Here’s an important question for you: Do you only eat your lunch after having died from starvation?
You will have likely answered “no” to that question, so here’s another one for you. Do you only fix your IT issues after they cause damage to your business?
You probably said “no” again. But unless you’re using proactive IT support, you should be saying “yes” instead because this is exactly what you’re doing. Waiting until the worst has happened before addressing a problem.
What is reactive IT support?
Reactive support (sometimes called break/fix support) is where the focus is on fixing IT issues after they occur, instead of preventing them from occurring in the first place.
For a long time, reactive support was the only type of IT support possible. But with modern analytics and systems management tools, better monitoring and even the rise of AI-enhanced predictive models, proactive support is now not only possible but widely available.
Yet despite the proactive model being available, many businesses continue using reactive support – often unaware of the damage it’s causing them.
Their choice of IT provider is most often to blame since the cheapest support rarely offers even a hint of proactivity. Instead, cheap providers favour the legacy break/fix approach as it allows them to get better margins on their clients.
Why is a reactive approach not good enough anymore?
1. Leaves the core of the business vulnerable
IT is vital to every department and process within a business. So, if there’s a problem with IT, there’s a direct business impact. This can range from being a simple inconvenience right through to a complete halt of operations. Accompanied by the typical reputational damage.
With a reactive approach, these problems both large and small can arise far more often. This isn’t necessarily because reactive support is worse at fixing problems, but because reactivity is worse at dealing with them.
With a reactive approach, an issue needs to be actively causing pain before it’s addressed. And this results in far more issues reaching employees.
Compared to the proactive approach’s continual improvement mindset, reactivity is also lacking. For a start, a reactive approach has no way to stop issues before they begin impacting the business. Reactivity also lacks the ability to apply past experience from one client to another. Eliminating most common issues completely.
With so many things going for proactivity, it seems like it should be the default. But it’s an approach that many IT providers only pay lip service to. Only with a focus on continual improvement, along with ensuring all systems are proactively monitored can an IT provider call themselves proactive. But once they do, many problems can be fixed long before their effects become visible. Reducing potential damage and minimising employee downtime.
2. Negligent to your clients/customers
By the time a reactive IT support provider begins addressing an issue, your customers or clients will already be feeling the negative effects. Perhaps a crypto-jacking infection on your web server is causing your website to become unresponsive, locking out customers. Or a failed piece of hardware has meant critical client assets are lost. These sorts of issues occur far more often with a reactive approach in place and can have major ramifications for your business.
The largest of these is that outages = lost clients. We live in a time where every business is commoditised. So if you experience frequent issues due to reliance on reactive IT support, your clients can and will switch to your competitors.
Additionally, if you have SLAs with clients, failing to meet them due to a spotty service can have direct financial repercussions. But needing to compensate your clients will not cost you a great deal but will also erode trust, resulting in further problems.
3. Allows issues to grow out of hand
With a reactive approach, issues are only fixed once they’re having an impact on your business. This means that a problem which has no immediately visible impact can go unnoticed until it’s far too late. Here are a couple of examples of the sort of things which can go wrong.
A few hours before going out to meet a prospect, a director’s laptop locks up with a message stating she must pay a ransom to unencrypt her data. Clearly the victim of a ransomware attack, the director is dismayed to find it has encrypted the files she needs for her meeting.
Upon recovering the files from their nightly backup, the company finds that the latest snapshot was actually several weeks old. The nightly backup had been encountering an error and failing each night. Without proactive monitoring in place to spot this issue, weeks of data were lost including the files she needed for her prospect.
On Monday morning, the finance department finds they can’t access their finance software and are all seeing an identical error code. Upon calling their reactive support desk they discover that the error code means that the software’s licence key has expired. It takes a day to renew the licence key and costs a considerable amount to do so. Due to no proactivity in relation to managing licenses, a whole day of productivity is lost and the unexpected cost takes a chunk out of the department’s budget.
A final point here: with a reactive support provider, there’s no guarantee that an issue fixed once is fixed for good or across all systems. Without proactivity, the same issue can arise many times, needing to be fixed from the ground up each time.
A proactive IT provider will instead flag the example issues as non-conformances due to their impact. Then, by putting controls in place, they would ensure that the issue won’t happen again not only for the affected client but for any of their clients. This prevents wasting resources on readdressing issues whilst also ensuring you’re always becoming more resilient to issues.
4. Blind to vulnerabilities
When most businesses think of cyber-attacks, they think of ransomware or DDoS attacks, both of which are very visible. But, most malware is designed to stay hidden on a network for as long as possible. Stealing as much data as it can or working its way up the chain of permissions to execute a catastrophic blow.
With the average compromised system staying undetected for 146 days, having no active monitoring due to reliance on reactive support is a dangerous choice to make. By leaving yourself blind to hidden vulnerabilities due to a lack of active monitoring, the impacts of a breach can also become far worse.
- Hidden spyware can steal more data, resulting in more affected clients and a larger GDPR fine.
- Hidden ransomware can move further laterally across the network before striking. Increasing the number of files locked and the ransom cost.
- Hidden crypto-jacking can wear down hardware and reduce employee productivity for longer.
- Hidden viruses can establish themselves far deeper within a device. Increasing the time and money required to remove it.
Lacking proactive monitoring and system vulnerability scanning allows these threats and more to stay on your network for far longer. Putting your business at a much greater level of risk than it needs to be. But with proactive monitoring and regular vulnerability scans, you can identify these risks and remediate them far quicker.
5. Normalises failure
When using reactive IT support, issues will often be common, recurring and irritating. The sheer volume of these small problems can easily overwhelm employees, causing them to either just get used to it or leave the company. Neither outcome is ideal.
In the case of employees who leave, a replacement must be found and retrained. But even after this, they will still have a chance of leaving the company for the same reasons.
Considering that the cost to replace a well-trained employee can exceed twice their yearly salary, high turnover can be catastrophic for your cashflow.
As for employees who get used to the issues, they may end up causing you more financial damage than those who leave…
6. Kills efficiency
With a reactive approach, each small issue needs an employee to take time out of their day to deal with it, instead of it being pre-emptively resolved.
Whether through having to call the reactive service desk or from reduced productivity whilst dealing with the issue. Even only a few minutes of disturbance per issue can make the wasted time mount up.
For example, if each small problem takes 5 minutes to identify, diagnose and fix and each employee experiences only one issue per day. A company with 40 employees will lose 16 hours and 40 minutes each workweek.
Extending this over a month, the company will lose 66 hours and 40 minutes. And over a year, 800 hours will be wasted. The same as having an employee lay on the floor all day, for 100 days whilst on full pay.
It’s also worth remembering that without proactive management, the same issues can keep recurring. From this, it should be easy to see how lost time can pile up, causing a significant impact on a business’s operations.
7. Proactivity is possible
This list could have consisted of this point alone because the simple fact that proactivity is possible should be enough of a reason to change to it. However, this wouldn’t have been very informative to you, the reader. Nor would it highlight the potential dangers of continuing to use the reactive model.
When comparing the two models, it’s not even a matter of weighing up the pros and cons. The proactive model is a direct upgrade. For one final analogy, it’s like determining whether to use a Palaeolithic hand axe (see: sharp rock) or a chainsaw to cut down a tree.
It’s also worth noting here that many IT support providers sell themselves as being proactive when in truth they’re not. It may be that their monitoring is proactive or one part of their operations. But this alone does not mean they are proactive.
You should aim to understand how your IT system is managed since this shows you what gains can be made with some quick initial changes.