Why Your Customers Should Be Paying You for Nothing

Mic Geoghegan is an IT Consultant/vCIO for Ntiva, a successful AppRiver reseller based in Virginia. We asked Mic to give us his thoughts about whether and why IT pros should consider shifting their focus more toward managed services rather than hourly billing arrangements. Here is what he had to say.

In the outsourced IT World, there are generally two models. On one hand, we act like plumbers. Customers call us when something breaks, and we go fix it. We don’t do too much to keep everything running, we just react. This model is inherently flawed for a few reasons.

  • First, priorities are out of sync. The customer wants their systems working in order to be successful, and while we also want their systems to be running smoothly, in this model we don’t make money unless they call us. This means we, as a business, are successful when things break and they, as a business, are successful when things are working.
  • Second, IT Infrastructure and systems are significantly more complicated than household pipes. If your pipes burst, worst case scenario you’re looking at a flood, and some water damage. Poorly maintained IT Systems though can lead to data loss, lost contracts, and a whole host of business crippling events.

In effect, the break fix, or reactive model just doesn’t make sense in a world where technology is no longer just a tool, but an integral part of the business. Technology doesn’t just help your customers do their jobs more efficiently anymore, in many cases they cannot operate without it at all.

The Managed Services Provider (MSP) Model

The second model is that of a Managed Service Provider, or a proactive support provider. We still operate in a break/fix model if required, but more importantly we monitor, maintain, and assess the systems for potential and upcoming failures. We make sure patches and updates are applied, scan for predicted hardware failures, correct configurations, and ensure the system is designed to survive a spectrum of failures.

In a break/fix model, for example, you might make sure backups are running, and correct them if they fail. In a proactive approach, you would assess the backups, test restorability, ensure the right information is being backed up, and potentially implement a multi-tiered backup system utilizing off site backups. This kind of built in resiliency and management can mean the difference between large scale data loss and days or weeks of downtime and a rapidly restored backup or reconfiguration that has the customer back online in hours, not days.

In the MSP model priorities are in sync. The customer wants their systems functioning at peak, because it’s good for them. As the provider, we want their systems functioning at peak because it means we’re spending less time maintaining them. This can be a difficult model for customers, because after a few months of realigning the systems and installing proactive monitoring and resiliency, failures and reactive situations drop off significantly, and after a while, they are essentially paying you for nothing. In reality they aren’t, they’re paying you to keep everything working, instead of paying you to fix it when it breaks.

The bottom line here is that if you are still operating your IT business like a plumber, you are doing yourself and your customers a disservice. Managed services IT is easier to manage, easier to schedule, and better for everyone involved. Next time you get a call from your one of your customers ask yourself, “Is this something that could have been prevented through maintenance or monitoring?” I think you will find more often than not the answer is that it could have been. Once you do the math and lay out the logic, Managed Services type IT really is the only smart option.

Mic Geoghegan is an IT Consultant/vCIO for Ntiva, a successful AppRiver reseller based in Virginia. Read more AppRiver blogs here.