When it comes to protecting your organization from cyber threats, going at it alone can be a risky proposition. While many companies have dedicated internal cybersecurity teams, the growth in number (and sophistication) of hackers and malicious actors often outpaces what organizations themselves can handle. That’s precisely why third-party services are becoming so popular, with both Managed Service Providers (MSP) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP) being employed on an ever increasing basis.
Statistics bear out the necessity for outsourced services like MSPs and MSSPs. In 2017, the average cost of a data breach was upwards of $3.62 million. And it’s not just the cost to remediate the threat and restore systems to their usual capabilities. Companies reputations are damaged, customers are lost, and compliance costs mount up (in some cases). In order to prevent these consequences, augment internal cybersecurity staff, and improve cybersecurity companies aren’t shying away from partnering with third-party applications and vendors. The question is, what’s the difference between MSP and MSSP, and which model is best for your organization in particular?
While there is no right or wrong answer, you’ll need to understand the basic difference between MSP and MSSP, the pros and cons of each model, and how to assess which might be best for you depending on your business and organizational needs.
What’s an MSP?
Of the two, MSPs provide the most basic outsourced network IT services. Businesses utilize MSP services not to necessarily manage cyber defenses themselves, but to better enable in-house teams. An MSP model does things like render system information and data understandable and usable for their employees and clients. Essentially, MSPs ensure that all IT systems are functioning as intended, while providing some backend infrastructure themselves, but without building additional layers of cyber defense.
MSPs typically operate on a per diem pricing model and help clients manage networks and system services. However, some MSPs do operate on per-device or per-user pricing models. MSPs tend to also be web hosting or application service providers that allow clients to outsource their network and application resource procedures under a delivery agreement. In most cases, MSPs own the entire physical back-end infrastructure and provide resources to end users remotely over the Internet on a self-service, on-demand basis.
MSPs monitor, supervise and secure outsourced networks on behalf of the organizations that are using those services. MSPs have specialized infrastructure, human resources, and industry certifications, and they provide 24/7 monitoring and provisioning of additional services for their customers. MSPs that provide servers and network services have massive data center facilities, which can host a number of different Web applications, private enterprise or software applications, and simultaneously interconnect networks through virtual private networking to many different sourcing organizations and individuals.
For quick reference, here is a breakdown of key services typically offered by MSPs:
- Remote Management and Monitoring (RMM) – RMM usually provides a set of IT management tools such as trouble ticket tracking, remote desktop monitoring, support, and user information through a complete interface. RMM helps to enhance the overall performance of present technical support staff and take advantage of resources in a much better manner.
- Onsite Services – This is a local touch that allows your MSP to come onsite to perform a variety of IT tasks. While not all MSPs offer on-site services, many do offer a fixed set of visits depending on the service bundle you purchase.
- Help Desk Support – An MSP uses ticketing systems to accept calls and support hardware or software usually sold by that MSP. The help desk support offered by MSPs is similar to customer service you might receive from other basic technology vendors.
- IT Security – MSPs may offer basic solutions such as endpoint analysis, wireless networking, gateway hardware and even basic Network Operation Center (NOC) services. These services are often limited to configuration, licensing, patching and support. NOC services are more geared towards network efficiency and operability than proactive security monitoring.
The bottom line with MSPs is that, while they do provide outsourced services and infrastructure to help monitor and address cybersecurity concerns, they don’t take a holistic, proactive approach to cybersecurity for most of their clients.
What’s an MSSP?
MSSPs, on the other hand, provide much more comprehensive and robust cybersecurity services to their customers and clients. Organizations that work with MSSPs are receiving specialized services that are geared towards proactively mitigating advanced threats on your network. A managed security service provider typically provide security services like incident response, incident detection, and penetration testing that also ensure compliance with regulatory mandates and industry standards. Instead of the more passive, infrastructure management approach under the MSP model, MSSPs focus more on day-to-day systems management and real-time monitoring of all systems for their clients.
MSSPs implement security measures that are designed to ensure the safety, security, and compliance of both IT systems and internal employees. Your MSSP partner will typically render information systems inoperable to anyone except for employees, building an additional layer of security around your systems. The primary focus is to prevent, identify and respond to potential breaches, hacks, or malicious actors that could occur at any given time. And while many MSPs also offer round-the-clock assistance, MSSPs typically utilize their own facilities with their own specialists. Think of MSPs as offering customer service, while with MSSPs you’re essentially getting another team of experts that function as employees.
These specialized teams are also continually trained by the MSSP so that they’re continually up to date on the latest threats and systems vulnerabilities that are specifically relevant to your business or industry.
Here are some of the services that MSSPs typically provide that are above and beyond the MSP model:
- Security information and event management (SIEM) – SIEM technology provides real-time analysis of security alerts generated by network hardware and applications. SIEM is sold as software, appliances or managed services, and are also used to log security data and generate reports for compliance purposes.
- Dedicated Security Analysts – Security analysts are responsible for maintaining the security and integrity of a business’s data. A security analyst is required to have knowledge of every aspect of information security within the company. The main job of the analyst is to analyze the security measures of a company and determine how effective each process is.
- Remediation Services – With an MSSP, you’ll gain additional capabilities to remediate and address cyber breaches or incidents, should they occur. MSSPs can easily do this through their SIEM capabilities. Not only should your MSSP be alerting you of network security concerns, but also taking responsibility of remediation to allow you to continue to mitigate risk and take due diligence.
- Constant Process Improvement – Another key aspect of MSSPs is to keep up your systems and process, facilitating your ability to stay as far ahead of hackers as possible. Today’s malware created is increasingly advanced, so it is critical to be able to detect when and if you’ve been compromised and take steps to improve your systems to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Pros & Cons of MSPs
One of the benefits of using MSPs is that they can quickly and easily augment an organization’s IT infrastructure if they’re currently not very strong. MSPs are also (normally) lower cost than MSSPs, for the obvious reason that they don’t provide the breadth and depth of security services. Getting up and running with an MSP is usually a breeze, as they offer pre-determined service bundles and a clearly tiered pricing model. MSPs also do provide service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a response within a certain amount of time from the MSPs team. Moreover, the pricing structure of MSPs is typically straightforward and therefore makes budgeting fairly simple. The backend infrastructure that MSPs provide is also of great benefit organizations that are weak in internal IT knowledge and staffing. In short, if your IT set up is weak, or if you don’t have much internal staffing resources, MSPs can quickly and cost-effectively provide additional layers of backend systems support.
Whenever you decide to outsource some of your infrastructure to an MSP, you’re relinquishing control (to some degree) of your systems. While this might not seem like a big deal to many businesses who want to cut costs, the downside is that you’re not building internal security capabilities over the long run. Sure, you’re getting 24/7 service and backend infrastructure that would take you (potentially) months or years to develop, but what happens if the relationship with your MSP ends? You’ll be left without much strategic IT direction, and be starting from scratch with a new vendor. Also keep in mind that due to MSPs business model, they’re not necessarily laser focused on your business. MSPs seek to sell as many service bundles and possible to as many clients, and sometimes might do just the bare minimum to fulfill their contractual obligations and SLAs.
Pros & Cons of MSSPs
On the other hand, MSSPs provide not only IT support but also a more robust, holistic service approach that focuses on proactive threat detection and helping to build your own internal cybersecurity capabilities as appropriate. MSSPs help detect, mitigate, and report on (for compliance purposes) any threats that might enter your system at any given time. MSSP teams typically operate at a higher level of expertise than MSPs, providing 24/7 service from an expert that’s dedicated specifically to your account. And unlike MSPs, MSSPs help simplify risk management and compliance efforts. MSSPs also offer more in-depth systems monitoring and reporting than MSPs and will work with your internal teams to analyze data and patch up vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by malicious actors.
The most obvious drawback to MSSPs versus MSPs is cost. MSSPs provide a wider array of services, and therefore a larger investment is required. For smaller businesses or those who are just beginning to address their cybersecurity concerns, MSSPs may be “overkill” from a cost and service standpoint. That being said, from a pure service and cybersecurity strategy standpoint, MSSPs offer a higher level of service and infrastructure than that of MSPs.
If There’s a Cybersecurity Winner, It’s MSSPs
By now you should be able to recognize that working with MSSPs can provide your organization with a much more enhanced layer of security (and overall strategy) than MSPs. In addition to some of the basic MSSP services mentioned above, many vendors offer higher level services as follows: Vulnerability Assessment and Management, Penetration Testing, Endpoint Security Management, Forensic Analysis, Device Health Monitoring, and Software Patch Management.
Furthermore, MSSPs take your cybersecurity efforts from reactive to proactive. One of the biggest trends today is that of Threat Hunting, wherein organizations partner with MSSPs to seek out and detect malicious actors based on sophisticated system monitoring and analysis of external metadata. Risk management is another key aspect that puts MSSPs head and shoulders about MSPs. As part of a larger cybersecurity strategy, your MSSP partner will help assess the risk and vulnerabilities of your systems as well as the nature of the data you need to keep secure. Financial services companies, for example, have different security requirements and handle different data types than healthcare companies, and MSSPs will design an approach and infrastructure best suited to specific industry standards and regulations.
When it comes to MSP vs. MSSP, the approach that’s best for you often depends on what types of data you handle, which industry you’re in, and the stage of maturity that your cyber defenses reside. If you’re new to outsourced services and are looking to get up and running cheaply and quickly with a vendor, then MSPs might just be right for you. However, as your organization grows and matures, it’s practically inevitable that you’ll begin to consider the more advanced and proactive services that MSSPs like RSI Security offers.
At the end of the day, there’s more than enough room in the cybersecurity landscape for both MSPs and MSSPs, and you’ll want to carefully consider vendors before selecting the right one. Make sure to consider not just your budget, but the track record of your MSP or MSSP partner, how dedicated they’ll be to specifically to your business, and what they’ll not just to respond to cyber attacks, but to prevent them before they even happen. Contact the experts at RSI Security for cybersecurity solutions today.