The first local Managed IT Service Provider in Kyle TX

Most businesses need help with computers and how to best use technology.  How do your support choices compare to an MSP?

Over the years our founder Mike Mathis has worked in most of the major forms of IT support.  Each form has it’s benefits and drawbacks so we wanted to talk about why we love the MSP model (for us) and when it may be a good fit for your organization. 

Five IT Service models listed in the most common order

  1. The “computer friend”

  2. The Geek Store

  3. The Hourly Break-Fix / IT Consulting Company

  4. The Managed Service Provider (MSP)

  5. The in house IT Department

1. The “Computer Friend” Where most people start… if they have friends

The computer friend is an extremely valuable element of most people’s lives as they often are able to take care of computer issues that come up in homes and small businesses.  Due to the overwhelming resources on the internet, most tech-savvy people can come alongside you and “make things work”.

The limitations of your computer friends come in when either your issues reach a level of complexity that start to break down with the “make things work” solutions or your friend can no longer afford the time required to keep up with them.

2. The Geek Store

The next step in many people’s IT Support journey is to walk into the local electronics store and ask the sales and support people how to sort out issues as they come up.  We cannot help but love the local Geek stores as we spend so much time shopping in them.  But the value of the advice you may receive from them will range wildly with each visit.

Some of the stores offer on-site services and phone support that resemble the break-fix model. But, they can only offer a limited result because the majority of the staff (in the US) are working entry-level positions and they are given a strong push to sell products as a solution rather than fully understanding the issues.

3. The Hourly Break-Fix / IT Consulting Company

Upon arriving in Kyle TX we traveled around looking for other IT Service providers, in that exercise we found UbreakIFix and stopped in to visit them.  After a quick conversation, it was clear they focus mostly on services like screen repair for mobile devices, but they do offer some regular desktop and laptop services as well.  

Mathis Consulting started in a break-fix model.  It commonly looks like PC/Mac repair services (not usually storefronts) that offer ongoing services in both homes and businesses at a flat hourly rate.   The advantage (the way we went about it) was to keep us truly in an unbiased position where we did not resell anything and people would simply pay us to find the best solution, not the solution that we could make the most money reselling.

After several years in this break-fix style consulting, the best part was having the ability to make great decisions with the full support of the organizations we serve.  It also drove us to provide value for each working hour we spent that would surpass the cost.  Overall I think it is a great way to start and build a great reputation but as you grow the model begins to break down.

The downside is that we were limited in our ability to see into networks as a whole and across our customer base as a whole.  So it placed a bottleneck on how much we can get done.  It also caused the costs of our services to change wildly from month to month as it is impossible to predict when a problem is going to come up. 

Another downside to break-fix was spending large amounts of time explaining each hour spent, and why it was necessary.  And on occasion being forced to make poor decisions because a customer was not willing to spend the necessary funds to do things in a great way. 

4. The Managed Service Provider (MSP)

After a time of being limited (by our model) and several attempts to leverage standard MSP Remote Management Tools, we finally were forced to become a monthly service.  As a result, we could afford better tools and put ourselves into a position where we can automate tasks that were soaking up all our time.  We also for the first time could offer fixed-rate services per computer that were both predictable and gave us the opportunity to stop taking shortcuts in the way we approach a project.

As an MSP we have found that the goals of each business owner we serve, and our goals are aligned in a new way.  When something breaks or a new setup is required it costs us both time and money but in the end will profit us both to fix it in the best way.  So we are highly motivated to both build things in the most stable possible way while constantly feeling the pressure to provide ongoing value to the users even while things are running smoothly.

It’s finally ok to give all the employees our phone number. In the MSP model, it is no longer a problem for the owner or staff to hand out the IT Service phone number.  Because it doesn’t incur additional costs AND it will make everyone more productive.  This results in an amazing relationship built between employees and the IT Company.

5. The in house IT department

In-house IT departments were a necessary part of most businesses in the past because of on site servers.  Years ago most organizations had at least one dedicated IT guy or at least a guy who was split between IT and another task.  At that time most places had at least one to three servers in the office for email, file sharing, and any other shared program or service that was needed.  Without that additional $50k-$200k per year spent on the IT staff you came off looking unprofessional with yahoo or aol email addresses or a tangled mess of pop emails.

Over the years most of those services have moved to the cloud where they no longer need a dedicated person to handle the “back end” side of keeping them running.  The expense of keeping all things on site is so much higher than cloud-based Software as a service and today only particular industries like biomedical and other industries looking to patent unreleased products can justify that level of concern over data protection.  For everyone else it has become far more cost effective to hire a Managed Service Provider (MSP) who will use online services.

So at what point should a business or organization still consider bringing IT Service back in house?  That depends on your specific needs and budget, for example, a large restaurant software driven company like Compeat may have a greater need for IT staff who crossover between direct customer support and office staff support.  

What are some of the dangers of in house IT Support?  Over the years we have seen several cases where an employee, who was given a dual role as the tech savvy person, (while still interacting with customers) ends up using his/her extensive access to data combined with existing customer relationships in order to split off and start a new company that will attempt to win the customers away from you while you are paying them to do it.

Conclusion – Why we love having an MSP modeled IT Service

Being a MSP (Managed Service Provider) for us aligns perfectly with both the need of most places we work and happens to be our favorite way to do business.  We will constantly be looking for ways to become better and more valuable to the people we serve but it is very likely that the overall structure and direction will remain in Managed IT Services.