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What IT Support is best for our business?


Over the years we have seen many business with different needs. A common question we’re asked is what type of IT support is best for our business? In this blog post we address the top three options, and offer some insight into what you as a business owner should be looking for in a partner.

Types of contract

Before we talk about the pros and cons for each contract, it should be noted that contracts vary wildly, and the contents of one retainer contract will look very much like a “low end” Managed Services Contract. As always the devil is in the detail.

Break Fix/Pay as you Go (PAYG)

A Break Fix or Pay As You Go (PAYG from herein) is where you, the customer report an issue to the IT provider, and they remotely (or on-site) resolve the problem. At the end of the month (and sometimes in advance) you pay the agreed rate, which normally comprises of a call out fee + any additional time.

This can be likened to calling a boiler repair company if the heating in your house stops working. You pay so much to have them attend the property (and maybe include the first hour) then additional parts and labour on top. 

Average monthly cost

Well, how long is a piece of string (for the answer see our blog article here), we know of rates as low as £15 per hour, but these are normally advertised by people working around their “day job”. A standard rate would normally be between £50 and £100 per hour with an initial fee of £75 > £150 for the 1st hour.

 What to ask

  • How much per hour?
  • Is there a call out fee?
  • Typical response time (and is it guaranteed?)

Retainer/Block Hours

These types of contracts come in many forms, the top end of these contracts may even include some monitoring and ancillary products (anti-virus, spam-filtering etc). But something that is always consistent with these contracts is the limits of its usage, normally surrounding support time per month.

At the lower end of these contracts we have known companies pay a “nominal” fee every month to ensure their phone calls and support tickets are answered before those of break fix clients, which in practical terms meant little when there is only one person at the end of the phone and they’re busy with another client.

At the higher end these are modified Managed Services Contracts (providing all the software and programs you would expect under such a contract) but with limits placed around the usage. We typically see these contracts limited to .5 > 1.5 hours per user per month, which may seem like a lot but if there’s an issue it can get used up quickly and the follow up bills will soon add up.

The hourly “overage” cost for these contracts will typically be in the same region as PAYG with maybe a 5% uplift.

What to ask

  • How much?
  • What’s covered?

Managed Service Contract

Like the retainer, the breadth of options with a Managed Services Contract (MSC) can be daunting, however the basics of any MSC should be the same. These are;

  • Fixed Fee (per user or per computer)
  • Unlimited Support (within the hours of the contract)
  • Service Reviews
  • Future Advice
  • Would include Applications/Proactive Services like
    • Anti-Virus
    • Anti-Spam
    • Patch Managements (for both operating system and applications)
    • Monitoring

However, comparing two (or more providers) can be tricky and you may want to consider using a vCIO to guide you through the maze.

Some key points to look out for are;

  • What’s included?
  • What’s not included?
  • What hours are covered?
  • What am I charged if I contact you outside of these hours?

A key differentiator is sometimes around the Service Level Agreement (SLA) or aka “How long will it take you to get to my ticket?”.

Whilst most Managed Service Providers (MSPs) would love to have enough staff to ensure all tickets are answered within 5 minutes, sometimes stuff (yep that’s a technical term) happens. A client has an internet outage, whilst another has an install, and a third decided to have an office move around, and not tell the IT guys. Whilst you may say “that’s not my problem” a key partner will only be able to maintain the price and service you demand with a fine balancing act of resources.

Average cost

The market is largely becoming commoditised and whilst it might be great to think you’re getting unlimited support for £20 a user this is rarely the reality in the long run. Outside of London typical MSP costs range from £30 > £60 (+£20 within London), but figures of £150+ are not unheard of for a full 24×7 support contract with “hot standby” Disaster Recovery Suite.

So as you can see there are a number of different options for your business.

The key is to assess the needs of your teams. Think about how often you expect to require support, what that support may look like and what the impact of not having the right support in place could mean in terms of downtime for the business.

Once you have an answer for these questions, you should be able to assess which of the options above most suit your requirements enabling you to approach IT providers accordingly.

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