The first thing to consider is that all Managed Services Providers (MSPs) are not created equal. The term ‘MSP’ has become a ‘catch-phrase’ in the IT community, so many providers will call themselves one, when they clearly are not.

IT is an unregulated industry, so anyone who wants to can hang out an IT shingle and start fixing computers. Many ‘providers’ who ‘knew a little about computers’ and joined a company in some other capacity learned enough about computers to eventually try it as a trade. More than once, we at IT Support LA have experienced it first-hand. Having provided ‘back-end’ support to one of these erstwhile ‘IT Managers’, we’ve seen several leave to start up their own IT companies.

That’s ambitious, but not often good for their customers. It’s a matter of ‘they don’t know what they don’t know’. Unfortunately, it’s the customer who pays for their lack of education when the network goes down and the IT ‘guy’ cannot bring it back up. At IT Support LA, we come to the rescue for a number of these ‘providers. It’s only ethics that prevent us from stealing the customer, so until the client wises up on their own, we are there in the wings.

As IT needs grow exponentially across the world, more and more ‘semi-qualified’ providers are jumping aboard the IT train. Fortunately, there are simple ways to figure out who’s who.

If you want to know that you are interviewing a bona-fide MSP, consider the payment method. MSPs operate on a monthly subscription or retainer basis, not an hourly rate.

Hourly rate ‘players’ only respond to emergencies. Your network or a workstation is down and you wait.
Wait for the IT to show up.
Wait for the IT to find the problem.
Wait for the IT to fix the problem.
Wait for the newest in a number of separate invoices to arrive every month.
Then, you try to reconcile how much you’re are paying for haphazard support and excessive downtime.

Next, look at their menu of services. If your MSP is not offering these minimum services, they are not an MSP:

Network and Infrastructure Support
This is the number one, most basic service. It serves to keep the flow of information going in your work environment – emails, Instant Messaging, access to peripheral devices (printers, scanners), software applications, document sharing & storage, and so forth: Literally every method your employees use to access, use, and share information.

Remote Support/Help Desk
If your offsite IT guy is not monitoring your network and able effect repairs remotely, you are not working with an MSP. Period.

A true MSP not only proactively monitors and services your network 24/7, but there should be no restrictions as far as the number of hours per month they work on your behalf. Beware of ‘Packaged Plans’ that give you a set number, say 4 hours of Help Desk per month. It’s the overages that kill your budget.

Remember those first cell phone plans? 600 minutes a month for $59.95 sounded fine, until your bill was $250.00 for overages, or until, after two and a half weeks you were looking for pay phones because your 600 minutes were already spent.

Onsite Support
Before the internet, this was how all IT companies provided support, and the need for it has never gone away. Even with remote monitoring and repair, sometimes a technician needs to be in your office. Onsite visits, just like Help Desk, need to be unlimited - not subject to a preset number of hours.

Cyber Security
The hourly rate IT providers don’t take care of this until you ask or until your system is breached by data thieves or locked up by Ransomware.

True MSPs ensure that all security is in place and up to date, from Anti-Virus & Firewalls to Email filtering. They proactively manage security patches and updates, ensuring that they are installed when available. Also, as many Windows updates cause issues with the network, they anticipate and manage those ‘fixes’ immediately.

Ransomware is the fastest growing and fastest modifying cyber threat to businesses today. New data is constantly available on the mutations of these malwares, and the best MSPs monitor the new ‘strains’ as they appear and modify the defenses in kind to the changing nature and methodologies of the attack tactics.

Every year, over 80% of all Ransomware gains entry to networks by the business employees clicking bad links or opening malicious attachments in ‘Phishing’ emails. To a lesser extent, Malware enters by way of clicking bad links on ‘Spoofed’ (copied) yet familiar websites.

There are rules and regulations set forth by the government, from Municipal to Federal, to protect the theft or compromise of consumers’ confidential information through data breaches. It is the MSPs duty to ensure that your system meets compliance standards. This is not a matter of simply making sure all the ‘I’s are dotted and the ‘T’s are crossed – these regulations are there for good reason – to keep your system and your data safe.

Cloud Services
The best MSPs offer either full cloud services, where all applications are hosted and backed up offsite, or partial cloud services – the most common being email hosting. As the world has made a monumental move to remote workers due to COVID-19, these services are more crucial than ever before.

Full cloud implementation saves you, the client, money on upfront costs, backups & data storage, as well as recurring expenditures in the form of local hardware upgrades.

The best MSPs also offer Software as a Service (SaaS), such as Microsoft Office 365 or Google Suites and, to a lesser extent, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), such as Microsoft Azure or Hostwinds.

Backup and Disaster Recovery
At IT Support LA, we have a saying about Ransomware attacks: “It’s not a matter of IF, but of WHEN.” It is inevitable. As mentioned above, over 80% of Ransomware attacks are successful due to untrained office users.

No Disaster Recovery is possible without solid, reliable data backups, both local, for a speedy recovery, but cloud-based as well.

To review the echelon of backup types, please visit us here:

The best MSPs will have a written out Disaster Recovery Plan, which is tested on a regular basis. Backups are routinely checked for easy and reliable data retrieval as well.

Simply put, when Ransomware strikes, a Top-Notch MSP will localize and capture the malware quickly, then wipe the infected workstations/servers and restore the data from the backups with minimal loss of data (the data input since the last backup was performed).

Vendor Management
Often overlooked, but of critical importance, the very best MSPs will take responsibility of shepherding ALL vendors who affect your electronic communications (Internet, VoIP internet phones, etc.) under their comprehensive umbrella. When the internet people blame the VoIP people and vice versa, WE step in to take the reins and get the problem solved.

IT Budgeting and Road Map
This is where the term ‘Proactive’ really comes into play. An MSP like IT Support LA learns your system inside and out, (from hardware to software to storage reliability and capacity) your practices and procedures so that we can accurately and effectively predict coming logjams and application obsolescence.

We can tell you that at the rate you are storing data locally, your storage unit will reach capacity in ‘X’ number of months and an expenditure will be needed for an upgrade.

This, with the preset monthly retainer, makes budgeting for your IT both easy and transparent.

Get the Best in MSP IT Care

There are many other services an MSP can offer, but the above are the minimum that you should expect from anyone calling themselves an MSP.

Most companies do not casually make decisions such as who to trust with their networks and their data – the life’s blood of their business.

Choose Wisely

About IT Support LA

We embody each and every aspect of a Top-Notch MSP. Our methodologies are iron-clad, yet adaptive to your environment. We are entering our 19th year serving the Greater Los Angeles and Ventura County areas. We have continuously scaled our growth to ensure no ‘growing pains’, and our technicians are never finished with ‘school’ – the IT landscape, as well as the nature of Cyber Crime changes constantly, and we maintain that if those who are not a step ahead are far behind.

It is just this philosophy that has made our company award-winning:
o 2 Years awarded Best IT by the Small Business Expo
o Awarded 2nd best company of any type in the US by the Small Business Expo
o Awarded Best IT in California by Channel Futures
o 3 years listed as one of the Top 501 MSPs in the World by Channel Futures