Managed IT Services 101

This resource brings you up to speed on the concept of managed IT services, how it benefits organizations, managed IT in the cloud, what to look for in a Managed Services Provider (MSP), and more.


A Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) manages your information technology (IT) ecosystem with monitoring, software, hardware, security, and end-to-end support. MSPs give law firms and small businesses access to high-quality IT systems, talent, and processes so they can compete with larger competitors without the expense of an in-house IT manager. But not all MSPs are created the same. What should you look for in an MSP? Find out!

Every 39 seconds, a hacker tries to steal data from a business. 43% of those attacks are aimed at SMBs. When they succeed, 60% of small businesses close within 6 months. Information technology (IT) is the shield that protects small-to-medium sized businesses from collapsing under the pressure of cybersecurity threats. But maintaining your IT architecture isn’t easy and it’s definitely not cheap.

Server maintenance, system upgrades, security monitoring, and hardware costs add up fast. In fact, small businesses spend a larger chunk of their budget (approx. 6.9%) than enterprises (approx. 3.2%) on IT. Arguably, small businesses require a more robust IT framework than large organizations, since they can’t bear the cost of a breach.

Many small businesses outsource their IT to a third-party Managed IT Service Provider to save time, money, and headaches. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits.

What is a Managed IT Service?

Managed IT services provide consistent and ongoing IT management end-to-end. Typically, this includes monitoring, software, hardware, and security, as well as process management and strategy—which breeds immediate and future-proof IT architecture. Businesses utilize managed IT services to increase flexibility, reduce monitoring pain points, and create cost-effectiveness.

Most managed IT services are run by Managed Service Providers (MSPs). These are third-party IT providers that handle partial or full IT needs for your business. Generally, MSPs access talent, technology, and processes that may be financially out-of-reach for SMBs. Case in point, 75% of small business owners admit they don’t have the staff to deal with a security breach. By partnering with an MSP, small businesses can scale their IT architecture without significant cost or talent barriers.

In traditional IT models, businesses are forced to hire internal talent and invest in all the technologies and monitoring needs for their business. That’s expensive. The average salary for a low-level IT employee is $79,000. For systems engineers and project managers, that number jumps to over $100,000. Unfortunately, that’s only the start. Finding the right technology, building relationships with the right vendors, and creating an ecosystem that promotes consistent and continuous monitoring are high-priority, time-consuming list items. Many companies aren’t positioned to handle those tasks.

Compared to internal IT, Managed IT Services provide:

  • Predictive failure monitoring with unlimited support with extended hours coverage
  • Access to a full-scale team of IT experts without onboarding or salary costsAccess to a full-scale team of IT experts without the risks and management associated with salaried employees
  • Disruption-free, secure, reliable network that reduces downtime costs and increases productivity for a competitive advantage.
  • A flat monthly service rate for better budgeting and projections
  • Technology strategy and risk mitigation consulting
  • Compliance with PIPEDA and provincial law society protocols (absolute data security and retention)

MSPs provide a cost-effective solution for businesses that don’t have—or don’t want to build in—the resources to create a solidified IT infrastructure.

What Exactly Do Managed IT Service Providers Do?

Managed IT services give small businesses access to high-quality IT systems, talent, and processes. However, these systems, people, and processes vary by company. In general, you want your MSP to provide the following functions:

  • Proactive monitoring and alerting of all IT systems: When IT systems fail overnight, they cause serious headaches in the morning. Gartner predicts the average cost of downtime is over $5,000 per minute. MSPs monitor your physical systems and software around-the-clock for failures, malfunctions, and crashes. When emergencies happen, your MSP works to alleviate them immediately, taking expensive stress off your company’s shoulders.
  • Continuous security monitoring and hardening: You may close shop for the night; hackers don’t. 83% of small businesses don’t have the liquidity to deal with a cybersecurity breach that happens when systems are idle. MSPs reduce your threat surface and increase your security posture with non-stop security monitoring and hardening.
  • Alignment of IT systems to industry and MSP best-practices.
  • Technology Consulting: What systems do you need? With a never-ending stream of SaaS apps emerging in the tech marketplace, finding solutions that make sense for your business isn’t easy. 63% of small business owners feel overwhelmed at the number of tech offerings at their fingertips (cloaked by marketing gimmicks). To maximize efficiency and minimize costs, an MSP provides clear and consistent tech advice and consulting.
  • Technology Budgeting and Planning: Choosing the right IT solution is the starting point. After that, an MSP outlines IT specs, cost, and implementation requirements for every new piece of tech you add to your stack.
  • IT Asset and Software Management: Setting up new software and managing hardware components is challenging for small businesses. 80% of SMBs still use manual integration tools. A mere 17% of small businesses admit they are ready to implement new technology. It’s a time-consuming, labour-intensive process that requires significant support. An MSP handles your hardware and software setup—giving you time to focus on growing your business.
  • Risk Awareness and Risk Mitigation: A single data breach can sink your business. To effectively manage risk, businesses need to understand the current risk landscape and implement the right mitigation strategies to keep data safe-and-secure. A reputable MSP should reduce your threat landscape and keep up-to-date on your compliance needs (e.g., PIPEDA, CCPA, GDPR, etc.)
  • Backups, Disaster Recovery, and Business Continuity Planning: 93% of companies without a disaster recovery plan go out of business within a year of a disaster. MSPs provide best-in-class data backup and recovery as well as business continuity plans. If you don’t have a business continuity plan, you’re not alone: only 27% of large organizations consider their business continuity plan mature. Virtually no small businesses implement continuity planning.
  • Security Patch Management and System Updates: Did you know that 80% of breached businesses could have prevented the breach with a simple patch? In today’s digital ecosystem, keeping your systems up-to-date can be difficult. Your MSP handles all of your security patching needs.
  • Workflow Analysis and Technology Recommendations to Improve Efficiencies: 85% of small business owners know tech can positively impact their workflows. But most don’t know where to start. MSPs help you find the right technology for your unique situation. The goal of tech is to maximize workflows, reduce headaches, and streamline efficiencies.

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Which Industries Use Managed IT Service Providers?

Massive organizations have the resources to build out complex internal IT teams. Small businesses don’t. Small-to-mid-sized businesses use MSPs across a broad range of industries. Law firms depend on MSPs to protect sensitive client information. Despite over a quarter of law firms experiencing a data breach in 2019, a mere 24% encrypt their data. Even worse, only 25% have an incident response plan.

The ABA suggests that all lawyers, “should have security programs tailored to the size of the firm and the data and systems to be protected.” Yet, the majority haven’t implemented security policies and systems. Smaller firms aren’t known for their IT departments. In fact, many don’t have a dedicated in-house IT pro. Given the amount of private and sensitive data that lawyers deal with, failure to implement the right cybersecurity policies can sink a firm—fast.

Before the Panama Paper scandal, Mossack Fonseca & Co was the fourth-largest provider of offshore financial services. After the infamous data breach, they shut their doors for good. There are good arguments that Mossack Fonseca & Co committed fraud. But they never faced civil or criminal action. Their official statement for closure was due to the reputation damage from the leak.

Law firms are desirable targets for hackers. Lawyers themselves, unwittingly, tend to be the weak link in the cybersecurity chain. They handle incredibly sensitive data but the majority of firms don’t invest in full-scale security mitigation. From a lawyer suing his own firm for a data breach to the hundreds of high-profile law firms suffering from security breaches over the past 7 years, cybersecurity and IT are serious issues in the legal space. So, it shouldn’t be too surprising that 67% of law firms are looking to MSPs to solve their security woes.

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Managed IT Onsite vs. Managed IT in the Cloud

There are two primary methods of administering managed IT: on-site and over the Cloud.

On-site managed IT services pairs legal firms with IT pros who manage your on-site IT infrastructures. Cloud-managed IT services use a cloud solution to remotely provide hardware, software, monitoring, and security—usually via a scalable Cloud Desktop. Both on-site and Cloud-managed are fantastic solutions. Choosing between the two comes down to your firm’s needs. With Cloud-managed services, you get a highly scalable architecture that is hosted in a secure data centre with dedicated support. With on-site managed IT, you get dedicated support and maintenance for your on-site IT infrastructure.

Most businesses find more value in Cloud-managed IT. Virtual employees launch faster, react faster, and mitigate issues faster. They’re not hinged to your location. Cloud-managed IT also provides fully-scalable cloud architecture for your data.

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How to Evaluate Your Managed IT Provider

Choosing the right managed IT provider is difficult. Choose the wrong partner, and your strategic, cost-saving managed IT solution turns into a pain point. Beyond having the necessary credentials and experience, here are some questions you should ask every managed IT provider:

1. Does your MSP provide a dedicated CIO?

Get a clear, open, and consistent channel of communication from your Managed IT provider. Reputable MSPs will provide you with a virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) that’s available to answer your questions. This technology executive builds long-term goals and executes short-term projects. Typically, vCIOs are one of the highest-paid positions in IT, which is why some MSPs skimp on vCIOs to save money—look for an MSP that provides a dedicated vCIO!

32% of business leaders cite “lack of knowledge” as their biggest barrier to the Cloud. 55% of businesses believe their tech tools are holding them back. A vCIO helps firms navigate IT complexities and provides an open channel of communication for critical issues.

2. Does your MSP continuously protect your business against cyber threats?

Cybersecurity isn’t a one-and-done war; it’s an everyday battle. 62% of businesses deal with phishing and social engineering attacks. The overall number of breaches has increased by 11% since 2018. And it takes an average of 314 days to identify and contain data breaches. Reputable MSPs will come with a variety of cybersecurity offerings, such as:

  • Encryption & decryption
  • Backup features
  • Phishing detection and mitigation
  • Dark web monitoring for password thieves and hacked accounts
  • Risk reduction strategies

3. What percentage of your MSP team is dedicated to proactively solving issues?

High-value Managed IT Service Providers are proactive, not reactive. If an MSP pitches reactive solutions like breach containment, make sure they also offer proactive measures. Around-the-clock monitoring and preemptive risk reduction strategies are more valuable than containment. You want to catch threats before they become problems.

In an ideal world, MSPs spend the majority of their time on proactive solutions. MSPs that focus solely on reactive solutions are providing “too-late” services. Once you’re hacked, the damage is done. By using mitigation strategies through proactive monitoring, will result in minimal damage.

4. What is your MSP’s support level?

IT disruptions can happen at any time. Your MSP should be available to respond to your IT issues during the hours you work (even evenings and weekends). Find a managed IT provider that keeps a +98% customer satisfaction rating. You’ll rely on your MSPs support for emergency situations. Some managed IT providers refuse to offer after-hour support. Others may outsource their support. Both of those situations can be disastrous when a threat surfaces.

5. Does your MSP help with long-term and short-term IT budgeting?

Budget forecasting is a core tenant of IT management. Where should you invest to improve your security posture, reduce data hiccups, and create a more holistic IT ecosystem? Your Managed IT Service Provider should provide in-depth advice on budgeting. Ideally, look for long-term and short-term budgeting. Short-term budgets deal with immediate needs. But long-term budgets are equally important. Your business will scale. You will grow. And when you do, you need to have systems and strategies in place that facilitate growth.

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Are You Ready to Partner With The Right Managed IT Provider?

Around 50% of lawyers say they haven’t advanced their IT because they don’t have time to “step away from business as usual.” According to the ABA annual legal cybersecurity survey, 36% of firms dealt with viruses last year, and 26% of law firms experienced a data breach. Your firm needs the right IT solutions to mitigate risks and improve budgeting and planning across your IT ecosystem. We can help. At Vertex, we specialize in helping lawyers and law firms manage their IT systems with best-in-class monitoring, budgeting, and cybersecurity. Are you ready to reduce your threat landscape and improve the performance and stability of your IT systems? Contact us.

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Glossary of Terms

IT: Stands for “Information Technology.” Information technology stores, retrieves, utilizes, and protects data. Virtually all technologies (hardware, software, and network) fall under the umbrella of IT.

Managed IT Service Provider: A Managed Service Provider (MSP) manages your information technology (IT) ecosystem with end-to-end support.

Technology stack: (or tech stack) is the software solutions your business uses to stay productive.

Cybersecurity hardening: Is the process of reducing the threat surface of your applications and systems.

Business continuity planning: Involves creating systems and processes to react to threats at your firm.

Phishing: An attempt to gain passwords, usernames, or access to systems by posing as a trustworthy source.

Dark web: A portion of the internet that’s invisible to search engines and requires specific networking and technology to access.

Cybersecurity monitoring: The process of consistently and automatically identifying and mitigating threats in real-time.

Encryption: A method of securing data by encoding it using algorithms and technology.

Decryption: The process of reversing encryption to allow access to a file.

vCIO: A Virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) is the administrator or chief of an IT team.

LSO: The Law Society of Ontario is the law society responsible for the self-regulation of lawyers and paralegals in the Canadian province of Ontario. Also, see the LSO’s Technology Practice Management Guideline.

GDPR: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data privacy standard that virtually every business on the planet must comply with.

Threat landscape: The number of risk entries in your system.

Next Steps

Discover what managed IT services can do for your organization

Since 2008, Vertex’s team of committed and passionate IT professionals have been dedicated to the success of our clients’ law firms and businesses. Through delivering exceptional results and impeccable customer service, our team ensures a best-in-class managed IT experience that proves itself in a disruption-free, secure and reliable network that allows our clients to fully maximize their potential.

Let Vertex take on your law firm’s IT responsibilities – we will deliver innovative, secure and flexible IT enterprise solutions with tangible results that will grow and evolve with your law firm’s technology requirements, all for one fixed hassle-free price.

Call us today (416-860-7555) or contact us below, to talk with one of our seasoned consultants. We’re happy to answer your questions, provide recommendations, and audit your current IT network.

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