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MSP vs. MSSP: What’s the Difference

MSP vs MSSP: Comparing the Two Services
Credit: Jefferson Santos

Although they possess very similar acronyms, traditional IT Managed Services Providers, or MSPs, typically manage the IT Infrastructure and end-points, such as user systems. 

The MSP manages day-to-day IT functions, like network support and user support, that keep the company running. Good MSPs also provide long-term planning and recommendations.  

MSSP stands for Managed Security Services Provider

These companies provide a very important, but very specific function for the business, which is to protect the company from loss resulting from a security breach.

An analogy would be a big industrial-age plant. The MSP,  by analogy, controls all the machines in the plant, while the MSSP controls all the doors, windows, locks and keys to the plant. 

To complicate matters, many MSPs provide basic security protection for their clients, including firewalls, virus scanners, spam protection, backup, and more. These MSPs may have sufficient expertise for your security needs, depending on your industry/compliance requirements.  

The MSSP Basics

An MSSP deals exclusively with managed security services. This encompasses security monitoring of your entire network and management of the software used to do so. 

A good MSSP is more than just an added reseller of security software. They are built around a SOC or Security Operations Center. A SOC is a hub that focuses on protecting your company’s data infrastructure by preventing, detecting, and responding to threats. 

Each company’s unique infrastructure consists of networks, servers, databases, and additional applications. 

Most MSSPs offer round-the-clock monitoring and nearly immediate incident management and response time to monitor all of these assets.

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Detailed Cybersecurity Services

The services provided by an MSSP are incredibly detailed. They provide all-encompassing services like network security and more subtle security tactics like access management.

In terms of other detailed cybersecurity services provided by MSSPs, the list includes

  • Vulnerability scanning
  • High-availability SOCs
  • Managed firewall services
  • Virtual private networks (VPNs)
  • Intrusion detection and intrusion prevention (IDS / IPS)
  • Continuous monitoring of security systems and devices

Assessments

A good MSSP will conduct a risk assessment to evaluate a client’s security positioning versus industry-best standards. They will determine if all services are up-to-date and compliant. An MSSP must also be aware of regulatory compliance standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA and ISO.

Access Management

Most individuals in a company do not have access to all parts of software and systems. Restricting access to only those necessary can help avoid confusion and protect data. 

An MSSP can help assess current roles and/or security groupings. They will recommend any changes or customizations needed. This method is relevant for applications used by employees and customers alike. Customized security roles are a basic way to avoid unauthorized users.

Advanced Security Services

MSSPs may also deal with the deployment, configuration and monitoring of the following for your company: 

  • Anti-virus software
  • Asset management security
  • Firewalls
  • Managed endpoint protection to block threats to mobile devices
  • Data loss prevention 
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for a trusted, encrypted connection to the corporate network
  • Cyber breach forensic services to investigate and analyze incidents and evidence

Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence is a security service that exceeds your needs and must be forward-thinking. 

Not only does it analyze the latest trends in security, but it also provides knowledge and understanding of the most popular forms of cyber attacks and security threats.

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The MSP Basics

The biggest difference between the cybersecurity-centred MSSP vs. an MSP is their focus. 

An MSP supports and manages its clients’ IT infrastructure. The MSP frequently redesigns client networks depending on changes in technology and vendors.  

The MSP’s primary responsibility is the smooth day-to-day function of their client’s technologies which may span multiple locations and networks. 

Usually, it includes a help desk, with escalated support services. The MSP typically manages the servers, whether in-house or in the cloud, including access/permissions, downtime and security.  The MSP provides regular reporting on network events and statistics as well. The MSP should also provide direction to clients in the form of recommendations, plans and quotes. 

Depending on the strengths of the provider, an MSP may offer a single niche service or can replace an entire company’s IT department.

MSP vs. MSSP: What’s the Difference

Credit: Lagos Techie 

Managed Service Provider Details

A managed service provider may also work from a dedicated hub for each client, called a NOC or Network Operations Center. From here, they may provide such offerings as: 

  • Technical support 
  • Device management
  • IT infrastructure management
  • Fully managed hardware outsourcing
  • Software inventory management
  • Onboarding of employees
  • Network communications
  • 24/7 network, hardware, and software optimization
  • Roadmap recommendations
  • Patch management and updates
  • Data backup management

Engaging with an MSP means your technology can be used smoothly, and all employees have access to the tools they need to do their job well. 

How MSPs and MSSPs Overlap

Most of the information surrounding an MSSP vs. an MSP deals with their differences. However, there is bound to be some overlap. As the technology industry evolves, so do the respective roles of both providers.

Sometimes, for instance, in dealing with IT performance issues, an MSP will also deal with the granting of permissions within an application. This falls under access management which may be monitored by an MSSP. However, that doesn’t mean that an MSP won’t need to deal with user roles to perform their job as well.

In addition to the services listed above, MSPs also offer various forms of cybersecurity protection. Some MSPs include cybersecurity in their service packages; others offer it as an add-on if they use an a-la-carte pricing model.

While many clients will take advantage of their MSP’s cybersecurity offerings, others may choose to partner with an MSSP. Working with an MSSP provides access to more advanced security protection and monitoring that often extends beyond the scope of what a traditional MSP can offer.

MSP vs. MSSP: Which do you need?  

As explained in the breakdowns above, an MSP and a managed security services provider are noticeably different things. Neither is better; it really just depends on what your business needs. 

If your company has a strong in-house IT department, you may not need to use an MSP. However, if the level of security required at your company has changed, you may need to partner with an MSSP to fill in those gaps. 

As a leading managed services provider (MSP), cybersecurity is one of Power Consulting’s key offerings. We provide an array of cybersecurity services, including security monitoring, protection, consulting, planning, and more.

For more information and expert advice on world-class advanced security for businesses, contact us today.