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The Limited Unlimited

The idea of paying a fixed price for something unlimited is extremely enticing. We all love the thought of 'all you can eat ice-cream' and those splendid 'open buffets', but just how unlimited is it really?

When offered an all-you-can eat buffet, you could be forgiven for delighting at the idea of eating an unlimited amount of food. However, there is still a limit – not in produce, but in consumption. There is only so much we can eat in one sitting and unless invited to stay the whole day, the so-called unlimited offer is in truth limited to what you can eat in a given time constraint.

IT support is something that is available on an unlimited basis too - though only from a select few. For you the client, there are some perceived benefits to unlimited support – notwithstanding the fact that, no matter what goes wrong with your computer, you need not worry about how long a consultant spends fixing your problem because you are covered by your unlimited support arrangement. Or are you?

Some of the unlimited arrangements I have come across are far from unlimited. The support company takes a fixed amount of money from their client in exchange for an unlimited amount of IT support, but there is so much more to it than just that simple trade.

To provide this service, the support company will need a high volume of technical staff to be able to meet the demands of your client base. With so many different engineers assigned to your account, you can waive goodbye to any shred of continuity.

Even if you are lucky enough to be assigned the same engineer, chances are the objective for them is to protect their costs by attending only to the problem you have reported. If that engineer has a busy day, chances are your other IT issues may just have to wait.

Of course, not all support companies offering this service are focused on their own costs. If you are fortunate enough to find an arrangement of this kind where the engineer is happy to indulge you and any ad-hoc issues you may have, then great – hold onto them and never let them go. But the reality is that, no matter how honorable the intentions, there is one factor that creeps in and quickly destroys the spirit of the arrangement for both parties – human nature.

From the perspective of the consultant, it will be in his interest to spend as little time on site as possible, in order to maximize the yield gained from your monthly payments. To achieve this, he may want to get the job done quickly. He is less likely to check other areas of a system, or make pro-active recommendations that could make a difference to your productivity or infrastructure.

From your perspective as the client, ‘unlimited’ undeniably invokes the human instinct to indulge. With unlimited support at your disposal, the desire to find IT issues that need to be fixed can be overwhelming – especially if several months have passed without you needing to call support.

The bottom line is, this arrangement might sound wonderful, but in reality it is neither constructive nor efficient. In practice, it is just another “use it or lose it scheme.”

Any arrangement that requires you to take the risk with your hard-earned cash should be avoided at all costs. Find a solution that allows you to budget your IT spend, without any loss of revenue.

Sally Latimer-Boyce

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