By |Published On: February 7th, 2024|11 min read|Categories: Cybersecurity, MSP|

MSP vs MSSP Solutions: Which Is Right For Your Business?

Securing a business from cyberthreats is a vital activity for any organization, regardless of size or sector. But often, firms lack the necessary skills or resources to achieve this on their own. This is where turning to managed providers can prove hugely beneficial.

Smaller companies in particular can take advantage of the scale that these services offer in order to access capabilities that would otherwise be far beyond their reach. In today’s environment, where technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the way many enterprises operate, this becomes even more important if less-sizable firms want to avoid being left behind.

However, if companies are turning to the world of managed security solutions for the first time, this can be a confusing experience, with many options to choose from. 

One issue that businesses may encounter is choosing between a managed service provider (MSP) and a managed security services provider (MSSP). While these choices may look and sound similar, it’s important that businesses fully understand the differences between them and what they do and do not offer from a security perspective.

Does my Business Need an MSP or MSSP?

The first step will be determining whether any form of managed services will be suitable for the organization. There are a range of factors that go into this, including the budget a firm has available, what in-house resources already exist and what the current network situation looks like.

However, in an environment where threats are more advanced and dangerous than ever before, all firms should be considering whether turning to specialist cybersecurity providers will help them navigate this fast-evolving landscape and avoid a potentially costly data breach.

Making Cybersecurity a Priority in 2024

As we move into 2024, the importance of strong cybersecurity defenses should be obvious to any business. The last 12 months have seen a string of headlines about damaging cyberattacks, with trends such as ransomware continuing to gain pace. The damage that can be done if firms fall victim to such a security breach can be severe – and this is not limited to financial losses.

For example, it was reported that resort operator MGM Grand lost around $100 million after its systems were disrupted by a ransomware incident in September 2023. Meanwhile, towards the end of the year, game developer Insomniac had over a million stolen files published online after refusing to make a ransomware payment, revealing years of future plans and confidential business relationships.

These are just some of the high-profile attacks to hit large firms recently – and smaller companies with limited budgets may find it even tougher to guard against cybersecurity threats.

When Should Firms Consider an MSP or MSSP?

Firms that currently lack in-house resources can always benefit from managed IT services, but even if businesses do have their own team on hand, this does not mean that they won’t also be able to take advantage of such services. 

Some signs that a company might consider looking to enhance their existing capabilities with managed services include:

  • Suffering frequent downtime
  • Lack of visibility into every device on the network – especially for mobile and remote workers
  • Limited or frozen budgets 
  • The company is growing rapidly and struggling to keep up with new demand

What are the Benefits of Using Managed Security Solutions?

A major benefit of managed security services is access to skills that would otherwise be hard to find. According to training provider (ISC)2, there was a global shortfall of almost four million cybersecurity workers in 2023, while Forbes has found that in the UK, 93 percent of companies report an IT skills gap. Therefore, turning to a managed IT service lets enterprises gain access to all the best skills and expertise to meet needs without having to fight for talent.

Aside from this, teaming up with the right partner gives firms access to the latest technology and an assurance that their provider will be constantly evolving to keep up with new developments.

Other benefits of managed services include the ability to easily scale up as a business grows and much more predictable costs, allowing businesses to plan better for the future while also being assured their operations are protected from emerging cyberthreats.

What is the Difference Between an MSP and MSSP?

Once a firm has decided that it needs expert assistance, the next step is to determine exactly what type of cybersecurity service would be most suitable. That starts with understanding the similarities and differences between the various options, in particular MSPs and MSSPs.

What is a Managed Service Provider?

A managed service provider (MSP) is a more generalist option for outsourcing key IT functions. While it can include cybersecurity capabilities, it most often involves assistance with critical parts of a business such as managing network infrastructure, software and access management, as well as providing user support.

Such services tend to focus more on administration and day-to-day operations to ensure a network runs smoothly. Within this, security aspects will usually include tools to monitor systems for incoming threats, ensure access to assets such as databases is controlled and provide backup and disaster recovery capabilities.

What is a Managed Security Service Provider?

As the name suggests, a managed security service provider, or MSSP, will be much more heavily focused on the cybersecurity elements of a firm’s IT operations. They will typically include a range of services that aim to defend a network against outside intrusion, as well as protect against issues such as insider threats.

Among the technologies that firms can expect to see included in a comprehensive MSSP solution are:

  • Advanced firewall management
  • Email security
  • Endpoint protection
  • Patch management tools
  • Intrusion detection and prevention
  • Antimalware
  • Vulnerability scanning and security monitoring
  • Active threat hunting

What are the Similarities Between MSPs and MSSPs?

Both types of managed services provider offer access to advanced technology that can manage critical aspects of a network remotely. They are generally provided on a subscription basis with clear costs that make it easier for businesses to predict their outgoings and scale up when necessary.

What are the Key Differences in the Approach of an MSP and an MSSP?

In short, MSPs focus their efforts on delivering performance and efficiency across a firm’s IT network, while MSSPs offer a dedicated cybersecurity-focused solution that is more about day-to-day administration of a network.

This means that MSSPs generally offer more specific tools to keep a business safe from cyberthreats than MSPs may deliver, such as 24/7 protection and incident response. While an MSP may often provide more flexibility for firms looking for an all-round IT solution and provide support for a range of issues users may have, an MSSP’s scope is more limited, but will offer much more comprehensive cybersecurity services.

Which Should You Choose Between an MSP and MSSP?

The decision on which managed security provider to go with can be one of the most consequential choices a business makes when it comes to protecting itself from threats. Therefore, it’s vital that firms do their research thoroughly to understand the capabilities of the various options.

What are the Key Considerations When Choosing Between an MSP and an MSSP?

A key question is what firms require from their solution. If they are struggling to keep up with everyday IT demands, a wide-ranging MSP solution that can take over essential admin and maintenance tasks may be highly desirable. On the other hand, larger firms and those more exposed to cyberthreats may decide that the more focused offerings of an MSSP will be of greater value.

Situations in which an MSP may be the better option include:

  • If a firm has minimal or even no dedicated IT staff.
  • When growing businesses need to scale up in a hurry.
  • If budget constraints will make it difficult to hire in-house specialists or build new technology from scratch.
  • If businesses need ongoing support. 

Generally speaking, an MSSP will be more suitable for organizations that already have some IT capabilities, but lack specialist knowledge to counter evolving threats. An MSSP should be considered in the following situations:

  • The firm doesn’t already have a dedicated cybersecurity plan.
  • There’s a shortage of talented cybersecurity professionals in the area.
  • The industry is particularly vulnerable to or frequently targeted by cybercriminals (e.g., government, healthcare, financial services).
  • The organization requires 24/7 monitoring and an instant response to any suspicious activity – for example those in sectors with specific regulatory compliance demands.

What Does Incident Response Look Like for an MSP and MSSP?

A good managed cybersecurity services provider should be able to use threat intelligence to identify and react to any security incident as soon as it occurs. This is essential in ensuring that even if a company does fall victim to a cyberattack, any damage can be minimized.

This means having measures in place to prevent cybercriminals from successfully completing a data breach by removing critical information from the network. Once an attacker has exfiltrated data, it is too late to stop, so an effective solution must incorporate automated tools that can detect such activity on a firm’s endpoints and step in immediately to block any efforts to steal data.

Beyond this, good managed tools should provide incident response services including backups and recovery, data forensics and analytics to identify where any infiltration occurred and recommend steps to prevent future incidents.

Can MSPs and MSSPs Work Together?

It should be remembered that deciding between an MSP or an MSSP isn’t a binary ‘either/or’ choice. MSPs and MSSPs can and do work together effectively. This is likely to require extra investment and be more labor-intensive at the start of the relationship to ensure all tools can work alongside each other effectively, but for firms with few in-house IT resources, it can often be the best way to deliver a network that is both high-performing and secure.

It’s worth asking potential MSP and MSSP providers what facilities they have in place for working alongside other solutions. Any relationship should start with the provider conducting a full assessment of the needs of their clients, and this includes how their services will interact with other solutions. However, with the right partners and effective planning, there is no reason why MSP and MSSP tools cannot work side by side.

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