As small and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders recognize the value that technology can have to accelerate their business, many turn to managed services providers (MSPs) as a trusted partner to help them build out their technology strategy.

The value that MSPs provide is to outsource the responsibility for maintaining these systems and proactively leveraging their services and technology to anticipate any potential challenges or strategically update systems. The ultimate goal for the MSP is to best leverage technology for growth, improve operations, and in many cases, reduce costs for the SMB versus hiring staff in-house.

However, some MSPs, unfortunately, don’t fully live up to this promise, acting more as a “break-fix” provider versus a true value-added services partner. In this case, the SMB is losing out on the potential value from an MSP partner and, therefore, the growth that technology could provide them.

A break-fix provider is different from true managed services in several ways. First, it’s largely reactive in its IT services. Instead of building ongoing strategic plans or managing systems, a break-fix provider acts similar to its name, called in to fix things when it breaks or when an upgrade is needed. These services might include repairs or necessary upgrades or installing systems, software, or devices. For example, a break-fix provider might be called in to fix a down server or system once it no longer works instead of optimizing operations or replacing those items before it caused potential downtime or disruption to the business.

This is different from true managed services, which supports clients 24/7 and proactively identifies potential issues or upgrade needs before they break, rather than after. When done correctly, an MSP provider is a strategic partner to an SMB, acting in many respects as their outsourced IT department. For this reason, the billing model is also slightly different between the two, with MSPs typically charging a monthly recurring fee for their services and break-fix providers more typically charging by project or at hourly rates.

While these two categories are very different, sometimes it can be confusing for an SMB to determine if they’re getting the total value from their MSP or simply acting as a break-fix provider at a greater price. SMB leaders should ask themselves if they think their provider is proactively providing the value they are looking for or just fixing systems when they break.

While a break-fix provider may be sufficient for some SMBs, the potential for technology to accelerate their business is immense no matter what industry they might be in. For that reason, a true MSP can be a powerful partner to help ensure they are making the most of the technology they have today and looking forward to new categories they should evaluate in the future.