support problems at one point or another, but what’s the best way to tackle them? If you don’t have an IT department within your business, it’s not always clear what to do.
  • The two most common choices for handling IT problems at work in the UK are a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or a ‘break-fix’ service. They achieve a similar goal, but in very different ways.
  • In this guide, we’ll be asking and answering a simple question: which form of IT support is right for your business, an MSP or a break-fix provider?


If there’s one thing all small businesses can agree on, it’s that IT problems are inevitable.

What makes the difference is how you deal with them — especially when you don’t have a dedicated IT department within your company.

It’s in these situations that you’ll be faced with a choice for your IT support: a Managed Service Provider or a break-fix service.

Not sure how to decide between each of these options? Or perhaps you’re not even sure what the difference between an MSP and a break-fix service really is?

Fear not, because the Get Support team is here to help you make a more informed choice about your IT support solutions.

What is a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

A Managed Service Provider, or MSP, is a company which effectively serves as an outsourced IT department.

As a business, you get all of the benefits of having an in-house team of IT specialists, but with (depending on the size of the business) a much lower up-front and long-term cost.

We go into a lot of detail on exactly what an MSP can do for your business in our Plain English Guide to Managed Service Providers, but here is a summary of the types of services you can expect them to cover:

  • IT support, both remotely and on-site
  • System administration, including setting up new users, emails, etc.
  • Backup and data recovery
  • A longer-term IT strategy, including hardware and software

Crucially, and what makes them different from the next service type we’ll look at, MSPs deliver their IT support services on a monthly subscription basis. This means that you’ll essentially have an “on call” IT team available to assist you with tech support problems, either in person, on the phone, or via remote support using digital tools.

What is a break-fix provider?

In contrast to an MSP, a break-fix IT support company acts as a single-use service, delivering services on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Rather than having a monthly subscription and a consistent relationship with the provider, you will instead only call them as and when an IT issues crops up in your business. This is often referred to as the “fee-for-service” method of IT support delivery, and it means that you’ll only be billed when work is done on your behalf, as opposed to via a subscription as you would with an MSP.

There’s no doubt that break-fix services are useful in certain situations, such as times when you have no other IT support options and need a fix fast. For example, if your in-house team is unavailable or you’re not yet working with an MSP on a long-term basis. If you know your regular IT service will resume soon, a break-fix company can save your bacon in many different situations.

Whether or not engaging a break-fix provider will be cost-effective for your business vs. an MSP partnership really depends on the way you operate as a business – and your tolerance to risk.

MSP vs. break-fix: which should your business choose?

So, with the big definitions delivered and the comparisons drawn, it’s time for the big question: does your business need an MSP, or will a break-fix solution be enough?

It’ll come as no surprise that it’s impossible for us to give a one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Just as every business is unique, so too are the needs of that business — including IT support.

What we can do, however, is offer some insight into the factors you might want to consider when deciding between an MSP and a break-fix provider:

  • If you anticipate multiple requests per month, an MSP can save you money. Having to pay for a break-fix service for something as simple as adding a new user might quickly become cost-restrictive.
  • Partnering with an MSP will save time in the long-run. Unlike a break-fix service, you’ll form a long-lasting working relationship with your MSP. That means they’ll know your business inside-out, so your IT support issues are fixed much faster.
  • Break-fix services may be useful in a pinch. If you don’t have an MSP or an in-house IT team, a break-fix IT service can come in handy as a short-term emergency service to tackle specific problems right away.
  • MSPs are almost always cheaper… eventually. Break-fix IT support can be appealing because the single, one-off billing method may seem cheap in the moment, but don’t forget that IT issues rarely happen in isolation. More than two or three problems and suddenly an IT support agreement with an MSP can seem like a very appealing prospect. (Don’t worry – it’s never too late).

Need an MSP? We can deliver IT support without all the fuss

At this point, we must of course declare an interest – because we are a Managed Service Provider – but, in our opinion, an MSP partnership is almost always the right choice for small-to-medium sized businesses.

Not quite sure if it’s the MSP life for you, or whether you’d prefer to roll the dice on a break-fix solution? No problem – but we’d invite you to discover exactly how an MSP like Get Support could help deliver both practical and strategic IT-based solutions in a cost-effective way. For a starting point, just check out our IT support agreements.

Alternatively, to dig deeper into the detail, call us today on 01865 59 4000 and we’ll talk you through solutions specific to your business. Or just fill in the form below and we’ll call you.

Latest From The Blog

New Microsoft Bookings

365 Feature Focus: The All-New Microsoft Bookings

Microsoft Bookings is designed to make the arrangement of customer appointments simple and straightforward. In 2021, Microsoft gave the app a new facelift, enhancing some features and adding some new ones. Here’s what you need to know.
On-Site Vs Remote IT Support

On-Site vs. Remote IT Support: Which is Right for Your Business?

With more businesses working from home or going the hybrid route, having a dedicated IT support team on site might not be the best option for UK companies. Here’s how to decide whether to keep IT support in the office or go remote.
Cyber Security

The UK’s Cyber Essentials Scheme is Changing in 2022. Here’s How

The Cyber Essentials scheme, backed by the UK government, gives businesses the chance to become certified in the fundamentals of cyber security – but it’s not been updated since 2014. In 2022, that’s going to change.