Understanding the Break-Fix Support Model and How It Works

The break-fix support model is a traditional approach to IT support where services are provided as needed

Created by: Daniel Ogunsemowo /

Vetted by:

Otse Amorighoye

Understanding the Break-Fix Support Model and How It Works

Introduction to Break-Fix Support Model

The break-fix support model is a traditional approach to IT support where services are provided as needed, rather than through a continuous monitoring and maintenance plan. This model is reactive, focusing on addressing issues as they arise. Understanding how this model works can help businesses decide if it is the right fit for their IT needs.

What is the Break-Fix Support Model?

The break-fix support model involves addressing IT issues only when they occur. Businesses contact their IT support provider whenever they encounter a problem, and the provider then works to resolve the issue. This approach is straightforward and can be cost-effective for businesses that do not experience frequent IT problems.

What is Break-Fix?

Break-fix refers to the method of providing IT services and support to businesses by addressing issues only when they break (malfunction) and require a fix (repair). There is no continuous or preventive maintenance involved; instead, the support is purely reactive. When something within the IT infrastructure fails, the IT support team is called upon to fix it.

What are Break-Fix Issues?

Break-fix issues are problems or malfunctions that occur within an IT environment, requiring immediate attention and resolution. These issues can vary widely and can include hardware failures, software errors, network outages, and more. Here are some common examples of break-fix issues:

  • Hardware Failures: Broken screens, malfunctioning keyboards, damaged hard drives, faulty power supplies, and other physical components.

  • Software Errors: Crashes, glitches, corrupted files, application bugs, and software compatibility issues.

  • Network Problems: Connectivity issues, slow network speeds, router malfunctions, and firewall problems.

  • Server Downtime: Server crashes, unresponsive servers, and server overloads.

  • Peripheral Device Malfunctions: Issues with printers, scanners, external drives, and other connected devices.

How the Break-Fix Model Works

Issue Identification

When an IT problem arises, the business identifies the issue and contacts their IT support provider.

Service Request

A service request is logged, detailing the nature of the problem and the urgency of the required fix.

Problem Diagnosis

The IT support provider diagnoses the issue, often involving remote or on-site investigation.


The provider resolves the issue, which can include repairs, replacements, or software updates.


The business is billed for the service provided, typically based on the time and materials used to fix the problem.

Advantages of the Break-Fix Model

Cost Control

Businesses only pay for services when problems occur, avoiding ongoing costs associated with continuous monitoring and maintenance.


The model is easy to understand and manage, with clear service transactions based on specific issues.


Businesses have the flexibility to choose when and how to engage their IT support provider.

Disadvantages of the Break-Fix Model


Since support is reactive, businesses may experience prolonged downtime while waiting for issues to be resolved.

Unpredictable Costs

IT problems can be unpredictable, leading to fluctuating and sometimes high repair costs.

Limited Proactive Support

Without ongoing monitoring, potential issues may go unnoticed until they become significant problems.

Is the Break-Fix Model Right for Your Business?

The break-fix model can be suitable for small businesses or organizations with minimal IT needs. However, businesses that rely heavily on IT infrastructure may benefit more from a managed services approach, which offers proactive monitoring and maintenance.

Detailed Breakdown of the Break-Fix Model

Issue Identification

The first step in the break-fix model is the identification of an IT issue. This can be done by employees within the organization who notice something is not functioning correctly. Common problems that might trigger a break-fix call include:

  • Computer hardware failures (e.g., broken screens, non-functional keyboards)

  • Network connectivity issues

  • Software errors or crashes

  • Server downtime

  • Printer malfunctions

Identifying these issues promptly is crucial to minimizing disruption. Some businesses may have internal IT staff capable of identifying and possibly resolving minor issues, but for more complex problems, external support is typically required.

Service Request

Once an issue is identified, the next step is to contact the IT support provider. This usually involves logging a service request. Many IT providers offer multiple channels for logging requests, including:

  • Phone calls

  • Email

  • Online ticketing systems

The service request should include as much detail as possible about the problem. This helps the support provider to quickly understand the issue and prioritize the request. Key details to include are:

  • Description of the problem

  • When the issue started

  • Any error messages or codes displayed

  • Steps already taken to try to resolve the issue

  • The urgency of the fix

Providing comprehensive information can significantly speed up the troubleshooting process.

Problem Diagnosis

After receiving the service request, the IT support provider will begin diagnosing the problem. This step is critical and can involve several methods, such as:

  • Remote access to the affected system

  • On-site visits by a technician

  • Diagnostic tools and software

The goal is to identify the root cause of the problem accurately. During this phase, the provider may communicate frequently with the business to gather more information and provide updates on the progress. Diagnosis can sometimes be quick, but complex issues may take longer to fully understand.


Once the problem is diagnosed, the IT support provider will take the necessary steps to resolve it. The resolution process can vary widely depending on the nature of the issue. Common resolution activities include:

  • Repairing or replacing faulty hardware

  • Reinstalling or updating software

  • Configuring network settings

  • Restoring data from backups

  • Applying patches or updates to software systems

Effective communication during this phase is crucial. The IT provider should keep the business informed about the steps being taken and the expected timeframe for resolution. This helps manage expectations and reduces frustration.


After the issue has been resolved, the business will receive a bill for the services provided. The billing process in the break-fix model is typically straightforward, based on:

  • Time spent by technicians (hourly rates)

  • Materials or parts used in the repair

  • Any additional service fees

Some providers may offer flat-rate pricing for common issues, but most prefer time-and-materials billing. It’s important for businesses to understand the billing terms upfront to avoid unexpected costs.

In-Depth Analysis of Advantages

Cost Control

One of the most significant advantages of the break-fix model is cost control. Businesses only incur costs when something breaks, allowing for more predictable budgeting. This can be particularly beneficial for small businesses or those with tight budgets. By avoiding regular monthly fees, businesses can allocate their resources more flexibly.


The break-fix model’s simplicity is another key advantage. There are no complex contracts or ongoing commitments. Businesses call for support only when needed, making the relationship straightforward. This simplicity extends to the billing process, which is clear and directly tied to the services provided.


Businesses have the freedom to choose their IT support provider based on their needs at any given time. If they are not satisfied with the service from one provider, they can switch to another without being locked into a long-term contract. This flexibility allows businesses to seek out the best service and pricing available in the market.

In-Depth Analysis of Disadvantages


One of the major drawbacks of the break-fix model is the potential for extended downtime. Because support is provided reactively, there may be delays in getting issues resolved. This can lead to significant disruptions, especially for businesses that rely heavily on their IT systems for daily operations.

Unpredictable Costs

While the break-fix model can help control costs, it also introduces a level of unpredictability. IT issues can arise at any time, and the associated costs can vary widely. This unpredictability can make budgeting challenging, especially for small businesses that may not have significant financial reserves.

Limited Proactive Support

The break-fix model inherently lacks proactive support. Without continuous monitoring and maintenance, potential issues may go unnoticed until they become significant problems. This reactive approach can lead to more severe and costly issues down the line, as there is no proactive effort to prevent problems before they occur.

Comparing Break-Fix with Managed Services

Managed Services Overview

Managed services is an alternative IT support model where businesses pay a fixed monthly fee for continuous monitoring, maintenance, and support. Managed service providers (MSPs) proactively manage a company’s IT infrastructure, aiming to prevent issues before they occur.

Proactive vs. Reactive

The most significant difference between the break-fix model and managed services is the proactive vs. reactive approach. Managed services focus on preventing issues through regular monitoring and maintenance, while the break-fix model deals with problems only after they arise.

Cost Structure

Managed services typically involve a predictable monthly fee, covering a range of services. This can help businesses budget more effectively, but it also means committing to ongoing costs. In contrast, the break-fix model’s cost structure is more variable and tied to specific incidents.

Service Level Agreements (SLAs)

Managed services often come with SLAs, guaranteeing response and resolution times. This can provide businesses with peace of mind, knowing that their IT issues will be addressed promptly. The break-fix model usually lacks such guarantees, potentially leading to longer wait times for support.

Comprehensive Support### Comprehensive Support

Managed service providers offer comprehensive support, including regular updates, security patches, backups, and more. This holistic approach ensures that all aspects of a business’s IT infrastructure are well-maintained. The break-fix model, on the other hand, focuses solely on fixing issues as they arise, without addressing broader IT needs.

Real-World Applications of the Break-Fix Model

Small Businesses

The break-fix model can be particularly well-suited for small businesses with limited IT needs. For example, a small retail store with a few computers and a point-of-sale system might opt for break-fix support. Since their IT needs are relatively simple and they do not experience frequent issues, the cost-effective and straightforward nature of break-fix support can be a good fit.


Startups often operate on tight budgets and may not have the resources to invest in a managed services contract. The break-fix model allows them to address IT issues as they arise without committing to ongoing expenses. However, as startups grow and their IT needs become more complex, they might need to reevaluate this approach.

Organizations with In-House IT Staff

Organizations that have in-house IT staff to handle day-to-day operations but require external support for more complex issues can benefit from the break-fix model. For instance, a medium-sized company might handle basic troubleshooting internally but rely on an external provider for hardware repairs or specialized software issues.

Case Study: Break-Fix in Action


Consider a small law firm with ten employees. They primarily use computers for word processing, email, and legal research. The firm does not have a dedicated IT department but has established a relationship with a local IT support provider for break-fix services.


One day, the firm’s main server crashes, disrupting access to important files and email. The firm immediately contacts their break-fix IT provider.


  1. Service Request: The firm logs a service request via the provider’s online ticketing system.

  2. Problem Diagnosis: A technician remotely accesses the server and identifies a hardware failure.

  3. Resolution: The technician visits the firm’s office, replaces the faulty hardware, and restores the server from the latest backup.

  4. Billing: The firm receives a bill for the technician’s time and the replacement hardware.


The issue is resolved within a few hours, and the firm’s operations are back to normal. The firm pays for the service and continues with its regular operations without any ongoing IT expenses.

Evaluating the Break-Fix Model for Your Business

Assessing IT Needs

To determine if the break-fix model is suitable for your business, start by assessing your IT needs. Consider factors such as:

  • The complexity of your IT infrastructure

  • The frequency of IT issues

  • The criticality of IT systems to your operations

  • Your budget for IT support

Weighing Pros and Cons

Next, weigh the pros and cons of the break-fix model in the context of your business. If you experience infrequent IT issues and have a tight budget, the break-fix model might be a good fit. However, if IT is critical to your operations and downtime is costly, a managed services approach might be more beneficial.

Exploring Hybrid Models

Some businesses opt for a hybrid approach, combining elements of both break-fix and managed services. For example, they might use managed services for critical systems and break-fix support for less essential components. This approach can provide a balance of proactive support and cost control.


The break-fix support model provides a reactive approach to IT issues, focusing on fixing problems as they arise. While it offers cost control and simplicity, it can lead to downtime and unpredictable expenses. Understanding the pros and cons of this model can help businesses make informed decisions about their IT support strategy. By following this comprehensive guide, businesses can better understand the break-fix support model and determine if it aligns with their IT needs and objectives.